If you live in the UK, or most places in the world for that matter, we have been in lockdown for what seems like forever. Finally things are looking up and restrictions seem to be easing. This means we are meeting people again. I went to my first party of the summer and I realised how difficult people were finding conversation (before the alcohol kicked in) so here are my top tips for conversation. If you are an introvert these tips will certainly help!. Remember; conversations = connection, connections lead to strong relationships and we (as much as we might like to pretend we aren’t) are social creatures and gain benefit from positive interactions.
The basic premise is to say something, if you are faced with the choice of being quiet or starting that conversation, go for it, just say something.
Obviously you are thinking “I don’t know what to say” and that my dear reader is rubbish.
Have you ever had the following thoughts?
Should I say “Thanks, have a great day” to the café staff as I’m walking out? Or should I just say nothing?
Should I say “Hi, how are you?” to the person who is next to me? Or should I stare at my feet?
Should I ask the taxi driver how his day has been? Or should I scroll through my social media feed?
How often do you choose to say nothing in situations like that?
Even if these interactions last just a few seconds before going back to silence, deciding to initiate them is psychologically better for you. Your brain will go, “Oh, maybe I should focus externally a bit more,” and your negative thoughts will decrease.
Take the leap and just say something!
If you’re introverted, expect to fail at this to start with. It’s totally fine, you will get better. Start slow and mess it up until you consistently get it right, then tackle the part. Improving conversation skills is a process.
You’ll notice your confidence increase with every step. You’ll genuinely feel more comfortable around people, more motivated to talk, and more willing to take bigger risks if you just open your mouth and do this, step by step.
Step 1: Make eye contact and smile. (difficult with masks at the moment)
Keep doing this with new people, and try new ways of doing it until you consistently get smiles back. Their smiles will make you feel more confident and will prepare you for the next step.
Step 2: Go out of your way to greet service staff.
Things like “Hi, how’s your day so far?” or “Thanks, that coffee was delicious,” etc.
Keep trying this in different ways until you consistently get friendly responses back. Their friendly responses will make you feel more comfortable with the next step.
Step 3: Improve conversation skills by saying “Hi” when walking past strangers in public.
Keep trying this until you’re comfortable doing it. Without worrying about whether or not you get a response.
Step 4: Make quick observations and verbalise them, to get out of the introvert mindset.
Like “Oh what a cute dog,” or “Cool shirt.”
You can end the conversation there. Keep trying this in different ways until the fear tapers off.
Step 5: Make a real effort to continue the initial conversation.
Just say anything at all after the initial introduction. Like “Where are you from?” or “What’s your dog’s name?” or “You look like you’re on your way to something important.”
You can end the conversation there. Keep trying this until you can consistently continue conversations beyond the initial introduction and get positive reactions.
If this sounds difficult to you, it means you probably haven’t worked your way to step 5 yet. Getting through steps 1-4 makes step 5 easier, and so on. Remember: improving conversation skills is a gradual process.
Step 6: Add something personal about yourself.
Like, “I want to get a dog one day. It’d be nice to have something to take care of.” Or “You know I usually avoid taking risks but I’m starting to wonder if I should change that.” Or “I love ‘x’ . I could talk about it for hours.”
Rather than trying to impress people, just show them who you really are, what you think and how you feel.
Step 7: Ask something that makes the other person think.
For example, “What made you decide to get into that?” or “Are you usually lucky or unlucky?”, or “What’s something your friends would say you’re great at?” Anything that they have to reflect on before answering.
Now you’re having a legitimate conversation. You’ve improved your conversation skills enough to genuinely connect with people.
Often the only thing you need to do is get the conversation started with a curious question, like lighting a fire, and they’ll keep it going for you. Keep trying this until people consistently open up to you.
Step 8: Improve conversation skills by listening.
Now that you’re less introverted and more skilled at conversation, you might want to talk more.
Just make sure you also give the other person space to talk. Focus on them and really try to understand who they are and what they’re talking about.
Step 9: Start a group conversation.
For example, “Where are you guys from?” on a walking tour, or “Did anyone see that thing in the news today?” with your co-workers, or “Does anyone know if Wonder Woman is a good movie?” on a plane.
Keep trying this until you can comfortably start a conversation with multiple people.
And of course do it without being the loud and obnoxious person who doesn’t know when to stop talking. Be aware of other people’s reactions and drop the conversation if no one seems interested. They’ll appreciate your social awareness.
Also make a habit of involving the quieter members of the group. Ask them for their thoughts and give them some attention, because they might just be waiting for an invitation to share.
Step 10: Organise events and invite people.
Get friends to bring other friends that you haven’t met yet.
Now you’re leading the social circle. Keep trying this in different ways until you get over your irrational fears.
You can’t improve conversation skills just by thinking. You have to talk to someone.
The only way to improve conversation skills is by DOING.
At this point the world is your oyster. You’re taking much bigger risks than you were when you started this whole thing because you’ve built a consistent habit of getting out of your head and saying SOMETHING.