Posted on Apr 03, 2018
Feeling stuck on what to say on a date? Just enrolled to a new class in college and all you see are unfamiliar faces? You're at a party and finding yourself standing by the wall instead of initiating great conversation? The fact is, socializing is not something that comes naturally to many of us. Being a conversationalist takes time, practice, and lots of effort.
Just like learning a new sport, learning how to socialize might seem effortful at first, but very rewarding once you begin to see how much fun you're having! Here are some 3 crucial tips that you can follow whenever you're having a conversation:
"Encouragers" can be short phrases or non-verbal cues to indicate your interest in what the other person has to say, or willingness to further continue the conversation. Verbal expressions that indicates acknowledgment, such as "uh huh", "mm hmm", "yes", "right" can be use sparsely to give an indication to the other person that you are still tuned in on the conversation. Furthermore, having eye contact, nodding, and having an open and attentive body posture (i.e. not crossing arms, face and body towards the person) and facial expression also indicates the same willingness to listen.
Ask open ended questions
To set yourself up for success in a flowing conversation, ask open-ended instead of closed-ended questions. This means not asking questions that leads to a yes/no answer, unless such answers are what you'd want for certain information. Instead of asking "Do you like the food?", ask "What do you like about your food?". Instead of asking "How was your day?", ask "Tell me more about your day". You'll be amazed at how asking the right questions can lead to quality sharing!
People often listen to the other party, equipped with what they already have in mind to share as a response. Rarely do people actually listen...to just listen! It is a magical skill, that if practiced consistently, will make people like you and find you super approachable. The reason for this is, well, who doesn't like to talk about themselves?
Apply the two tips above, and instead of giving a response by sharing about yourself, try to instead paraphrase (i.e. say what the other person has said in a way that you understood it). This communicates the message that you're listening to the ohther person and trying to understand the message completely.
"I like this place a lot. This reminds me of my childhood days when my mother would buy me ice cream during the weekends".
Reply: "Your mum used to bring you to places like these for ice cream. I can see that you really like it!"
It might seem odd or weird to be responding in this way, especially since we've all been conditioned to "listen so that I can speak" instead of "listen to listen". When you really listen and understand what the other person has to say, trust me, it will significantly foster your bond between you and the other person. Try it!
While these tips may sound simple, but it can be challenging to apply. This is because the intention of starting a conversation has to be genuine, to which you sincerely want to know the other person. If you are able to put your heart and mind to view conversation and people from this perspective, you'll be a great conversationalist in no time.
Conversation can be a very fun and meaningful activity, and can lead to unexpected opportunities. Once you're done reading this, remember to say hi to someone!