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The Complete Guide on How to Keep a Conversation Going

By David Morin and Viktor Sander

The Complete Guide on How to Make Conversation


CHAPTER 1:

How to Start a Conversation With Anyone

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN IN THIS CHAPTER:

  • How to always know what to say next to someone you just met.
  • What NOT to do when you start talking to someone (But most people do anyway).
  • 6 universal phrases that you can always use to get a conversation going.

THE TRUTH ABOUT STARTING A CONVERSATION WITH SOMEONE:

bubbles

A team of Scientists from Boston wanted to understand what really happens when two strangers meet, and they made a surprising discovery about the initial conversation between two people.

Their discovery can help us become better at starting conversations with people we just met. Small talk, which I used to see as something quite pointless, turned out to be more important than they first thought.

While we small talk about things that in themselves doesn’t really mean much, really important stuff happens subconsciously. We need to make seemingly random conversation while we subconsciously create a picture of the other person. And we need that picture of the other person before we can feel relaxed to move onto more interesting conversation.

The scientists said that the best way to describe small talk is like a “bonding ritual”.

They also found that exactly what we talk about isn’t that important. And here’s where most people make their first mistake - they are too picky with what they should say. That causes them to censor themselves too hard, and then they become self aware and can’t come up with anything to say at all.

So - trying to come up with a good opener or something smart to say will mess up your conversations. Instead, start off with really simple small talk subjects. That will make both of you more relaxed and you'll be able to get a good start to your conversation. That will make you feel more self confident when talking to people, too. (Read the chapter on how to be more self confident when making conversation here.)

6 SENTENCES THAT YOU CAN USE TO GET ANY CONVERSATION GOING

I want to show you 6 questions that I almost always use when I've just met someone. They are universal, so I can always fire them off, they always get a conversation going, and since I know them by heart I never need to worry that I won’t know what to say when I meet someone.

And now I can look back and think..

...Why didn’t I just memorize these questions ten years earlier..?

Then I would have been so much more comfortable meeting people, because my biggest fear in conversations had always been to run out of things to say.

So this is what my conversation-recipe looks like:

  • I ask simple questions.
  • I try to genuinely get to know more about the person I'm talking to by asking follow-up questions.
  • Throughout the conversation, I share similar bits and pieces about myself, related to what the person is saying. (So it’s not like I’m performing interviews, It’s more give and take).

Later, I'll talk about how to start a conversation at places where you’re not explicitly meant to socialize, say, if you end up next to someone at the train or in a lunch queue. But first, I'll cover what I do when I’m somewhere where it’s expected to socialize, like at a party or when I meet friends of friends.

Here's a conversation script:

example

How I start a conversation when it's expected to socialize, such as at a party:

Curiosity is key to a great conversation

So, I start off by saying:

- Hi, I'm David. How are you doing?

And they reply “Good” and present themselves. (Remember: Only use the name "David" if your name is in fact "David".)

- How do you know people here?

They start to explain that to me. There are loads of ways they might know people. The trick is to be able to ask follow-up questions on whatever they are telling you. Here are some examples:

  • If they met through work or school, It's a perfect opportunity to ask more about what they are working with or studying. It's natural to follow up by asking if they like it and if they have any free time, what they do on their free time and so on.
  • Perhaps they know each other though a group or met at an event. I ask them about what type of event it was. What do they do there? Is it fun? Is it hard to learn? Who's best at it, the person I'm talking to or the friend?
  • If they are childhood friends with someone, I might ask where they grew up.
  • If they don’t know anyone, you can build on that too. I usually ask them what brought them to the party/event. Otherwise, again, I ask them some of my universal questions:

(I know that this might sound mechanic or canned. It's all about showing a genuine interest in the person you're talking to. You have to really want to get to know the person you're talking to, and that will take some time before you do. Before it feels natural to you to be curious about others, it's wise to memorize a few questions like the one's I'm using here.)

My universal questions:

These are questions you can have in the back of your head and fire off whenever you feel uncertain how to start a conversation.

You aren't supposed to fire all these questions off at once. Make sure to spend roughly the same amount of time talking. That means that you will spend a lot of time answering the other person's questions and sharing bits and pieces about yourself.

If someone gets the feeling that you know a lot more about them than they know about you, they will start feeling uncomfortable.

- Where are you from?

  • If the person's from the same town as me, I ask them what area they live in and how they like it there.
  • If they are from somewhere else, you can follow up on that by asking how they liked it there, why they moved and if they plan on moving back. There's enough stuff for an entire conversation here!

People have a lot of things to say about where they live or where they come from, so I usually ask more on this subject.

We might talk for several minutes about where we live and how that is.

- Do you work/study?

Some say that you shouldn’t talk about work when you're at a social event, and that's part true: It sucks to get stuck in job talk. But it’s really helpful to know what someone is working with, as it will help you find mutual interests. And - it’s often easy for people to talk about because they are familiar with the subject.

If it turns out that they are unemployed, I just say something encouraging so they don’t have to feel bad, like this:

“So that means you can enjoy sleep-ins every morning right? Nice!”

And then I ask if they spend their time on any hobbies or interests, and we’ll continue the conversation talking about that.

What you want to avoid is getting STUCK in job talk.

To avoid this, just change the subject by asking:

- Is it a super busy job or will you have any time off this summer/winter for a vacation?

This question is natural to ask in connection to both job and studies. And this is my favorite question! Because no matter what they reply, you can now start talking about your passions and dreams. In my opinion, passions and dreams are the most rewarding subjects you can bring up with someone.

Ask them:

- What’s your favorite way to spend your vacation / time off / weekends?

Here you’ll discover their favorite interests and hobbies or places they want to go.

They’ll love to talk about this and you'll have a great opportunity to find mutual interests. Let them expand on their interests.

“How does that work?”

“How do you do that?”

If you find any common ground; if you’ve both been to the same place or share any interest, you can emerge into that just like you talk to any close friend. You’re off the shaky launch and into conversation you'll both find entertaining.

Make sure to read this chapter on how to avoid awkward silence.

That’s it, these six questions have helped me start great conversations with so many people.

If you want a flying start - memorize them and practice them whenever you get the chance, just as long as you ask them in a genuine way. You don’t need to learn them in a specific order, and you don't need to phrase them exactly like I did. Just fire any of them off when the conversation stalls.

3 things most people don't know about bonding and making friends

whiteboard

There are 3 specific things when it comes to making close friends that surprisingly few people know about.

Free training: Conversation Advice for Over-thinkers

You'll learn:

  • What to say next in any conversation
  • Two proven self confidence quick-fixes
  • How to avoid awkward silence forever
  • Secrets of "socially successful" people
  • Why you don't have to "go out of comfort zone"
  • How to turn the video into real results


STARTING A CONVERSATION WHEN YOU'RE NOT NECESSARILY EXPECTED TO:

Sometimes you want to start a conversation even when it's not explicitly meant to socialize. Perhaps you end up next to someone on the train or in the lunch queue in school. In these settings, it’s too direct to start asking people stuff out of nowhere. Instead, you need to say something related to the situation first.

My advice here is to not try to fake questions about the situation. You don't have to. Your brain has a constant inner conversation, so just let some of that conversation out instead. So say something that’s on your mind. Let's say that you end up next to someone on a train:

example

Starting a conversation with the person next to you on the train

“Excuse me, do you know when we will arrive?”

or

“Do you know if they serve food on this train?”

or

“Do you know if they have any Wifi on this train?”.

As soon as you've initiated a conversation with this situation-related question, it's more natural to ask something about the person you're talking to.

"Where are you heading?"

And after this warm-up you can go over to the universal questions above, like:

“Where are you from?”

THE 4 MOST COMMON MISTAKES WHEN STARTING A CONVERSATION:

  1. Being too linear in the conversation.
    Don't be afraid to jump around among the subjects and go back to what you were previously talking about. Or, you can relate to a new subject. If you have a too linear approach to conversations, you will have a hard time as soon as you don't come up with anything to say on the current subject. If I can’t come up with anything on the current subject, I just fire off any of my other questions or relate back to something we were previously talking about.
  2. Asking too few or too many questions in relation to how much you share about yourself.
    I make sure to share bits and pieces about myself, so it’s a give and take throughout the conversation. I make sure to keep a balance in how much I share, meaning, If someone tells me a longer story about where they work or what they do, I share a story of the same length and depth with them so they don’t feel like they open up without getting to know me. If they give me a shorter reply, I don’t give them the long story back in return. This balance helps me connect with people fast.
  3. Not being genuine when asking something.
    Ask questions like you genuinely want to get to know the one you're talking to. Asking a question and not showing enough interest to the answer will appall people.
  4. Trying to follow the rules of conversation and being afraid to do something wrong
    Break the rules - Just because I use these questions doesn't mean that other questions are wrong. Use these questions as lifelines if you lose track, but don’t let them confine you. Rather experiment and allow yourself to do mistakes than not experimenting at all. It's virtually impossible to become great socially without repeatedly messing up along the way!

Great work!

You're already done with chapter 1. You now know how to hit up an interesting conversation with someone. Now - how do you keep that conversation going? And how do you get past the boring small talk, so you can start bonding?

It's time for Chapter 2: How to keep an interesting conversation going.

GO TO CHAPTER 2 >
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