How to talk to strangers – 20 tips

Talking to strangers

Being an introvert I usually felt awkward or off talking to strangers. Especially in extrovert environments like parties or bars. Thousands of interactions later, this is what I’ve learned.

1. Start small with a smile or nod

Practice smiling or giving a casual head nod as people go by. When you’re comfortable with that, you can take the next step and ask how they are or a question or comment about something around you. Gradually increasing your interactions like this makes it easier to talk to strangers.[1][2]

2. Accept nervousness rather than trying to push it away

It’s intuitive to try to shake off nervousness and “stop being nervous,” but that just doesn’t work. A better strategy is to accept that you are nervous and act anyway.[3][4] After all, feeling nervous is nothing more than a feeling, and feelings in themselves can’t hurt us. Remind yourself that feeling nervous isn’t different from any other feeling like tiredness, happiness or hunger.

Have a look at this article for more tips on controlling your nerves.

3. Focus back to the person when you get self-conscious

It’s hard not to obsess about what the other person’s thinking when you’re nervous and worried that you show it. To get out of the negative cycle of “I’m so nervous, I can’t think,” do this: Focus back on the other person.[5]

When you concentrate on what the other person is saying, you stop thinking about yourself. This accomplishes three things:

  • They feel great.
  • You get to know them better.
  • You stop worrying about your reactions.

4. Say to a stranger what you would have said to a friend

When you’re chatting with friends, it’s easy, right? You smile when you see them. You ask them how they’re doing. You talk about what you’ve both been up to. It flows.

When you meet new people, treat them the same way.

If it’s at work, ask them how their projects are going. Are they super-busy, or is it the regular workload?

If you’re at school, ask them about their classes. It’s casual and friendly without being overly familiar.

5. Signal that you’re friendly with your body language

Body language is a massive part of what people take away from conversations. It’s both what we do with our body and our tone of voice. Friendly body language looks like this:

  • Smiling
  • Head nodding
  • Eye contact
  • Relaxed, pleasant facial expression
  • Using hand gestures when talking
  • Arms at your side, relaxed when not gesturing
  • If you are sitting, casually crossed feet
  • A positive or neutral tone of voice

6. Dare to show that you enjoy talking with someone

Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in being cool that we forget to be passionate, and that is infinitely more likeable. If you show a person that you enjoyed talking to them, they’ll be more motivated to speak to you again. “Hey, I haven’t had a philosophical conversation like this in awhile. I really enjoyed it.”

7. Maintain eye contact

Eye contact tells people that you’re interested in what they’re saying. Yet there’s a thin line between too much eye contact and too little. A good rule of thumb is to give eye contact when the person you’re talking to is speaking. When you’re speaking, look at your partner to keep their attention. Lastly, when either of you is thinking between comments, you can break eye contact.

Have a look at this article on eye contact to learn more.

8. Keep your hands visible

When I’m feeling awkward, putting my hands in my pockets makes me a bit less self-conscious. Unfortunately, this can come off as if you’re hiding something. Open up your chest and let your arms hang loosely at your side. That way, you look relaxed and open.

9. Have a relaxed, friendly smile

A smile, even if it’s subtle, can mean the difference between someone assuming you’re inviting and starting a conversation or moving on, afraid you’re aloof or grumpy. Most people fear rejection, so they’ll avoid people who look like they aren’t happy to talk.

10. Lower your standard for what’s important enough to say

People don’t expect someone to be brilliant and charismatic when they first meet them. Be a good listener. Be open and friendly. Make casual observations about the event or your surroundings. Say what’s on your mind, even if it’s not profound. Something as mundane as “I love this couch” signals that you’re warm, and it can spark an interesting conversation. The brilliant insights can come later when you know each other better, and you’re getting into a topic.

11. Have good posture

If you have good posture, people will automatically assume that you are self-confident. That makes you a more interesting person to talk to. I struggled with good posture for years. I forgot about it after a while and tended to go back to my old posture. That changed when I started doing the daily exercises described in this video.

12. Use your surroundings for inspiration about what to say

When you meet someone, take a look around and make observations about what’s going on around you. Things like “this meeting room has the best windows.” or “I wonder if we’re getting lunch, as this is an all-day meeting?” They are casual, spur-of-the-moment comments that say you’re easy to talk to and friendly.

13. Ask sincere questions

Don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions. It makes the conversations robotic, like “What do you do?” “I work as an accountant.” “Ok, where are you from?” “Connecticut.” “What brings you here?” “Zzz”

Instead, ask questions to really get to know someone. “Oh, you’re an accountant. Does that mean that you prefer numbers over writing or is that just a myth?”. One way to do this is to have a mission to get to know them as humans, past the professional top layer.

14. Talk about positive topics

Make positive, genuine comments, be it about what you’re doing, the weather, the upcoming weekend. This tells people that you’re open and accepting. People who complain about others, events or their surroundings create negative environments, and no one wants to hang out there. Positiveness is a self-fulfilling prophecy, just like negativity.

15. Allow for 1-2 seconds of silence before you speak

Your heart might be racing, but that doesn’t mean your speech must. If you answer really quickly, it can make you seem overeager or that you aren’t confident in what you’re saying. Take a beat of one or two seconds before you answer, and that will give the impression that you’re relaxed. After you do it for a while, it will become natural, and you won’t need to think about it.

16. Find commonalities

Look for mutual interests. You can do this by mentioning things you like and see how they react. If you enjoy history, you can check if the other person might too:

They: “What were you up to this weekend?”

You: “I watched this fascinating documentary about the Civil War. It’s about how…”.

If they react favorably, use history as a mutual interest to bond around. If they don’t seem interested, mention some other interest you have at a later point.

Or, when you talked about the weekend, maybe you learned that they play hockey. If you’re into sports, use the opportunity to grow your friendship around this topic.

17. Look at the direction of their feet and gaze to know if they want to talk

Are they looking at you with their feet pointed toward you? These are the signs that the person you’re talking to is engaged in the conversation, and they want to keep going. If they are continually looking over your shoulder or turning their body away from you, starting with their feet, they’ve got other things on their mind and are probably too distracted to continue.

Read more: How to know if someone wants to talk to you.

18. Share things about yourself in between your questions

Questions are a great way to start a conversation. However, to make it an exchange where you learn about each other in a balanced way, you want to add your own experiences and stories. This keeps the conversation interesting for both people, and it avoids multiple questions seeming like an interrogation rather than curiosity.

19. Keep the conversation simple

You want to keep the conversation light because it’s less intimidating for both people. Right now, you’re finding out about each other. What you do. Where you live. Who you know.

If you try to come up with smart, impressive topics, it will probably cause you to tense up. If you tense up, that’s when awkward silences happen.

The goal is to relax and enjoy each other’s company. That’s when you become friends.

20. Ask something slightly personal

How do you move past small talk and on to more exciting topics? You inject your thoughts and feelings into a small talk topic and ask their opinion. Say you’re talking about how high rent is in your neighborhood. Then you turn the conversation into Personal Mode and add that in a few years you want to buy a house in the countryside. Then you ask them where they think they’ll be living in a few years.

All of a sudden the conversation is about F.O.R.D. topics (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams) which are much more fun and revealing.

References

  1. Stein, D. J. (Ed.). (2007). Clinical manual of anxiety disorders. American Psychiatric
  2. Katerelos, M., Hawley, L. L., Antony, M. M., & McCabe, R. E. (2008). The exposure hierarchy as a measure of progress and efficacy in the treatment of social anxiety disorder. Behavior Modification, 32(4), 504-518.
  3. Roemer, L., Orsillo, S. M., & Salters-Pedneault, K. (2008). Efficacy of an acceptance-based behavior therapy for generalized anxiety disorder: Evaluation in a randomized controlled trial. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 76(6), 1083.
  4. Dalrymple, K. L., & Herbert, J. D. (2007). Acceptance and commitment therapy for generalized social anxiety disorder: A pilot study. Behavior modification, 31(5), 543-568.
  5. Zou, J. B., Hudson, J. L., & Rapee, R. M. (2007). The effect of attentional focus on social anxiety. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45(10), 2326-2333.

How to talk to girls: 15 tips to catch her interest

How to talk to girls

I was one of those guys who never got any girls to like me.

Today, I’ve coached over 100 men and worked for 8 years as a dating coach. I know that no matter your current situation, it’s possible to become confident talking to girls.

Here are my best tips on how to talk to girls.

1. Best 6 things to talk about with a girl

What should you actually say when you start talking to a girl? What do girls find interesting?

Here are 6 topics that are fun and easy to start off a conversation.

  1. Movies, music, or books (What does she like? Figure out if you have anything in common.)
  2. Goals and dreams (What does she dream of doing in the future?)
  3. Family (Where are they from, does she have any siblings?)
  4. Traveling (Does she have any travel plans? What’s the coolest place she’s visited?)
  5. Work or school (What does she work with/what class does she like best?)
  6. What she likes doing in her free time

These topic are great to start off with because most girls have something to say about it. When you’ve started talking you can go deeper and develop the conversation more from there.

If you ever run out of things to say, any of these topics are great to restart the conversation.

2. How to stop being nervous when talking to cute girls

For some of us, nervousness causes us to freeze up as soon as we’ve started talking to a girl we like. Even worse if we got a crush on her.

There are many reasons to feel nervous when we’ve started talking with a girl:

  1. It feels like more is at stake
  2. We’re afraid of rejection
  3. We don’t have enough experience talking to girls
  4. We become self-conscious around a cute girl we want to impress

I have 3 tricks to deal with nervosity (and shyness).

A. Focus on the girl instead of on yourself

Do this by putting your focus on what the girl is saying, how she’s feeling, what she wants. Ask yourself questions in your head about these things. Try to figure out who she really is.

When you switch your focus from yourself to her like this, something magical happens. Your nervosity and self-consciousness will start to disappear. That’s because your brain can’t focus on two things at the same time. So if you focus on the girl, you’ll make sure you stay present and avoid any extreme nervosity.

B. It’s better to be a bit nervous than not nervous at all

If you’re a bit nervous and it shines through, that can create a certain tension and intensity. That tension is good for the chemistry between you and the girl.

For example, if your voice starts to shake a little, it won’t turn her off. Instead, it helps make the interaction more exciting and genuine. It signals that this means something to you which makes it more interesting to the girl.

Nervosity is our bodies reaction to preparing us for a new and challenging situation. It has the psychological function of making us more creative and wittier.

When we realize nervosity is there to help us, we can stop being “afraid of being afraid”.

C. Acting with fear

Just because we are afraid doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do something. Even if your voice is shaking, we can still decide to make conversation with a girl we’re attracted to.

This is a powerful mindset known by behavioral scientists as acting with fear. It’s GREAT to be nervous and still do things you are afraid of. That’s how you conquer your fear.

It feels like fear is a sign to stop. But in reality, fear is a sign that something good is about to happen: That we are going to do something that will help us grow as a person.

Fear is not a sign to stop. It’s a sign of growth.

3. Learn how to talk to girls with the “bucket principle”

When we talk to a girl we’re attracted to, we often feel that we need to come off as smart, confident, and attractive.

When we try to solve this nearly impossible equation, we lock up. The end result is that we become less attractive.

The problem here is that we put the girl in the “girlfriend bucket” and everyone else in the “friend bucket”. To get more relaxed with girls, we need to start putting them in the “friend bucket” too.

Try this: Make a conscious decision to smile, talk, and interact with girls in the same way you would with a stranger. Don’t try to be funny, smart, or attractive.

Does this mean that you can’t have flirty interaction with a girl you’re attracted to? No, this isn’t what this is about. This is about not trying to do everything differently just because you’re attracted to someone. Trying too much is a surefire way to mess up.

Here are 6 signs that you’re being weird when talking to girls:

  1. Being too nice
  2. Being too polite
  3. Being too cocky
  4. Being cold
  5. Trying to be smart
  6. Trying to be confident

Just treat the girl like everyone else and be friendly. Down the road, when you know there’s a chemistry between you, you can start considering that girl as a potential girlfriend.

4. How to tell if a girl likes you

Here are some of the more common signs I’ve seen that tells if she’s got a crush on you.

  1. She’s laughing at your jokes even if they’re bad
  2. She added you on social media and likes your posts (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram)
  3. She told her friends and family about you
  4. She’s teasing you in a playful or flirty manner
  5. She’s holding eye contact with you for a longer time than normal
  6. She touches you when you talk
  7. She seems extra shy when you hang out with her
  8. She gives you more attention than others

Click here to read all 42 signs to tell if a girl likes you.

5. The mistake of trying to prove that you’re worthy of her

Most guys make the mistake of trying to qualify themselves to the girl.

They’re thinking: “What should I say to make her like me?”

It’s an unattractive mindset because it puts her on a pedestal. All the cool things about you become repulsive if you use them to “prove you’re worthy”.

What I like to do is to turn this around by assuming that I am worthy by default.

Then I can focus on finding out if she’s worthy of my standards.

You do this by simply making normal back-and-forth conversation. But your underlying purpose in the conversation is to figure out if YOU like her. When you focus on this, you will also feel more confident talking to her.

And if you like her, it will feel like a natural step to get her number or ask her to meet up again.

6. Increase attraction by maintaining suspense

Suspense is uncertainty combined with excitement. And you can increase attraction by keeping her in suspense.

If you give her compliments all the time and give her all your attention, she will know that she could have you whenever she wants. This kills the suspense for her, it’s not exciting.

If you give her just enough attention and compliments to tickle her interest, she will suspect you’re interested in her, but she won’t be certain. This will make her think even more of you because the human brain wants clarity.

This isn’t just something that works on girls. The girls I’ve been the most obsessed with are those who I didn’t quite know if they liked me as much as I liked them.

7. Keep her interested by “matching investment”

This principle is about matching her investment in your relationship (or conversation). So, if she’s opening up a lot about herself, you can match that by opening up equally much. And if she’s not opening up, you probably shouldn’t tell her your full life story yet.

The principle of matching investment also applies to most other things, for example, how long messages you write, and how you write them. Or how often you interact with her on social media.

If you text her all the time, she will feel pressured to answer you. The reason too much pressure on her is a bad thing is because it takes all the fun and spontaneity out of your relationship. Replying to you can start feeling like a chore instead of something fun and exciting.

If you message her as much or less than her, your communication will feel relaxed and mutual; it won’t make her feel pressured or stressed answering you.

Example: If she messages you several times a day, feel free to message her about as much. But if she never messages you, keep your messaging to a bare minimum. This avoids putting too much pressure on her to reciprocate.

This ties in with maintaining suspense like we talked about earlier. Don’t give her everything, all the time. Just give her enough to keep her interested.

8. Build attraction by being non-reactive instead of trying to please

When you learn how to talk to girls, you may notice how they start complaining to you, teasing you, or nagging you. Maybe they dislike your outfit, they question your life choices, or they complain about your haircut.

Most often, this is a subconscious behavior which happens because she’s interested in you. If you react and try to please her, it will often be a turn off for her. If you’re instead non-reactive, it shows that you are confident in who you are.

Example: A girl complains about your haircut.

In this case, the most attractive thing you can do is to show her that you are confident with your haircut and that her opinion doesn’t affect you negatively.

A non-reactive response could be to not even notice what she said, or it could be to play along with it as a joke because you found it funny. The important part is that you don’t try to please her.

Read here how I stopped caring so much what others think.

9. Trying too hard to be funny or interesting KILLS the conversation

Most inexperienced guys get this wrong.

They think it’s so important to keep the conversation fun or interesting, that they forget about the most basic conversational rules. This leads to weird, awkward, or uncomfortable conversations.

Not even the most entertaining topic can help you if the girl you’re talking to feels uncomfortable talking to you.

If you can maintain a normal conversation that makes her feel comfortable and relaxed with you, you’re already halfway there.

Click here to read how to make interesting conversation with anyone.

10. The alpha-trap that KILLS attraction with girls

Here’s where guys make another big mistake (that I’ve also been guilty of).

That is, trying to play the role of an “alpha” or to be “mysterious”. The problem is that when we try to mimic alpha-behavior, we come off as fake and insincere.

I’ve seen way too many guys in clubs trying to play the role of someone everyone else can see that they aren’t. On top of that, when you try to be alpha, you’re not being yourself, and that shines through.

The same thing with guys trying to be mysterious; it just gets weird.

Ironically, there’s an easy solution to this. Focus on just having a normal, relaxed conversation and let go of all pick-up ideas.

Most girls dream of a man they can have normal, relaxed, and enjoyable conversations with.

When you can have a normal conversation with a girl without pretending you’re someone else, you will also become more confident and attractive.

11. Taking the next step when talking to a girl

How do you ensure that your conversation actually leads somewhere?

It’s easy to get stuck making conversation and entertaining. Then you conveniently forget (or don’t dare) to take the next step. I’ve done it over a hundred times… I’m was the master of excuses.

What I mean by the next step is to ask for her number/Facebook/Snapchat, ask her on a date/activity, or going from light physical touch to the first kiss.

I remember how my friend met his girlfriend. We were all hanging out in a big group. And when it was time to leave, he was going to go shoot some hoops with his best friend.

He then casually asked the girl he liked if she wanted to join them. She did. Not many days later they started dating. And weeks after that they were boyfriend-girlfriend.

Lesson learned: Just do it. Take the initiative and proceed to ask her out. If she says yes, that’s great. If she says no, that’s great too because now you know and can either try again with better timing or you can focus on someone else.

But how do we know WHEN we should proceed to take the next step?

When is it natural to take someone’s number or ask her out on a date?

My rule is this: Take the next step when the conversation feels good or when it’s natural for you to do so.

So how do you know when the conversation feels good?

The right time is when you are both having a good time talking and you both feel some kind of light connection. It can be so simple as when she feels: “Yeah, he’s normal and we seem to have some stuff in common.”

I’m not saying it’s easy taking initiative with someone you got a crush on. It’s really hard. But you’re going to regret not trying. And you’ll always be happy you tried even if it didn’t go your way.

12. Beating fear of rejection and developing courage

When I was around 18, I had never even kissed a girl. One of my biggest fears was making a move and getting rejected in some horrible way. I assumed that if I got rejected, it would prove that no girl could ever like me.

I figured I would wait for a girl to make a move on me. I thought, If I just got charming and attractive enough, it would eventually happen.

The problem was and still is this:

Most girls have the same fear of rejection we have.

If you don’t take initiative yourself, your chances are slim to none that you’ll ever meet someone you really like unless you’re very lucky or insanely good looking. Most girls are shy when it comes to taking initiative.

What helped me beat my fear of rejection was becoming aware of it. I started to see how my fear of rejection was holding me back from ever meeting a girl I liked.

I needed to push my boundaries and show my intentions toward girls I liked. If I never took initiative and risked getting rejected, nothing would happen.

I understood that I had to put myself in situations where I got rejected to overcome my fear.

I did a lot of online dating, and also talking to random girls I met in my daily life. I actually challenged myself to ask random girls out on a date.

Even if I got rejected most of the time, it was still a win every time I dared to do it; each rejection helped me overcome my fear and gave me more experience talking to girls. My courage grew with each rejection.

Mindset: Looking at rejection logically

If we think about it, what’s the worst that can happen? In 99 out of 100 rejections I’ve had, the girl has politely and friendly declined to give me her number. And nothing more happened, I just excused myself after some friendly parting words.

And you know what, getting rejected like that rocks!

I’ve never regretted asking for a girl’s number and getting a no. I’ve always left proud that I dared to do it. And usually, I learned something to help me do better next time.

I’ve actually been rejected more than a thousand times. If I hadn’t allowed myself to be rejected so many times, I would never have met my girlfriend as of 7+ years.

Rejection sounds dramatic, but in the end, a rejection is just a semi-awkward conversation or an unanswered text message. The world always moves on. And so will you.

13. How often should you keep in contact with a girl?

There are two main principles to balance when you determine how often you should communicate with her.

The first principle is to strike while the iron is hot. Don’t wait so long that she starts forgetting about you or assumes you’re uninterested. You want her memory of you to be bright and clear; you want her to be thinking about you.

But if you just went by this, you would probably come off as far too eager and intense. Being too eager signals that you haven’t got much else going on in your life and would put off most girls.

To balance this, we need the second principle: giving her time and space to develop her feelings for you.

When you give her some time to wait and think about you, she will start looking forward to the next time you message or call her.

Calling her about 2 days after you got her number usually strikes a good balance.

14. The mistake of proclaiming your love or feelings for the girl

I’ve seen this one so many times. And I’ve done it myself, too.

This goes in line with the tip about maintaining suspense. Avoid telling her how you feel about her or that you like her before you KNOW that she has feelings for you.

I’ve seen so many guys crush their chances by telling the girl about their feelings. It just ends up putting pressure on the girl to reciprocate, and if she hasn’t developed equally strong feelings yet, she will want to escape that pressure.

Even if she was a bit interested in you, and you told her you’re VERY interested in her, she will feel pressured to like you back just as much to avoid hurting your feelings.

We tend to obsess over things we’re uncertain we can get. Things we know we can have, we take for granted. So, if you make it perfectly clear to a girl that she can have you, you become less exciting.

Instead of proclaiming your love, take the next step through actions like we talked about before. Ask her out on a date, ask for her number, or go for the kiss.

15. How to approach and start a conversation with a girl you like

Approaching can feel extremely scary to many, it usually feels scarier the less experience we have with it. I have had clients that literally felt like they were going to die if they approached a girl, and after some training, they actually started to enjoy approaching.

So how do we get the courage to approach an attractive woman?

The answer I’ve found works best for most is simple but requires work.

I call it exposure training. The main point of this method is to expose ourselves to what we are afraid of gradually.

So, we start with something that is only a little scary until we feel it’s no longer scary. Then we move up our ladder to something a bit scarier and so on.

An example could be that you start by asking women about the time, then you give women a compliment, and eventually, you go over to asking for a date. This is how you build confidence and courage to approach.

The good thing is that approaching isn’t necessary to have success with girls. thanks to online dating and dating apps like Tinder. You don’t need the courage to approach a woman at random if you don’t want to.

In the comments below, I’d love to see you share one small step you can take this week to get more comfortable talking to girls.

It could be something like talking with a girl at work/or in your class at school, asking someone random about the time, giving a compliment, asking for a date, attending an event, or something else. And you get a bonus star if you get rejected.

Quiet voice? – 16 ways to make yourself heard when socializing

Quiet voice

Have you ever been in a social situation where you felt like no one could hear what you had to say?

Or maybe you felt like they weren’t listening to you over all the loud stimulants surrounding your conversation.

I have a quiet voice and it gets strained in loud environments, so there have been many times in my past where I’ve felt like the group can’t hear what I have to say.

I would have something witty, or interesting to contribute, but my voice wouldn’t carry enough volume to be heard. Other times it felt as though there was never a break in the conversation for me to interject my thoughts.

Sometimes people would even talk over what I was saying when I would speak. Or they would ask me to repeat myself 2-3 times before finally acknowledging what I had said.

Needless to say, this was disheartening and made socializing feel like a pain.

After feeling left out, I began to research how to make myself heard, and am happy to say I found some great tips that I have tried out in real life, and they have improved my social interactions immensely!

1. If your voice is quiet because you feel nervous, do this first

Ever noticed how, when you feel anxious around strangers, your voice gets softer? (And it only gets worse when someone says “Speak up!”)

This is our subconscious trying to help out:

Our brain picks up on nervosity -> Assumes we might be in danger -> Makes us take up less space to minimize risk of danger

The only way to fight our SUBCONSCIOUS is to bring it up to a CONSCIOUS level. So what helped me was to tell myself: “I’m nervous, so my voice will be softer. I’m going to CONSCIOUSLY speak with a louder voice even though my body is telling me not to.”

Nervosity is a big topic. I recommend you to read my guide How to Not Get Nervous Talking to People.

2. Learn from actors – PROJECT your voice

If your tone of voice doesn’t carry, try what actors do – PROJECT. To project your voice you need to speak from your diaphragm. To really understand where you should be speaking from, let’s visually picture where, and what your diaphragm is.

Diaphragm - quiet voiceThe diaphragm is a thin muscle that sits at the bottom of your chest. It contracts and flattens when you inhale. You can think of it as a vacuum, sucking air into your lungs. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes as the air is pushed out of your lungs.

Now close your eyes and imagine exactly where your diaphragm is. Place your hand below your chest, and above your abdomen. Yep. RIGHT there. That is exactly where you should be speaking from to have a louder voice.

3. How to speak with a loud voice without turning into a loud, annoying person

I wondered how I could project my soft voice without turning into one of those loudmouths I’ve always been annoyed by.

The secret is to not over-do.

Just because I tell you to project your voice doesn’t mean that I want you to speak your loudest all the time.

Our goal here is to be loud enough to be heard, but not louder.

When you practice speaking from your abdomen, try doing it at different volume, so you can match what’s suitable to the situation.

4. Practice deep-breathing to make your soft voice stronger

There are many ways to practice speaking louder. Often times, actors will partake in breathing exercises as this strengthens their diaphragm, and allows their voice to project loudly and really fill the theater up.

In fact, I have an exercise that I use to make my diaphragm stronger. This is an exercise you can do right now:

Take a deep breath. Imagine filling your entire stomach. Don’t stop breathing in until you feel completely full- Now, hold your breath inside. Count to 4 or 5, whichever is more comfortable for you. Now you can slowly release. As you breathe out, imagine the air is coming directly from your belly button. This will put you in the habit of practicing talking from an “expansive area” as voice coaches call it.

5. Use your quiet voice in new ways to build up its strength

When you have some alone time, play around with your voice. You may feel a little silly, but these types of exercises are exactly how actors, public speakers, and speech therapists practice making their voice louder, and stronger.

The next time you have some alone time, sing the ABC’s. As you sing, try to increase in volume. As you get louder, practice going up and down octaves. Don’t be afraid to be silly, you are alone after all!

Disclaimer: This isn’t easy. People spend their entire careers on vocal development. Think of your voice as an instrument. You have to practice to see improvements.

6. Explore your voice

If you have time, and really want to focus on exploring your own voice, watch this Ted Talk! It’s less than 20 minutes long and incredibly helpful for those of us who want to improve our voices.

In this Ted Talk you will learn:

  • How to make your voice sound FULL
  • What makes someone vocally aware
  • Positive vocal habits to engage in

7. How to speak up in real life

Now that we’ve gone over ways to train your voice in speaking louder, it’s time to focus on actually speaking up during your conversation.

You want to practice the exercises I’ve talked about so far. But you also want to think about your volume during your conversations so you can immediately feel better about your social interactions!

While you are having a conversation, try the following for automatic results.

  • Hold an upright posture (This opens up the airways)
  • Open your throat, imagine speaking from your belly
  • Avoid shallow breaths (Breath down through your belly instead)
  • Pronounce words with emphasis

Use these tips for immediate changes along with repeating breathing exercises, and playing around with your voice will result in long term change in the way you speak!

8. Lower your pitch slightly

If you’re like me, you’ll automatically get more high-pitched when you try to speak louder.

You can counteract that by bringing down your pitch consciously. Too much, and it will sound odd, but try recording yourself and hear what different pitches sound like. As you know, the voice always sounds darker to you than it really is.

On top of that, a lower pitched voice has another benefit: People tend to pay more attention to someone with a slightly lower pitched voice.

9. Make sure to not speak too fast

Because my voice was too quiet for group conversations, I developed a bad habit of speaking too fast. It was as if I tried to say whatever I wanted to say before someone would come in and interrupt me.

Ironically, we tend to listen LESS to people who speak too fast.

Instead, take your time. It’s not about speaking as slow as you can. That will just come off as sleepy and low energy. But dare to add pauses and changing your pacing.

I learned a lot from paying attention to how socially savvy friends talked. Analyze people who are good at telling stories, and notice how they don’t stress to get out what they are trying to say!

10. Use a subconscious signal that you’re about to talk to make people listen.

How do you enter an ongoing group conversation if you have a quiet voice?

You know that you’re not supposed to interrupt, so you wait for whoever talks to finnish, and then, just as you’re about to say your thing, someone else starts talking.

The game changer for me was using a subconscious signal. Just before I’m about to start talking, I raise my hand so that people react to the movement. At the same time, I breathe (The type of breathe in we do just before we’re about to start talking) loud enough for people to notice.

This is magic for someone with a naturally quiet voice: Everyone knows that you’re about to say something, and the risk is lower that someone will speak over you.

David gestures to enter a group conversation

These are some frames from an actual dinner I hosted a while back. See how everyone looks at the guy in red t-shirt on frame 1 who’s just done talking. In frame 2, I raised my hand and breathed in, which turned everyone’s heads toward me. In frame 3, you see how I have everyone’s attention as I start talking.

Here’s my full guide on how to join a group conversation.

11. To be heard, make eye contact with the RIGHT person

I was puzzled that sometimes when I talked, people talked right over me. It was like they didn’t even hear me. After a while, I realized my mistake: I looked away while taking, instead of looking the listeners in their eyes.

Here’s a trick to make sure that people listen to you: Make eye contact with the person you feel has the most influence over the group. That way, you’re subconsciously signaling that you are part of the conversation (even if you don’t say anything and even if you have a quiet voice!)

By making eye contact with the most influential person, you are making yourself present in the group.

Whenever you’re talking, keep eye contact with the influential person and other listeners. Keeping eye contact like this “locks” people into your conversation and it’s harder to blatantly speak over you.

12. Acknowledging an ongoing conversation rather than trying to steer makes it easier to be heard

One of the best ways to insert yourself into the conversation is to go along with what is already being said. I make sure to comment on something that has already been a topic of interest. This takes the pressure off to say something extremely meaningful or interesting.

And also, the group is more likely to listen to you, even if you have a quiet voice.

You can simply comment, or agree with what’s already happening. We all need to feel validated, so it’s likely you will be received very well if you positively reinforce what is already being said. Once you use the power of positive reinforcement you become part of the conversation. At this point, where you already have their attention, you can speak your mind in a more opinionated way.

So here’s how I enter a group conversation to make sure that people listen:

“Liza, you mentioned before that whales are not risking extinction any more, that’s so good to hear! Do you know if that’s the case for the blue whale, too?”

Entering a conversation in this agreeing, acknowledging, probing way helps you make yourself heard, even if your voice is quiet.

13. Visualize yourself as a person who acts in a way that’s being heard

The most intimidating conversations happen when we view ourselves as an outsider to the social group we are with. It may be partly true, perhaps we are at a social gathering and only know 1-2 people. But it is a HUGE mistake to view yourself as an outsider to the conversation. Rather, think of yourself as NEW.

It took me a long time to realize EVERYONE experiences a nervousness of sorts when interacting with new people. Those that come across confidently have “faked it” until they made it.

A key component in faking it is to view yourself as part of the conversation.

If you have the mindset that you don’t belong, you will externally communicate that through your body language, so even when you DO work up the nerve to say something, people aren’t going to pay attention because it seems like you don’t want to be part of the conversation.

Instead of writing yourself off, replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, if you commonly think to yourself, “Why am I here, no one cares who I am or what I have to say.” Thinks this instead, “I don’t know many people here, yet, but I will after the night is done.”

Put a positive twist on your expectations for the evening, and you’ll be surprised how this affects your conversations.

On your way to your next social interaction, visualize yourself as vividly as you can as a socially savvy, popular person who can make yourself heard.

14. Move to the middle of the group

Because I have a naturally quiet voice, it used to feel the safest to be in the outskirt of the group, but that’s the last place you want to be!

Even if you are speaking, it’s going to be hard for others to hear you, and this is where you will get into everyone asking you to repeat what you just said, or worse ignoring what you said because you’re just too far away.

Move your body literally towards the center of the conversation. This is such an easy way to automatically be part of the conversation. People will notice the movement, so act naturally, and genuinely interested in what is happening. Once they make eye contact with you it’s time to insert your thoughts into the conversation.

Here’s my trick to reposition without coming off as odd: Wait to reposition until you are talking. That’ll make your move look natural.

15. Talk with your body

If your voice is naturally quiet, be bold with your body. Use your arms, hands, fingers, to make gestures to emphasize the words you are saying. Confidence is exerted through body movements, so move!

Think of your body like an exclamation point. It can bring excitement to the words you speak, and spark interest in those around you. By using gestures to emphasize what you say, you draw attention to yourself, and people will want to listen up and hear exactly what you have to say.

It’s important not to go overboard with this tip. It’s an easy one to overdo, so be cautious of your surroundings as you move boldly.

16. Don’t overcorrect

After reading and digesting these tips, make sure you don’t take any of them too far. Nothing is more annoying in a group conversation than that one person who insists on making some loud comment about every single thing that is said. Typically those comments have little substance and detract from the conversation flow.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

12 Ways to Make Intellectual Conversation

Intellectual Conversation

I LOVE intellectual conversations.

When I moved to a new town and didn’t know anyone, I was starved on them. I just got stuck in small talk with people I didn’t know well.

That forced me to learn to be really good at getting past the chit-chat and making intellectual conversation.

1. You can’t make intellectual conversation with everyone

Some people just aren’t interested in intellectual conversations. Only some of those you come across in life will be.

This guide is about how to figure out who is, and get past the shallow small talk with them so you can transition into more intellectual conversation.

I’ll also talk about where to find these people in the first place.

Let’s get to it!

2. How to figure out if you have mutual interests to base the intellectual conversation on

Okay so here’s the number 1 mistake I did: I didn’t ask the right questions.

You want to ask questions that help you figure out what someone might be interested in. When you do, you can find mutual interests to make deeper, more substantial and intellectual conversation.

You can’t make intellectual conversation before you’ve found mutual interests.

So, I learned to ask 3 specific questions to figure out mutual interests:

  • What do/did you study?
  • What do you do? (Or, do you want to work with after school)
  • What do you do in your free time?*

These questions are so powerful because they help you know what someone might be interested in.

(Don’t fire these questions off in a row, but ask them when it feels natural.)

*The most powerful question here is number 3: What they do on their free time. It represents people’s interests better than their jobs and studies, but all 3 help paint picture.

You can now make assumptions and see what sticks…

3. Make assumptions and see what sticks

So now, you asked the questions in the example above and have a better picture of the person.

Let’s say that someone…

  1. Studied history
  2. Works as a book editor
  3. Likes to read on their free-time

…you can match that with your interests. Read any author you think they might like? Any history events you are interested in?

Bring up things that you assume the person might be interested in based on their answers.

Some things stick (The person gets engaged or talkative) or it doesn’t stick (The person doesn’t react) and then I see if something else sticks a bit later.

So in the case of the book editor, I would do the following to move toward interesting conversation:

  • I would mention the book Sapiens I read a summary of the other day, and see if they’ve read it
  • I would ask what books they’re reading, to see if I’ve read any of them
  • I’d ask what kind of history they’re the most interested in, and see if we have overlap of interests there
  • I’d ask more about their job as a book editor to figure out what genre they’re in.

Another example. Let’s say that someone…

  1. Studied computer science
  2. Works as a programmer
  3. Likes to game on their free time

I don’t know how to code and I don’t game. But I can make assumptions about other things someone who’s interested in code might also be into.

Then this is what I’d do:

  • I’m fascinated by predictions about the future, so I’d ask how they think technology will change the world the coming years
  • I’d talk about self-driving cars and autonomous robots
  • I’d see if they’re interested in the concept of the singularity.

See how you can make assumptions about what someone might be interested in, even if you DON’T have the same interests at first glance?

4. Know where to find people who share your interests

To meet people who were more interested in intellectual conversation, I looked to join a philosophy club. Unfortunately, there were none in my town, so I started my own.

I posted on Facebook and Meetup, and made it a weekly event. For everyone who attended, I asked if they had friends they thought could be interested.

But you don’t need to create a group of your own. Just browse Meetup and Facebook groups and see what you might be interested in.

The key is this: Find out where the people are who share your interests. They’re also likely to share your personality.

5. DON’T write people off too soon

Go into the conversation with an open mind. (This is the most important piece of advice you will find on here.)

I don’t know how many friendships I’ve missed out off because I wrote the person off too soon.

Not everyone wants to make intellectual conversation. But you need to scout for similarities thoroughly before you can even know.

I’ve been surprised many times by the amazing conversations I’ve had with people who I’d first written off based on the first few minutes of interaction. After I asked some probing questions, it turned out that we had a lot of interesting topics to talk about.

6. To make intellectual conversation, dare to open up to be able

The flip side of not judging a book by it’s cover is not judging your own book harshly. You are the author of your own story, and thus you are the most critical on yourself. Everyone has something to offer. That’s including you of course.

This means that you need to dare to open up about yourself and your interests:

For others to feel comfortable opening up to you about what they’re interested in, you want to share a little bit about yourself between your questions.

Many who may be viewed as being boring aren’t actually boring. They just don’t know how to open up during conversations.

7. Don’t steer the conversation too much

So in the beginning of this article, I talked about how to move the conversation toward more intellectual topics.

That’s needed to get past the small talk. But at the same time, you need to be adaptable and move with the conversation.

There is no need to research an extensive topic prior to talking about it and try to stick to it. This isn’t school, and you aren’t giving a dissertation on the subject.

If the conversation moves towards something you don’t know much about, be honest. It’s okay to mention that you don’t know much about the topic.

8. Be OK with being a student

If the conversation goes somewhere that feels uncomfortable to you, ask yourself, why? Often, we get uncomfortable when we end up on a topic we don’t know much about and try to steer the conversation back into what we master.

Dare to keep going. Be open with what you don’t know, and ask sincere questions to learn about it. Be OK with letting someone explain to you a topic you don’t know anything about.

Later in the conversation, you might end up on your territory, and you’ll be able to teach them.

9. Be on the lookout for the hidden core of the subject

If your conversation revolves around the take-out food you ordered after your boyfriend broke up with you, ask yourself this, why are you talking about the food?

Use critical thinking to navigate towards the heart of the matter. In this example, the heart is clearly the breakup!

From there you can share your more personal thoughts like:

  • What happens to a person (you) after a breakup?
  • When does it become a growing experience?
  • What does it mean to be single now?

Be on the lookout for the hidden core.

10. Ask these “go deeper”- questions to turn shallow conversation interesting

In the same way that you must learn to navigate your own thoughts and speech away from the surface, you can also edit nearly any conversation you have with another person to be more interesting.

By being an active listener, you can pick up on when people say something that clearly has deeper meaning within it, and gravitate your questions towards that topic.

Some questions that often take conversations to the next level are:

  • Why do you think that is?
  • How does that make you feel?
  • How do you mean when you say [what they said]?

Don’t be afraid to pinpoint exactly what it was you heard in the conversation that struck you and asks the person to elaborate on it. Ultimately, we humans want to talk about ourselves, and it’s likely if you try to circle back to something more personal it will be met with a positive reaction.

Read more: How to have deep and meaningful conversations.

11. Create mini stories

The most interesting conversations take place when we are discussing a topic we’re interested in, but we’re also taking the initiative to insert our own feelings into the dialogue. Feelings aren’t opinions. Opinions are easy to share. Feelings stem from our personal stories, and that touch of personality adds layers to the facts and opinions we do choose to share with our conversation partner.

For example, if you are fascinated in American politics, rather than spewing facts about the latest news update you could intertwine the fact, your opinion on the fact, and explain why you feel that way.

This makes for a mini-story in a sense, and now your conversation partner has more information to pull from and move with as your time together unfolds.

12. Explain. Don’t Insist

When we insist on an experience we had, the feelings we felt because of it, we are limiting the way a conversation can unfold. While it’s certainly fine to say, “The traffic today was awful. I was mad!” It is a better conversation if you explain why you were mad. For example, “I’ve had so much on my mind lately, sitting in traffic was an angering experience. I felt like I was stewing with my thoughts.”

This sentence allows the person your speaking with to ask to follow up questions. They are also going to be interested because there is a bit of YOU in there. We don’t want to hear about traffic any more than we have to. But when the traffic story entails emotions that are explained, it opens up room for so much more to take place.

Remember, to make intellectual conversation is about coming from topics of interest.

“I don’t know what to say” – 10 tips to always know what to say

I don't know what to say

I’ve always been uncomfortable talking to someone new or people I didn’t know well.

Over the years, I’ve learned exactly what to do whenever I found myself thinking “I don’t know what to say”.

First of all: It’s NORMAL not knowing what to say. I thought there was something wrong with me. It just turned out that I needed to learn some strategies for when the head goes blank. You see, social skills aren’t something we’re born with. They’re just that – skills – something we can learn.

Here are my tricks for how to always know what to say.

1. When you meet someone new, build the conversation around these 4 starter-questions

When you’ve just met someone, you need to make small talk to warm up to more interesting conversation later on.

But how do you actually know what to say?

These are the questions I always have in the back of my head, ready to fire off whenever needed.

(Just knowing that I can have them as a safety net makes me more relaxed)

Don’t fire them off all at once, but use them when a topic dies out:

  1. How do you know people here?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. What brings you here?
  4. What do you do?

Now, be careful not to flood the other person with questions. Then it might seem more like an interrogation than a conversation. It’s important to equally share things about yourself, which leads me to the next tip.

(My guide on how to start a conversation here.)

2. Use the IFR-Method to know what to say

Ever come across someone who constantly asks questions? Annoying.

Or someone who NEVER asks questions? Self-absorbed.

For years, I wondered how to find the balance between talking about yourself and asking questions.

We don’t want to constantly ask questions, nor constantly talk about ourselves. The IFR-method is all about finding that perfect balance.

(A behavioral scientist taught me this method and it’s golden)

Inquire: Ask a sincere question

Follow up: Ask a follow-up question

Relate: Share a little bit about yourself, related to what they said.

(Then repeat)

The other day I talked to someone who turned out to be a filmmaker. Here’s how the conversation went:

Inquire: – What kind of documentaries do you do? She: – Right now I’m doing a movie on bodegas in New York City.

Follow up: – Oh, interesting. What’s your take away so far? She: – That almost all bodegas seem to have cats!

Relate: – Haha, I’ve noticed that. The one next to where I live have a cat who always sits on the counter.

And then I inquire (IFR repeat): Are you a cat person?

You want to make the conversation go back and forth like that: They talk a little it about themselves, we talk about ourselves, then let them talk again, and so on.

Notice how with the IFR method, it’s easier to come up with things to say.

  1. If you find yourself thinking “I don’t know what to say” when you’ve asked a question, follow up on what you just asked!
  2. If you don’t know what to say when you’ve asked a follow up-question, relate to what you just asked!
  3. If you don’t know what to say when you’ve related, inquire about what you just said!

3. Use “Shift of Attentional Focus”

When therapists help people who completely lock up in conversations, they use something called Shift of Attentional Focus.

They instruct their clients to focus all their attention on the conversation they’re in rather than thinking about how they come across and what they should say next.

(It’s hard, especially in the beginning, but gets surprisingly easy with some practice)

Here’s how to do it:

Say that you ask someone how their week was. They reply “I went with my friends to Paris last weekend, it was great!”.

Here’s what I would have started thinking before I learned about this method:

“Oh, she’s been to Paris! I’ve never been there. She’ll probably think I’m boring. Should I tell her about that time I went to Thailand? No, that’s stupid. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY!”

And so on.

With Shift of Attentional Focus, on the other hand, you constantly move your thoughts back to the conversation.

Let’s REALLY focus on what she just said. What questions might we come up with to move the conversation forward?

  • What was Paris like?
  • How long was she there?
  • Is she jet lagged?
  • How many friends did she go with?

It’s not about firing off all these questions, but to fully focus and let your natural curiosity come up with questions. You can then choose which ones to actually ask.

Focus on her sentence above and see if you can some up with even more questions!

4. Move the conversation over to them

One of the best things you can do to come up with things to say is to stop trying to come up with conversation topics. I know, that sounds weird, so let me show you what I mean.

Of course, if you’re already feeling nervous, it might not be so easy to just “relax and stop worrying about it”. But there’s a simple trick that you can use, ESPECIALLY if you’re nervous.

Shift the conversation over to the other person by asking sincere questions. This keeps the conversations going, and as it moves forward you can throw in small facts about yourself you feel comfortable sharing.

For example if work comes up, you can ask basic questions like:

  • Is it stressful at work or how do you like it?
  • What does your job look like more specifically?
  • What do you want to be doing in 5 years?
  • Is it a good company to work for?

These Why What How questions are great across the board, on any topic! You want to break up the questions by sharing a little bit about yourself every now and then, like I talked about in the IFR-method above.

Here’s my guide for how to break up the conversation without asking too many questions

5. Use Conversational Threading as soon as a topic dies out

One of my favorite methods to know what to say is Conversational Threading. It’s not only helpful for continuing your conversations – it also makes them be more dynamic.

In short, conversational threading comes down to the fact that your interactions don’t have to be linear.

For example, if you’ve exhausted the last topic you were on, you can always jump back to something you’ve talked about earlier.

If your friend mentioned that they saw a movie last weekend, and then the conversation moves on to, say, work, and then the work topic dies out, you can say

“By the way, you said that you saw a movie last weekend, was it good?”

Here’s a video that explains conversational threading with a real-world conversation:

6. Rethinking awkward silence will make you more relaxed so you’ll know what to say

Often, the reason I didn’t know what to say was the following:

  1. There was a silence in the conversation
  2. I panicked and locked up
  3. I couldn’t come up with anything to say because I was nervous

My friend, a coach and behavioral scientist, made me realize something powerful: Silence is not necessarily awkward.

I used to think that the silence in a conversation was always my fault, and had to be corrected.

In reality, most conversations have silences, or long pauses. We interpret that silence as a negative sign. Rather than focusing on the negative part of the silence, use the moment to catch your breath and move forward from there.

A silence isn’t awkward until you start stressing out about it.

If you come off as relaxed about the silences, people around you will, too. When you feel more relaxed, it’s easier to come up with the next thing to say.

Besides, it’s important to know that there can be many reasons for a break in a conversation.

Reasons like:

  • The other person is also nervous.
  • The conversation needs a moment for you both to breathe and move forward.
  • One of you is having an off day and you don’t feel like talking…which is okay!

Think about this: Being quiet together is something two people do more the better they know each other.

LESSON LEARNED: Practice being comfortable with silence, rather than trying to eradicate silence. It takes the pressure off, and makes it easier knowing what to say.

7. Make a “Reality Check” to see if your way of thinking about conversations is realistic

Being a self-conscious introvert, I would often exaggerate social situations in my head and make it way more dramatic than it really was.

I’d feel like people were judging me for “failing at having a good conversation” whenever I’d say something “stupid”. Sure, people do judge us based on what we say, as well as how we say it. But the thing is they probably don’t judge us half as harshly as we judge ourselves.

So don’t get stuck thinking about that one wrong thing you’ve said five minutes ago because even if other person did notice it, they probably didn’t think anything of it.

In reality, most of our blunders go by completely unnoticed by others, because they can be just as preoccupied with worrying about the way they carry themselves.

Practice being realistic by doing the following:

  • Remind yourself daily, “Everyone gets nervous.”
  • People care as little about your hickups as you care about theirs
  • Just because you think that people will judge you negatively doesn’t mean that they will

8. Why smart people don’t have to say smart things

When I made friends with really socially skilled people, they taught me something fundamental about what to say:

What you say doesn’t need to be thoughtful, interesting, or make you come off as smart.

Why?

Because when people hang out with you, they mainly just want to have a good time. They want it to be relaxing and enjoyable. They DON’T want constant though-provoking clever remarks. It can come off as try-hard or tiring.

Often, small talk is just fine. Have you EVER judged someone for saying something too simple? I guess not. Why would anyone judge you?

Stop trying to say smart things all the time. (It’s enough to say smart things when they pop up naturally in your head, but you don’t need to force them)

My friend Andreas, for example, is great in social settings. He’s also a member of Mensa and they’ve measured his IQ to 145. When he talks to people, he can say things like:

“I love the weather right now”

“Look at the tree over there, so nice”

“That car looks cool”

(He doesn’t come off as smart for saying smart things, but for being socially savvy)

LESSON LEARNED: When you stop trying to say smart things, it’s easier to know what to say, because you take the pressure off yourself. Say what you want to say, and don’t filter yourself too hard.

9. Use association to have an endless supply of things to say

To have an ENDLESS supply of things to say – look around you!

If I look around my workplace, right now, I see a bunch of stuff I can make statements about. These statements can be used to make conversation.

Here’s an example:

  • I like those plants
  • This is nice music. What band is it?
  • I like that painting

As an exercise you can do right now, look around you and see what statements you can make about the things you see.

10. Dig deeper

Dare to dig deeper into topics you find interesting. As you ask surface level questions, don’t be afraid to at any point ask deeper questions too. (And share something about yourself inbetween the questions so you don’t come off as a spy)

How do you know when to dig in? LISTEN! When something comes up that seems deeper than surface level, ask about it!

Signs you should dig in:

  • This topic keeps being brought up subtly.
  • You have an interest to know more.
  • If you asked about this topic the conversation would include feelings, and or opinions.

Let’s say that someone told you that they work as, say, a golf trainer.

You can dig deeper by asking

  • What’s that like?
  • What type of clients do you have?
  • What made you be a golf teacher in the first place?

And naturally, you break off the questions by sharing small bits about yourself every once in a while.

Pick one or two of the tips I listed above, and try to keep them in mind when you’re talking to someone you’re already comfortable with. If you start with someone you know, it will be much easier to “get” exactly how those methods work, and how to use them.

Once you get the hang of it and start trying it out with people you’ve never met before, you’ll see the worrisome thought “I don’t know what to say” disappear, and your social life improve.

20 interesting things to talk about

Interesting things to talk about

Here’s a list of 20 general topics with interesting things to talk about. Use these for inspiration for an interesting discussion with both your friends and new people you don’t know yet!

1. Passions/Hobbies

Discovering each other’s passions and hobbies is a great conversation topic. You learn more about the other person, and you will find areas of commonality. We, humans, love talking about things we are passionate about!

You don’t necessarily have to talk about current passions or hobbies either – reminiscing about passions from the past works too and paints a picture of the person you are.

Examples:

What do you do when you don’t work?

Did you have any hobbies when you were a kid?

Is [job] your passion or what do you like doing the most?

2. Asking people what city they are from opens up interesting conversation topics

I LOVE asking people what city or area of town they are originally from.

It’s a great question to ask because it can lead the conversation to so many different places.

Some great follow up questions are:

What’s the biggest difference between that place and here?

What brought about the move?

What do you like most about [place]?

Learning about another person’s home can become an extremely personal experience. It’s a great way to get to know someone.

Read more here: Interesting small talk topics and conversation starters.

3. Role Models

Who a person finds interesting or admirable says a lot about them. It can tell you what drives them, what values they have and what they would like to pursue.

Ditch the age-old question “If you could have dinner with any 5 people dead or alive” if you just met someone (But works great for people you already know)

I like to ask people what role models they have if we are on the topic of celebrities, thought leaders, influencers or anyone who’s big in any industry.

An example could be “I think Elon Musk is so inspiring. Do you have someone that inspires you?”

4. Popular Events

Ask people about what music or arts festivals they like. Ask if they’ve seen The Oscars, upcoming shows, workshops or lectures that they have enjoyed recently.

Talking about popular events can not only be a good way to learn more about the other person but can also be a reason for another meeting, if you decide to go to an event together.

5. Local News

Anything interesting that might be happening on a local level is fair game here. Be it the entire city, or as local as, say, your university, talking about happenings that are close by can often be more exciting compared to world news, because it feels more immediate and impactful.

I usually ask “Did you hear that [Insert event]?” And then I let the conversation linger about that event or other related events.

6. Vacations

Vacations are GREAT to talk about because we can both ask where people have been and where they WANT to go.

Here’s the trick I use to get into the topic in a natural way.

“So how are things at work, will you be having any vacation soon?”

(You can use that question basically at any time during small talk)

They’ll respond either “No, I won’t have a vacation in a while” or “Yeah, I’m going to this and that place soon”.

You can now talk about vacations:

“Where are you going?”

“What do you like the most about that place?”

“Have you been there before?”

And in between those questions, you can share your own vacation experiences.

7. Interesting things to talk about in your surroundings

Talking about your immediate surroundings can be done both when you’re talking to someone you’re acquainted with, as well as with a perfect stranger. We are, after all, in the same space!

Look around you. Can you see anything that would be interesting to talk about?

If I look around the room I sit in right now, I come up with several topics:

“I like those plants over there. Are you interested in plants?”

“That’s a lot of management books. Do you like to read?”

“Nice to have a wall mounted AC unit instead of a window unit. What’s that like at your place?”

8. Food Preferences

You don’t have to be connoisseurs to discuss your preferences or the strangest\best things you’ve eaten. Everyone eats. Food is one of those things that has the power to connect even seemingly very different people.

Personally, I talk about food preferences whenever food is on the topic or when you’re at dinner so it’s natural to talk about.

“That Salmon looks nice! Do you like fish?”

“Have you ever tried fermented cabbage? It has a very distinct taste but it’s supposed to be healthy”

“Do you like pizza or burgers the most?

9. Clothing and Fashion

While not everyone has a clothing-wearing philosophy or a dress code with a story behind it, wearing clothes is a bit like eating. It’s (mostly) universal.

It can also be very interesting to talk about!

You could talk about anything from trying to balance comfort and appearance to how your mood might affect what you’re wearing, or exchange epic tales of your second-hand store hunts.

Another great thing to do is find something you truly appreciate in the other person’s style and offer a genuine compliment. Do this with people you’ve already gotten to know a little as it can come off as too intense with someone you just met.

“I like your shoes, where did you buy them?” (And then you can talk about shoes you like and where you like to shop, and ask them about the same thing)

“I like your street outfit, are you into fashion?

“Have you always have the same style or do you change over time?”

10. Areas of Mastery

Get to know what people are good at and talk about that.

If you, say, talk about abilities or how someone’s good at something, it’ll feel natural to ask something like:

“Do you have something you’re really good at that people don’t know about?”

You can then delve into their skills and share what you’re good at.

This doesn’t have to be a professional discussion, although it can be.

It can even be something completely impractical like being able to speak backward or walk on your hands, as long as it makes for an interesting conversation.

You can also talk about what someone WANTS to be good at. What is this person interested in learning? What are YOU interested in learning?

11. Childhood Memories

This can go in many different directions – the first memory, the happiest days, unexpected gifts or life lessons learned. Bringing up childhood memories can be a great way to bond with another person, and also laugh. A lot.

However, be aware that not everyone is willing to talk about their childhood – especially if it was somewhat rough. If the person seems evasive or gives shorter responses than usual, it’s a good sign to move on to a different topic.

Some ways you can dip your toes into this topic without being super invasive are:

“What was life like growing up?”

“What did you do for fun as a child?”

“Did you have any pets growing up?’

12. Commonalities

Talking about things you have in common rather than differences is a powerful way to bond.

Once you find something you have in common, those topics of similar interest can be revisited throughout the conversation.

Excellent listening is required! Feel out the conversation and follow your gut instincts. If it sounds like their opinions align with your beliefs, don’t be afraid to expand on that and use that as a common ground to build your conversation (and friendship) on.

13. Entertainment

Talking about entertainment can be as simple as sharing your favorite movie, bands, or even a more complex discussion about the changes\trends in the entertainment industry.

We live in what experts are calling, “The third golden age of Television.” This means that we are surrounded by content, and pretty much every person has a Netflix account, or has their ex-lover’s Netflix login. Use this and go with it!

If you have a favorite TV-show, share it. Chances are you have more than one as there are so many readily available nowadays. It’s extremely likely the person you are talking to as seen or heard of some of your favorite T.V. shows, and vice versa.

“What’s your favorite show to Netflix and chill to?”

“What shows are you watching lately?”

“Listening to any good podcasts?”

14. Habits

People often don’t think about their habits, rituals, and routines at all because those are so ingrained into our personalities. But when you discover those little things that you happen to do similarly, it can bring you together, because they make you feel alike in some way.

For example, are you into fitness? Do you read every night before going to bed?

Do you talk to your plants? Do you whisper Wed-nes-day to help you spell it?

Don’t be afraid to share a little bit about yourself every once in a while. I make sure to share a little bit about my habits because it shows who I am and helps find interesting commonalities.

It doesn’t have to be anything weird or amazing. For example…

  • I take a morning walk in my nearby park every morning to see some nature and say hi to the squirrels
  • I try to eat a big bowl of veggies each day. (A friend named it a “Rainbowl” because of all the different colors.)
  • I have to watch something on Youtube as soon as my morning alarm goes off to not fall asleep again.

Did you notice how I suddenly become a bit more interesting; a real person instead of an anonymous writer on the internet? Habits are interesting.

Read more: How to be a more interesting person to talk to.

15. Plans

This can be about plans for the weekend, or even workplace adjustments and personal development. This can also apply to future dreams.

Dig deeper by asking questions like:

“What do you want out of life?”

“Do you have a 5-year plan?”

You can also keep it casual and ask these questions:

“What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekend?”

“Do you have anything coming up you’re excited about?

Read more: 301 small talk questions to ask friends.

16. Fears

Everyone has insecurities, which are often rooted in fear. Breaking down boundaries to really get to know someone and being vulnerable can be a very rewarding experience.

There are varying degrees of our fears, so it’s best to touch on something light that can be used as a joke later on. Like a fear of an overactive landlord, or spending too much time with friends and family during the holidays.

Once the conversation unfolds, you can gauge how much you want to share, and how much the other person wants to give.

To start out, ask this question: “What is something that makes you nervous you’d like to overcome?”

17. School

For most people, going to school is a formative experience, colored brightly by character-building moments. In America particularly there is also the topic of sports at the schools we went to. College football is huge. In New York, there are entire bars dedicated to random college teams from various states.

Our school days often remind us of simple times, and we usually have a lot of stories to tell.

Try out these questions:

“What did you go to detention for?”

“What class in school was your favorite subject?”

“Who was your best friend at school?”

18. Technology

This point can be taken literally. You can ask the person how they feel about the concept of technology. Or you can talk about your phones, laptop, watch, car or any other piece of technology and how they compare or differ.

From there, you can discuss the future. How do you think life will change as technology develops?

19. Online Buzz

This includes mobile apps, websites, Youtube channels, social media personalities, and any other such things. You don’t have to simply swap favorites – you can also discuss things you’re often exposed to online but “just don’t get”. Like the cinnamon challenge- what was up with that?

The new golden rule: There is always something interesting happening on the Internet. So if there’s a lull in the conversation, why not whip out your smartphone and head over to the trending section on Youtube? Twitter is also a great source for content.

Once you’ve ingested some content together you can build that into your conversation.

20. Sports

It’s been said that people who sweat together stick together, so we can assume this applies to talking about the art of sweating as well.

Sports can be anything from which gym you visit to your favorite team.

Try out these questions:

“What type of live sporting event is your favorite one?”

“If you had to pick one sport to never watch again, which would it be and why?”

“Who’s your favorite player in [team]?”

Once you’ve discussed sports and found a shared interest, don’t hesitate to suggest meeting up for watching your team together, or playing your sport together. This is an activity that bonds people together, and it’s fun too!

How to be an interesting person to talk to

How to be an interesting person to make conversation with

How do you become more interesting to talk to? How do you make sure that people think it’s interesting to talk to you?

I’m sure you’ve been in the situation where you’ve run into your neighbor and they kept dragging on about their new favorite health food craze and why kale is the new quinoa. All the while, you were thinking about the pizza rolls in your freezer and how you were going to eat them promptly after the conversation, in spite of everything they just said.

It’s natural to not want to be invested in every single conversation you have with every single person you come in contact with every single day- that would be incredibly exhausting. The question is, how can you see if someone wants to continue talking or if they want to end the conversation?

If you’ve ever asked yourself something along the lines of…

“How would I know whether the person in front or on my device is really interested in talking to me? Is it just for the sake of being a good person they talk or do they really mean it?”

– Kapil B

… or …

“…how can I read the other person better? I am terrible at reading in between the lines”

– Raj P

there are some really helpful cues we can pay attention to. Learning how to see if someone wants to continue talking or if they want to end the conversation may not be as daunting as it may seem.

In fact, there are only general 4 cues you need to look out for:

1. Have you found common interests?

During the first few minutes of any new conversation, people are often tense and nervous. Even if they come off as distant, that doesn’t have to mean they don’t want to talk – they might just not know what to say.

After a few minutes, when you’ve “warmed up”, you’ll notice if the person makes an effort to keep the conversation going or remains passive.

As the conversation goes on and you continue to ask questions, you’ll hopefully find some common interests between you two because birds of a feather do flock together, according to research conducted at University of Cambridge. Based on the results of this study, they found that people in relationships with each other were more likely to have similar character traits to one another. If you’re similar to a person, you’re more likely to be friends with them, or in our case, have a more meaningful conversation.

The way this works is through the reference group effect, which means that when we judge others, we do so from our own personal point of view rather than an objective view.

For example, let’s say you’re a Star Wars fan, and you happen to come across someone who can’t tell Mace Windu from Finn. From your point of view, that’s common knowledge. Instead of having to explain the difference between the characters, you may be more likely to talk to someone in the future that already knows Jakku from Tatooine.

Because of this, we’ll tend to like people more that have the same interests or have the same kind of background as us.

When you find common interests, you’ll have much more to talk about. The other person may start to feel more at ease, the conversation will flow better, and the connection will be one that’s much more genuine.

Here’s an example of how I found a similar interest with someone that I didn’t think I had anything in common with:

One girl I once met told me that she works as an assistant on film sets. I know close to nothing about big movie film sets, but thanks to making an assumption, I turned this interaction into an interesting conversation. I (correctly) assumed that she’s also interested in filmmaking in general. Because I record a lot of videos for SocialPro, I obviously think making films is interesting too.

Based on my hunch, I asked her if she films anything herself. Not too surprisingly, it turned out she did. We had a really great conversation about camera gear because I assumed she would have been into that sort of thing.

Finding commonalities may be a bit tricky at first. To do this you’ll want to:

  1. Ask personal questions to find out if you have things in common (common experiences, interests, passions, worldviews). Asking follow up questions is a great way to dive a bit deeper into the conversation and to cover a lot of ground fast.
  2. When you’ve found commonalities, that’s what you’ll want to base the conversation on. Continue asking follow up questions to encourage the other person to share their experiences. When you talk about what you both think is interesting, you’re both likely to enjoy the conversation- It’s a win-win situation.

2. Who’s “world” have you spent the most time in?

Has the conversation mainly been around your own areas of interest and things concerning your world? Or has it been mainly around your friend’s areas of interest and your friend’s world? A conversation is half listening, half talking, so it’s a good idea to make sure that you’re both contributing.

Research shows that people love talking about themselves. I’m sure you knew that already, but researchers at Harvard discovered that when you talk about yourself, it’s like a reward for your brain. The “pleasure center” of your brain shows increased activity during a brain scan when you find something especially rewarding, like sex or food. The psychologists discovered that talking about yourself lights up that same exact pleasure center.

According to the study, if you want the other person to enjoy the conversation more, make sure that they’re talking about themselves, too.

A quick way to check if the conversation is equal is to ask yourself how many times you say the word “I” compared to the word “You”. If you say “I” several times more, you can balance the conversation by asking things like:

“So that’s how I spent my weekend. What did you do?”

“I love this song, too! Didn’t you go see them in concert a few years ago?”

“That’s what I thought of this awesome SocialPro article about conversation. What did you think when you read it?”

Naturally, this will only work if you’re genuinely interested in hearing the answer. If you’re wanting to continue a conversation with someone, chances are, that isn’t a problem.

3. Are you asking questions the right way?

Generally, the person talking the most is often the person who enjoys the conversation the most. If you realize that you’re the one talking the most, make it a habit of ending your statements with a question.

You’ve heard the advice to ask questions many times before, but what exactly can they do for you? Questions allow you to ask others for advice, a favor, or their thoughts on something. All 3 kinds of questions can be used to keep the conversation going and to create an ongoing relationship with the other person. Here’s how to do it:

Asking questions and for advice is one of the best ways to win someone over, according to social scientist Robert Cialdini. When you ask someone for advice or a favor, you’re essentially implementing the “Ben Franklin Effect”, which shows that you like people more when you do something nice for them.

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How The Ben Franklin Effect makes us more likable

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is a fancy scientific way to describe what happens when your actions don’t match your beliefs. When people’s thoughts don’t line up with what they’re actually doing, it causes stress. To get rid of the stress, they’ll change their thoughts to match their behavior.

Ben Franklin knew about cognitive dissonance before it was cool and had a name, and used that idea in his personal conversations. He would frequently ask favors and advice from others. In return, people liked him because their brains told them they wouldn’t do something nice for a person that they didn’t like. It sounds counterintuitive, but it works.

Asking questions to start a conversation can be very effective. For example, if you ask someone to grab a coffee for you when they’re on their break and they do so, they’ll like you more because why would they have bought a coffee for someone they didn’t like? Or if you ask someone for relationship advice and they take an hour out of their day to guide you, why would they have done that if they didn’t like you?

This has to be done with some finesse. 1) The favor can’t be too cumbersome. (That’s why asking someone for a coffee while they’re buying one anyway is a good example). 2) You want to show appreciation for the favor. 3) You want to give favors in return.

Asking questions can not only keep the conversation going, but it can establish a lasting relationship between two people if you ask for advice or a favor every so often. Asking for advice or a favor shows that you trust the other person enough to help you.

Of course, keeping a conversation going by asking for their thoughts on something is a great way to learn more about the person and give them time to talk about themselves. After all, when you spend more time in their “world”, they’re getting happy brain rewards by talking about their interests.

All it takes is a simple: “And that’s why I think X is better than Y. What do you think?”. Avoid asking “just to ask”. The method won’t work unless you show that you value their response and that you want to listen to what they have to say. (Asking a question and not caring about the answer is like asking for a coffee and not drinking it.)[/ut_alert]

4. What’s their body language saying?

Dr. Albert Mehrabian estimates that about 55% of communication is all about your facial expressions and body posture. That’s a lot to be said when not saying anything at all.

For example, people’s feet often point in the direction the would rather want to go; If they’re into the conversation, they’re often pointing the feet towards you. Conversely, if someone has a closed off body position, they might not be as into the conversation.

Looking at the body language the other person is giving you is essential to communicating well. One thing that you can do to encourage a genuine connection during the conversation is to smile. Not just any smile, but a real one, eye crinkles and all. When you smile during a conversation, it encourages the other person to smile, too. If they’re also smiling genuinely, chances are, they’re interested in what you’re chatting about. Some say that smiles are contagious, and there’s research out there to suggest that’s true.

One study found that when people were looking at other people smiling, it took less brain power to smile than it did to frown. We appear to have a system of “non-volitional emotional facial movements”, which means that when we see a certain expression, it’s natural for us to want to mimic it.

For example, If a student is slouched over and bored during a lecture, that won’t encourage the professor to be peppy and excited about the material they’re teaching. Conversely, if the professor is overly excited and is very passionate about what they’re doing, that can encourage students to be more engaged and to not play candy crush for the next 45 minutes.

If you have an open and inviting body posture, the person you’re talking to will most likely mimic it. If they’re not as receptive to the conversation as you are and have a body posture to match, they may not want to continue talking at the moment.

In summary

When having a conversation, there’s no way to know if they have an appointment in 10 minutes or if they’ve had a major headache all day unless they tell you. It’s natural to not want to be completely invested in every conversation that you have, which is where these cues come in:

  1. Make sure you’re talking about something that you both enjoy and focus on the common interests between you. By doing this, you can be quite sure that the person will enjoy the conversation.
  2. Take the time to ask yourself if you’ve been talking almost exclusively about yourself, or if you’ve been sharing the time between both of your worlds. People like to talk about themselves, so give them the opportunity to do so.
  3. Ask genuine questions for opinions, for favors, and for advice. This opens up the conversation to discussion and shows the other person that you trust them and are genuinely interested in what they’re saying.
  4. Check your body language to make sure you’re giving off a positive image to the other person. People are likely to mimic your body posture, so if you’re smiling and approachable, they’re likely to do the same.

When you look out for these 4 things your conversations, after a while, you’ll be able to easily tell if someone would like to continue talking or not.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and you were unsure if they wanted to continue talking? What happened? Did you see any cues? I’m interested to hear your experiences. Let me know in the comments!

How to improve conversation skills – 11 ways that work

How to improve conversation skills

These are the 11 best resources on how to improve your conversation skills. If you, like me, weren’t born knowing how to effortlessly talk to anyone, this guide is for you.

1. How to make interesting conversation

A few years ago, I started wondering about the difference between the conversations that seemed endlessly entertaining, and the ones that went nowhere quickly.

Was I the problem? Were some conversational topics just more engaging than others? The answer is kind of a “yes, but no”.

The best way to keep a conversation going is when both you and the person you talk to are interested in continuing it. You do that by talking about things you have in common.

You don’t have to know someone well to be able to find out things you have in common. You can find commonalities even with complete strangers by observing them and based on that decide what topics to bring up.

Here’s a link to my full article where I explain this process in detail. In it, I talk about how to improve your conversation skills by finding common interests with anyone you meet.

2. How to start a conversation with anyone

Before I started training my social skills, whenever I’d have to go up and talk to someone, I got really nervous and started worrying. What will people think about me? What do I talk to them about?

Later I learned that talking to someone isn’t about making a perfectly structured, elaborate conversation worthy of an Oscar for dramatic writing.

It’s about being relevant to the situation you’re in. It’s about being sincere, rather than frantically trying to come up with something interesting to say.

Don’t be afraid of small talk. Using it won’t make you shallow or uninteresting. What it will do, though, is get the conversation going! And once you get it going, you can ask the person slightly personal questions, and then use follow-up questions.

Follow this link to read my complete guide for starting conversations with anyone.

3. How to have deep, meaningful conversations

When I moved to a new city and didn’t know any people there, I couldn’t seem to find anyone I could have an intellectual conversation with. I greatly missed having deep conversations with my friends.

“Did people get just too busy with their mobile devices and portable entertainment?”, I thought, “Was no one interested in the same things that I was?”

Of course, it was not really the case. I managed to turn the situation around. It was a combination of finding the right people, asking the right questions and spending enough time together.

Here’s my blog post that describes how I managed to start having meaningful conversations when I improved my conversation skills.

4. How to have a conversation without asking too many questions

Do you often have those conversations that feel more like an interrogation, when you keep asking questions and getting short, straight to the point answers?

The person might not know what to say, or the conversation just might not be interesting enough.

There’s a couple of things we can do to avoid this situation. Don’t focus all your attention on the other person, or on yourself – keep the conversation balanced. We can ask questions that are related to each other. Or, you can also get a conversation going by making a positive statement, instead of asking questions right away.

Click on this link to read more about why conversations die out, and how to keep them interesting without getting stuck in endless questions.

5. How to find good topics for a conversation

Many websites on the internet boast having big lists of random conversation topics. There’s only one problem with those – all they’re good for it passing time.

Conversation and small talk should never be random if you’re looking to bond with someone.

If you’re looking to create a meaningful relationship with someone, and genuinely wish to get to know them better, you can use what I like to call The Three S’s of Socializing: Situation + Surroundings = Small Talk.

Here’s my full guide you can use to come up with small talk and conversation topics.

6. How to carry a conversation if you’re introverted

For us introverts, making conversation is one of the most intimidating parts of socializing. But regardless of how awkward you may feel in social situations, you can definitely turn the situation around.

A good strategy for making quality conversation is focusing on the 4 W’s.

Who you’re talking to.

What are you doing?

When are you having the conversation?

Where is your conversation taking place?

Besides the 4 W’s, it’s a good idea to only ask questions you would be comfortable answering yourself.

Keep in mind that nothing catastrophic will happen either way. Even if you end up saying something silly, chances are, the other person will simply not notice it.

Follow this link to read the full guide for making great conversations as an introvert.

7. How to improve conversation skills with strangers

Talking to someone you don’t know can be a bit scary. Years ago I used to think, what do I even say, how do I behave, and why even bother?

But of course, talking to people you don’t know is how you get to know them. Follow my tips to make it easier for you to connect to strangers.

Don’t be afraid to express your personality. People pick up on fakery, and being sincere goes a long way.

Appearing approachable is very important when talking to new people. Body language is a big part of it. Standing straight, keeping your head up and smiling makes a huge difference.

Don’t afraid of being excited about meeting someone new. When you express interest in people and listen to them, they will open up to you, and your conversations will turn into something meaningful.

8. How to join a group conversation

Interrupting is rude, that’s a given. So then how are you supposed to join an ongoing group conversation that seemingly never dies down?

Due to the nature of group conversations, you can’t just wait for your turn. At the same time, you can’t blatantly interrupt people.

A trick that works well is to breathe in quickly just before you’re about to talk. This creates the recognizable sound of someone just about to say something. Combine that with a sweeping movement of our hand before you start talking.

When I do this, people subconsciously register that I’m about to start talking, and the hand gesture draws people’s eyes toward me.

There are a few differences between a group- and a 1 on 1 conversation that people tend to ignore: When there are more people in a conversation, it’s often more about having fun than getting to know each other on a deep level.

The more people in the group, the more time you spend listening. Keeping eye contact with the current speaker, nodding and reacting helps to keep you a part of the conversation even when you’re not saying anything.

Read my my full blog post on how to join a group conversation here.

9. How to stay an active part of a group conversation

If you’re already included in a group conversation, it’s still possible to end up as a passive listener and be left wondering – what happened?

I have a friend who gets included in every group conversation that he joins, even though he talks less than most other people.

It took me years to finally figure out that his main trick is to include others in whatever he’s talking about.

The reason it works is that people love being acknowledged. If a person constantly talks about whatever is on his mind, however fascinating it is, people will tire of the self-centeredness.

There’s a bit more to it than that, though, so learn how to be a part of a group conversation here.

10. How to keep a conversation going

When you talk to someone you don’t know, it’s often hard to come up with things to say.

There is a clever way to come up with what to say by using a different part of the brain than you normally would.

The short summary would look like this:

  • Keep the initial conversation as simple as possible.
  • Find out where the person is from, where the person is today, and where the person is going – simply by asking questions.
  • Share relevant bits and pieces about your own life, so that you share roughly the same amount of information.
  • In an environment where you’re not expected to socialize, first focus on the situation you’re in to warm up the conversation.

This is a summary of what’s called the Timeline Method. Click here to learn how to use it to keep a conversation going.

11. How to know when a conversation is over

Do you sometimes have a conversation that goes on longer than needed? Whatever the reason, it’s always unpleasant and awkward.

There are a few things we can do to avoid this situation.

Firstly, analyze the conversation. Are you going off topic and asking the other person about things you’re not that interested in? Is the conversation slowing down?

If so, you should watch for the other person giving you a signal. Usually, you can notice it with their body language, for example acting distracted, looking away or shifting uncomfortably.

There are also verbal signals to listen for – sometimes people will say something about what they’re doing in the immediate future, or their voice might start trailing off, easing the conversation to an end.

For a fuller list of things to watch out for, as well as some exceptions, read my full article on how to know when a conversation is over.

301 small talk questions to ask friends, grouped for EVERY occasion

questions to ask a friend

I often get asked by our readers:

“What are good questions to ask friends?” and “What are funny questions I can ask someone?” “What should I ask to get to know someone?”

We decided to go ahead and make a mega list of not 100, not 200, but 301 funny, deep and interesting questions to ask a friend, someone you want to get to know better, or just to have fun.


Conversation StartersQuestions for someone you just metSmall Talk QuestionsCasual QuestionsFun QuestionsParty QuestionsQuestions for an acquaintanceQuestions for Your Best FriendsTruth or Dare QuestionsDeep Questions


Conversation starters

General conversation starters

Nice to meet you, what’s your name?

How do you know people here?

What brings you here?

Are you from around here?

Do you come here often?

What do you think of this place?

I just love the weather around here, is it always like that this time of the year?

How was your trip here?

I don’t know if we’ve met before?

Click here if you want to learn how to best use conversation starters to get a conversation going.

Starting a conversation on the street

Excuse me, do you know what time it is?

How do I get to [place or street]?

Do you have a recommendation for a good cafe around here?

Where’s a good place to go if you want to see the city from above?

Do you know any good hairdressers around here?

Click here to read our complete guide on how to start a conversation with anyone.


Getting to know someone you just met

What do you do?

What do you like the most about your job?

Is your current job what you expected it to be?

What are you doing in school right now?

What do you do when you’re not working?

Do you have any siblings?

What do you like the most about living here?

You prefer living in the countryside or in a city?

Do you prefer to visit people or bring them over?

Would you ever want to live in another country? Why?

What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

Do you prefer movies that make you think, or the ones that let you relax?

How do you feel about being away from home when traveling?

Do you like prefer board games or video games?

Do you like guns? What’s your favorite one?

Do you enjoy how hectic the holidays feel sometimes or do you dislike it?

Are you into sports?

What’s your favorite music genre?

Do you follow someone on Youtube?

Do you have a TV at home?

Do you like cooking? What’s your specialty?

Do you drink alcohol? What’s your favorite beverage?

Do you prefer big parties, or the ones where everyone knows each other?


Small talk questions

What do you like the most about this city?

How do you like the party so far?

What are you doing in this city?

Did you hear about this new place they opened around here?

Do you know what the weather will be like today?

Did you hear [story] on the news today?

Did it take you long to get here today?

How’s the house renovation coming along?

Why did you decide to come to this event?

Do you think it’s going to rain today?

How was the vacation? Where’d you go?

How are the kids?

Remember how I mentioned [something you mentioned before]? Well, guess what happened?

Last time you mentioned that [something they mentioned]. How did it go?


Casual questions

Have you seen any good movies lately?

What are your plans for the weekend?

Do you know any good gyms here in the city?

What’s your favorite color?

Do you like thrillers?

How was your weekend?

What do you usually do in your free time?

How do you guys know each other?

Do you ever go to any kind of live shows?

Do you follow the news? Have you heard anything interesting lately?

Have you read any good books lately?

Do you watch [Insert TV-show]?

What’s one spot that I should definitely visit in this city?

Do you have any pets?

What food do you like the most?

What food do you like the least?


Fun questions

What’s the first thing you’d do after winning the lottery?

What’s the silliest thing you’d do if you had unlimited money?

What’s your most frustrating moment at work?

If you had the power to create one thing perfectly, just as you imagined it, what would it be?

Do you ever feel like you’re in a movie?

If you were the leader of a band, what’d you call it, and what kinda music would you play?

An all-out war between cats and dogs: who wins and why?

Would you rather fight a horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?

How’d you feel if you couldn’t use your smartphone for a year?

Pizza or tacos?

Salt or sugar?

How many five-year-olds could you fight at the same time?

If you were an animal for a week, who’d you be, provided that you’d survive?

So what came first, the chicken or the egg?

If you owned a gay bar, what would you call it?

What would you call your autobiography?

If you could only celebrate one holiday, what would it be?

You’re on death row for kidnapping a puppy. What’s your last meal? Would you get stuffed or eat light?

Click here to read our guide on how to be funny (works even if you’re not a funny person :P)


Questions to ask at parties, dinners, bars or clubs

Hey, what’s your name?

Do you want a drink?

What’s that you’re drinking?

How many drinks are you on?

The cake is delicious, have you tried it?

What’s your favorite thing here so far?

Have you tried the [a food or drink on the table]?

Do you know what song that is they’re playing?

Is it always this many people here?

Do you like dancing?

Do you know anyone here?

How do you guys know each other?

What do you think about the music?

How long do those parties usually last?

Do you come here often?

Do those parties happen often?

Do you like it here?

Did you come here alone?

Wanna go out for some fresh air?


Getting closer to someone you’re acquainted with

What kinda relationship did you have with your parents growing up? Did it change much since then?

Where would you rather live if money wasn’t a problem?

Did you ever wish you had a different name?

Did you listen to your parents when growing up?

Did you have any hobbies as a kid that you stopped doing?

What’s your favorite holiday?

Did you ever cheat on an exam?

What’s the most important thing in a friend to you?

What’s your favourite time of the day/year?

What do you think is your best feature, appearance wise?

Do you keep in touch with your classmates from school or the university?

What do you love the most in life?

What’d be your next option for a career?

Do you believe in aliens?

Do you have a dream which you have no intention of pursuing?

Is it easy for you to make friends?

What’s your first memory in life?

What do you dislike in people the most?

What do you like the most in people?

How would you rate your own intelligence?

Have you planned your retirement?

Do you vote?

What can you not tolerate?

What’s one thing everyone seems to love that you just don’t get?

What do you think about universal basic income?

How do you feel about big corporations?

Read here how to tell the difference between and acquaintance and a friend.


Questions for your best friends

What do you remember as the best moment of your life?

Which song do you feel describes you the most?

Do you ever give money to the beggars?

Do you think violence on TV affects people?

Why do you think we’re friends?

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

Have you ever had health problems?

What’s your worst injury ever?

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

Do you exercise for the appearance, for the health benefits, or for the fun of it?

Do you have any regrets? What would you change if you could do it all over again?

What is it that you’d like to tell someone but can’t?

What scares you about the future?

What makes you absolutely lose your mind?

Do I have any habits you absolutely hate?

Would you like to be famous? In what way?

Was it mutual the first time you fell in love?

What’s the funniest school story you can recall?

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?

Is there anything you wanna do together that we never do?

What’s your most treasured possession?

Is there anything you currently miss in life that you used to have?

Do you feel fulfilled in life?

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

Did you ever feel old as a teen?

Do you feel old?

What would you change about the way you grew up?

Name three things you and your boyfriend/girlfriend seem to have in common.

How old do you think you’ll be?

Did you ever plan to do anything bad to someone?

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

Is there anything you dislike about me? If so, what could I do better?

What do you enjoy the most about being around me?

What’s one thing you feel like people don’t appreciate enough about you?

Have you ever been in a toxic relationship?

Do you have a secret idea about how you will die?

Did you ever pray for something fantastic or silly to happen?

Is there any responsibility you don’t want to have?

What are you the most thankful about?

If you’d live until 100, would you rather keep the mind OR the body of a 20-year-old?


Would you rather-questions

Lose an arm or a leg?

Get rich of marry happily?

Uncontrollably laugh for an hour per day or uncontrollably cry for 20 minutes per day, at random times?

Uncontrollably dance or sing at random times during the day?

Forever quit drinking unhealthy beverages or eating unhealthy food?

Go blind or deaf?

Crack a bottle over your own head, or someone else’s?

Be able to text only, or to call only?

Play Russian roulette with Hitler using 1 or 2 bullets?

Always lie or always tell the truth?

Pee yourself when you’re alone with your boyfriend\girlfriend or in front of 100 strangers?

Be forced to hop around on one foot or run on all fours for the rest of your life?

Drink raw eggs or eat raw meat?

If you’d stay the same age as you are now, would you rather go back to school or retire right now?

Knowing the exact date you’d die or die suddenly without warning?

Write a bestseller book or release a hit song?

Spend 5 years as a working slave or as an inmate in a maximum security prison?

Go trick-or-treating wearing a superhero costume or a “dog wearing a hot dog” costume?

Spend a year in a coma or living 6 months with the person you hate the most?

Lose a middle finger on your left or right hand?

You are far from the civilization and your horse is injured. Do you kill it to put it out of its misery or leave it to suffer?

Be rich and spend your life in one city, or be poor but see the world?

Binge-watch all the seasons of a show you hate, or watch one episode per day?

Write music or play it?

Slap your mom or slap your dad?

Go homeless for five years or be poor forever?

Be burned at a stake for witchcraft or die from dementia?

For the rest of your life: stub a toe twice a day or break an arm once every three years, provided that it always heals well?


Truth or dare questions

Did you ever not make it to the bathroom on time?

Did you ever get so drunk you didn’t remember what you were doing the next day?

Did you ever try any drugs?

What was your nickname in school?

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?

Your most disgusting habit as a kid?

Did you ever talk about your friends behind their backs?

When did you steal the last time, and what was it?

Did you ever want to kill someone?

Have you ever hooked up with someone without knowing their name?

How many people have you slept with?

Have you ever kissed a person of your own gender?

What’s one thing you can’t control in your life?

Did you ever run away from home as a kid?

What’s the worst thing you called your mother?

What’s the worst thing you’d do for a million dollars, provided you don’t get caught and nobody ever knows about it?

Did you ever end up naked in a public place?

What’s one thing you do despite it going against who you really are?

Do you often go out without any underwear on?

Have you ever cooked a meal for someone else from expired products?

Would you marry one of the top 100 wealthiest people in the world if you didn’t like them?

Is there anything you can’t get out of your head when you try to sleep?


Deep questions to ask close friends

What do you struggle with the most?

Do you feel like part of society?

What do you think about using population control to prevent overcrowding our planet?

If a genie could tell you a truth you’d like to know about yourself, what would you want to know?

Who’s your favorite family member?

How is your relationship with your parents?

What’s something you’d like to tell your parents that you would never dare to?

What’s something you’d do if you know you’d get away with it and no one would never know that it was you?

Is there something you’ve wanted to do for a long time but haven’t yet? What would that be?

What do you think about freedom of speech?

What do you think about abiding the law vs. following your own moral code?

How would you feel if your spouse was in love with another person?

Do you find constant physical and mental comfort important, or do you prefer to challenge yourself often?

Would you rather harm yourself, or others around you?

Do you think there is an afterlife of any kind?

Would you commit suicide if you saved the life of 1 other person? 2 people? 5? 10?

How do you think porn affects our society?

Should all drugs be made illegal, or all of them made legal?

What do you think about veganism?

What kind of role does religion play in your life?

Have you ever wanted to die?

How would you prefer to die?

Are you into politics?

What’s the point in living, if you’ll end up dead anyway?

What do you think is the meaning of life?

Do you feel like men and women are equal?

What’s your best memory?

What’s your worst memory?

When was the last time you cried?

If you knew that you were to die suddenly, what would you do?

What does love mean to you?

Is there ANYTHING that’s too serious to joke about? What would that be?

What’s something you think that you think no one else thinks?

What’s the angriest you’ve ever been? What happened?

Could you bring yourself to kill someone in self-defense?

If you could ask the reaper to spare your loved one, what would you tell him?

In which situations do you think war is called for?

If you ended up in a coma for 10 years, still conscious but unable to communicate, would you want them to pull the plug?

If you had to pick one, who in your family would you miss the most if he or she died?

I’ve written more here about how to have more deep conversations.

Let me know about your problems in the comments down below and I’ll do my best to help!

What to do when the topic dies out in a conversation

When the topic dies out

I spent this Saturday at a friend’s place in Manhattan.

When the conversation dies outMy friend’s balcony

When a conversation topic dies out he uses a simple, but genius, question to keep the conversation going:

“How’s X?”

X is something he and the other person have talked about before. It could be work, a project, a trip, or some person they’ve discussed…

  • How’s your new car?
  • How’s work?
  • How’s it going with that guy/girl you met?
  • How was your trip to Chicago?
  • How’s your crazy neighbor?

Even though “How’s X?” is a simple question, it’s clever and should be used more. Here’s why:

It’s great to get a new topic started when the current one dies out, and you’ll be more confident knowing that you can always fire off a “How’s X”-question.

But there’s a deeper, hidden benefit with this question.

Studies show that when someone listens to us or cares about us, we like that person more.

“How’s X” shows that we listen and care. Simply put: When you ask “How’s X”, you become more likable.

Think back to a conversation you had with a friend. What can you ask about the next time you meet and a topic dies out?

The more excited or the more they care about something, the happier they’ll be that you asked about it. Don’t ask about stuff they aren’t interested in. Focus on what they really care about.

Also, check out this guide on how to keep a conversation going for as long as you want.

One friend of mine is applying for a scholarship, so I can ask her “How’s the application going?”

Another friend just built his own gaming computer, so I can ask him “How’s the new PC?”

A third friend just moved back home to France, so I can ask her “How’s Paris treating you?”

A while back I made a related video on how to never run out of things to say using “Conversational threading”. You should check it out here.

For in-depth info about how to make more interesting conversation, check out my mega guide here.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

“What should I say when I talk with a stranger?”

What to say

There’s one thing most miss when they try to talk to someone they just met…

You see, I just came back to NYC after visiting friends and family in Sweden.

Meeting someone newHere are me and my buddies on my “last supper” in Sweden

While I was gone, we got some new folks in the co-living back in NYC. So yesterday I got a chance to get to know them. (Read about how to make friends in NYC here.)

You know, I get emails every day and the most common questions are: “How do I start a conversation with a stranger?” and “How do I come up with things to say?”

It took me a decade before I really figured this out.

Here’s the thing…

When two people meet, they need to make small talk for a few minutes to get to know each other.

Small talk is important. But what we actually say when we make small talk isn’t.

Click here if you want a list with 300+ great small talk questions.

You see, when two people meet, they need to make noises with their mouths while they figure out if they like each other. What that noise contains is less important.

What’s important is in what way we make that small talk. Are we approachable, likable, needy, hostile, nervous, or something else? We need to just have something to talk about while we pick up on all that underlying, important stuff.

Here’s the trick: When you make small talk, you want to practice coming off as warm and relaxed.

With warm, I mean being friendly and pleasant. If you’re warm but not relaxed, you’ll appear nervous. If you’re relaxed but not warm, you’ll appear like Lil Wayne.

Relaxed doesn’t automatically mean calm. You can be both relaxed and high energy. Relaxed here means at ease and natural, as in the opposite of tense and awkward.

“But David, even if what I say isn’t important, still, what should I say?”

What I do is to say anything that’s related to THEM or the SITUATION.

Here are some examples:

  • “Hey, how are you doing?”
  • “What are you up to?”
  • “How do you like it here?”
  • “Have you been here before?”
  • “Have you tried the caviar?”
  • “This is a nice place”
  • “I love this view”

(Practise formulating questions or phrases like these in your head until you can fire them off at any time. That will make your life so much easier.)

Try saying the stuff above out loud in a nervous way versus in a warm and relaxed way. Think of it like how you would say it together with a good friend.

Small talk isn’t about what we say, it’s about how we say it.

“But David, it’s not that easy to sound relaxed if you’re nervous”.

I know! But when you start focusing on this, each new social experience will make you a little better. You can practice a little bit every single time you exchange a few words with someone.

You can even try saying “no thanks” in a more warm and relaxed voice the next time the cashier asks if you want the receipt.

Most people focus only on what to say. If you focus on how you say it, you’ll stand out.

So in its essence, say anything as long as it’s related to them or situation. The important part is to sound warm and relaxed.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

“Others will be bored with what I have to say”

boring small talk

What do we do when it feels like we aren’t interesting or that people get bored talking to us?

Look at these comments from two members of the SocialPro community:

“I am doing an exchange semester abroad. Recently, I have been feeling very insecure and like I was the most boring person in the world to talk to, mainly because of lack of genuine interest and affection from the people I talk to.

I did not know what to talk about and people did not seem interested in me. Also, someone I got to know a bit better, mentioned that I ask a lot of questions (that’s how I get when I am trying to be extroverted), without providing anything about myself (again, because I feel like I have nothing to add and that I am boring).” 

– Aida

“My biggest social life challenge currently is talking to my peers without being boring. The conversation starts off with a lot of energy but begins to fizzle out after 5-10 minutes. After the conversation hits the 10-minute mark, I find it hard to find what topics or things to discuss. I want the conversation (especially with girls) to continue on and be fun for a very long time.

– Nathan

Things are made worse by the advice you find online on how to be more interesting.

Here’s some actual advice from the top results on Google…

Terrible advice 1: Memorizing questions to make the conversation interesting

Quote:

“Working on any passion projects at the moment?”

“Besides work, what gets you up in the morning?”

You can’t just fire off canned questions. If someone out of the blue asked me what “passion projects” I work on, it would probably just feel weird.

Terrible advice 2: Crack jokes

Quote:

“For example, when someone asks how he’s doing, he responds, ‘My lawyer says I don’t have to answer that question.’

It’s always fun to see a new person’s reaction. It just sets up the rest of the time together, true human connection and a good time, and isn’t that what it’s all about?”

Obviously, cracking jokes like this gets old fast. Plus, it misses the core of the problem. We don’t feel uninteresting because we crack too few jokes.

We need to go deeper.

What actually DOES work to have interesting conversations?

The advice above is trivializing the issue. Often, when it feels like someone loses interest in what we’re saying, our self-esteem takes a punch.

One time, I had a conversation with a girl I liked at a meetup. Then, she got eye contact with a guy behind me that she knew. It was like she forgot that we were talking, and she walked right over to him. I was gutted.

As you can guess, I was pretty quiet the rest of that night. Naturally, that also made me more boring to talk to. My fear of being boring became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It takes more than cracking a few jokes to get past that.

Examining WHY we feel boring

Sometimes, we end up just listening to others. Then, when it’s our turn to speak, we just don’t know what could possibly be interesting enough to say.

Or, we get stuck in small talk. After 5-10 minutes of small talk, the conversation fizzles out.

Here’s a third cause: Our mind goes blank, and we can’t come up with anything to say.

Luckily, there’s a single solution to all of these problems.

If you follow me, you know that I’ve talked about how to make a conversation interesting by turning it into personal mode. Click here to see real-life footage where I cut past the small talk.

The trick I use is to ask about people’s relationship to the current subject.

So for example, if we make boring small talk about work, I ask about the person’s RELATIONSHIP to their work. So maybe I say:

“Do you like your job or do you dream of working with something else?”

Opposed to the bad advice above, this isn’t a canned line, nor a cheap joke.

Asking about someone’s relationship to the subject turns boring small talk into a deep conversation about dreams and thoughts.

The reason we think small talk is boring is that it’s often about facts and not what people think and feel. Since we can google facts anyway, they aren’t that interesting to talk about. (Unless both of you happen to be highly interested in the topic. Finding mutual interests is something I talk about here.)

But this method still won’t help us out of the “listeners trap” of feeling uncomfortable talking about ourselves.

This is where the thoughts and feelings-method come in…

Whenever you’re making small talk and want to connect, share personal thoughts or feelings about the subject.

“But David, are you telling me that I have to share my thoughts on child labor and feelings about my grandmother’s death!?”

No! This isn’t about becoming an open book. It’s about opening up enough to not be a walking black box. What you actually do open up about can be very mundane. We can learn to do this, even if we feel uncomfortable talking about ourselves. Let me show you how.

You see, conversations get boring when they are only factual and shallow; we break out of that by sharing feelings and opinions.

Here are the steps:

  1. Share a personal thought or feeling about the topic you’re on.
  2. Ask about their thoughts and feelings on the subject.
  3. If they give you a long response, share more of your original thoughts and feelings to match the other person’s reply in length.

This helps you out of the listener’s trap and creates a balanced conversation.

Here’s an example:

Say that you have a boring and factual small talk about how apartments are expensive.

“Apparently there’s been a 15% rent increase the last year, so it’s not like it’s going to be cheaper any time soon.”

Instead of talking more about rent increases, you share a personal thought or feeling. In other words, something that shows a little bit of who you are:

I get stressed living in the city.

Or

I would love to buy my own place one day.

And then, you ask them about their thoughts or feelings.

Do you get stressed living here?

Or

Where would you like to live if you could choose any place?

If they give you a long response, you can now talk more about where you would rather live or in what way the city stresses you.

As you see, you don’t have to open up in a way that’s uncomfortable. You just need to share a little bit of yourself, without having to be vulnerable.

Another example, say that you have a boring and factual small talk about the weather.

“They say it will get cooler soon.”

Here, you can say something like:

“Warm weather makes me drowsy so I’m actually looking forward to that.”

Or

I was thinking last year of moving somewhere with more sun.”

You don’t have to travel the world or have an amazing life to be able to have these kinds of conversations.

You don’t have to share anything provocative and it’s not about finding differences between you. Notice in the examples how the conversation is simple, easy-going, and still interesting.

“But David, my head goes blank. How can I come up with all these thoughts and feelings?”
Answer:

Your head is already full of thoughts and feelings. As proof of that statement, just think about how many thoughts and feelings that come up when you talk with someone you’re truly comfortable with.

If you can’t access your thoughts and feelings, it’s because you are in your own head, chasing things to say, rather than being focused on the conversation, letting your thoughts and feelings come to you.

Did you know that you can learn to better at focusing on a conversation? The trick is to continuously re-focus on it when you blank out. After a while, your brain becomes really good at staying focused on the topic.

You can practice this in conversations with anyone, preferably around people you already feel at ease with.

After some weeks of practice, you will notice how it’s easier to stay present in the conversation. As a result, your thoughts and feelings naturally pop up.

I’m talking more about how to focus on a conversation here.

So, whenever you make small talk, share your personal thoughts and feelings about the subject. Ask about theirs. Let your conversation move to thoughts and feelings, rather than grinding facts.

This is the recipe for an interesting conversation.

Click here to read more: How to not be boring

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

How to Stop Overthinking in Social Settings

Overthinking in social settings can happen to anyone. However, people who overthink in all settings can be paralyzed by social settings. What do overthinkers worry about in social settings? They ruminate over things they’ve done in the past during social events and worry about what is going to happen at their next social event.

What is ruminating? Ruminating is replaying things repeatedly that happened during the past.

“I looked like an idiot the last time when I met someone new. Why did no one tell me my zipper was down.”

“No wonder I was voted least likely to succeed in high school. I can’t speak up at business meetings.”

“The last time I said something at a party, no one said anything back. That was the most embarrassing moment ever.”

How about worrying? Worrying is fear about what is going to happen in future social settings. These fears can end up keeping an overthinking from accepting social event invitations and choosing to stay in for the night.

“Will they like me? What if I say something stupid or offensive? What if I don’t understand what they are talking about?”

“What if I have broccoli stuck between my teeth and never notice?”

Unfortunately, we aren’t limited to just an internal monologue. Us overthinkers also use visualization when we’re ruminating or worrying about social events. We visual rehash the events that previously occurred. These events are an endless loop in our minds. Not to mention, we also love to visualize everything that could go wrong at a social event. Moreover, these imagined events are usually way out of proportion for what is likely to happen.

Again, these destructive thoughts end up keeping us from going to new events. As a result, we miss out on opportunities to mingle at work events, meet new people, and which would eventually lead to great friends. However, there are ways to stop overthinking in social settings. By implementing these tips to stop overthinking, we can accept those social event invitations and meet new people. Furthermore, some of these interactions can result in long-term friendships.

Tip One: Realize When Overthinking Occurs

The first tip to stop overthinking in social settings is to realize when we are overthinking. This is the key to stopping overthinking. Once we realize that we are ruminating over something that happened in the past or obsessively worrying about what “could” happen at a social event, we can acknowledge that we are having these destructive thoughts.

Tip Two: Challenge Those Thoughts

Once we identify those negative thoughts, we need to challenge those thoughts. How do we challenge these thoughts? We consider how likely the event is to occur the way we are thinking. Will we have broccoli in our teeth or leave our pants undone? This is not likely to happen as we’re worried about it and will check our teeth and our zippers. Not to mention, it is not the end of the world if we don’t understand what someone is talking about. We can ask for them to explain. It is a great way to make the other person feel intelligent and helpful by asking them to tell us more.

Tip Three: Focus on Problem Solving

Instead of being paralyzed by overthinking in social settings, we can use our thinking skills to our advantage. We can focus on how to problem solve any situation that we are concerned about. By being action oriented, we are identifying how to solve a problem. For example, if we are worried about no one speaking to us at a social event, we need to consider why no one spoke to us.

“Did we speak loud enough? Were we looking at the person? Did they know we were talking to them? How can we make sure that the next person I speak to knows I’m talking to them?”

Tip Four: Take Time for Thinking

Even though we are striving to stop overthinking in social settings, it is unreasonable for an overthinker to stop thinking. It is our natural way to solve problems and navigate our way through life. As a result, it is necessary to establish a period every day where we think about things that have happened in the past and what could happen in the future. However, we need to put a time limit on how long we are going to ruminate and worry about social settings.

Tip Five: Stay in the Present

As an overthinker in social settings, it is beneficial to focus on the present. When we focus on what is happening right now, we don’t have time to ruminate or worry. When we’re present, we can relax and be ourselves. Focusing on the present takes practice. How can we practice focusing on the present? To focus on the present, we need to pay attention to our senses. We can focus on what we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.

Tip Six: Realize that Other People Worry as Well

The next tip for stopping overthinking in social settings is realizing that other people also worry about whether they will say the right thing and whether people will like them or not. Once we realize this, it is easier to accept that other people are not as focused on us as we fear.

Tip Seven: Begin by Interacting with People We Know

It can be difficult to stop overthinking when we are dealing with strangers. It is best to start practicing with people that we know. We can begin by interacting with people we’ve lost track of over the years or acquaintances that we don’t know well. With these interactions, we’ll feel less pressure to impress people. As we become more comfortable with stopping overthinking, we can move to different types of social settings such as networking events or meetups with new people.

Here’s a guide how to stop being the quiet one in social settings.

What do you think of my recommendations? Do you think they will help you stop overthinking in social settings? When you think back to a time you were present in the moment in a social setting, were you following these steps? I look forward to hearing your comments below!

A Guide to Reading the Room and Knowing What People Think About You

As analytical people, we love to study what other people are doing. However, when we perceive that behavior is a direct reflection of our actions, we tend to overthink or misconstrue what we know about human behavior. It is important not to doubt our instincts. We have spent years honing our ability to read people. Now its time to take advantage of our instincts.

Why do we overthink or misconstrue people’s behaviors when it relates to us? The main reasons we overanalyze is because we are worried about what people are thinking about us. As a result, we become hyper-focused on every verbal or non-verbal cue that a person communicates and attribute it to ourselves.

“Why is he looking at me like that? He’s angry with me. I shouldn’t have said anything about that type of vehicle. Maybe he drives one.”

“Is my boss mad at me? She closed her eyes when I was talking.”

When we are being overly sensitive, how do we behave? We freeze up or we ramble on about irrelevant things. We’ve all been there. Right?

However, if we were not being overly sensitive and attributing all behavior to us, we can realize that some of the cues being read are the result of other factors in the room. Once we can properly identify where the verbal and non-verbal cues are being directed, we can use the information to our advantage. As a result, we can change the course and dynamics of the room.

When a dinner conversation turns awkward, how do we know? We read non-verbal and verbal cues. We pay attention to what people are saying and doing. If we aren’t focused on what horrible thing that we did to cause the facial expression and not be able to focus on the next step to take, we can turn the conversation in a different direction.

Let’s explore some different non-verbal cues that will help us read the room and know what people are thinking. Once we know what people are thinking, we can learn how to take advantage of the information.

Cue One: Worried

When someone is worried or anxious, they will present non-verbal cues of a wrinkled brow, arms closed as protection, not participating in the conversation or talking non-stop on irrelevant topics.

Our first instinct might be for our face to flush and our pulse to elevate. Obviously, we said something to make the conversation awkward. Instead, we need to stay calm and feel empathetic towards the person. It is okay that they feel anxious; especially if the topic has implications for their future or they don’t know where we’re going with the topic. A great way to ease someone’s worry is to take time to explain the situation in a soothing manner.

Cue Two: Confusion

When someone is confused, they display non-verbal cues such as responses that are out of left field, dazed expressions, eyes squinted, or one eyebrow raised in question. When someone gets confused at what we’re trying to explain, we personalize.

“I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve got to stop speaking or look more incompetent.”

Then, we make a quick exit. A better option is to say,

“I’m feeling a little confused. How about you? Let me explain things a little better.”

This normalizes the confusion and relieves any stress that we or the other person may be feeling. At this point, we should try a different approach to explain what we are talking about in a way that the person can relate to.

Cue Three: Anger

An angry person presents with glaring eyes, gritted teeth, flared nostrils, rubbing of the forehead, or slamming things on tables or desks. Depending on our experiences these non-verbal’s may make us defensive or submissive. Neither is an effective response. If this is a work situation and people are upset over a past discussion, it is important to get everyone to focus on the present. Or, to take a few moments and focus on another topic. This allows everyone a few moments to focus on another topic, so everyone can regain their composure. If this is at a social event, then taking a breather might be the best decision. It may be best to excuse ourselves and walk away. Whatever the situation is, we need to remain calm and hold an even tone.

Cue Four: Interest

What we’ve all been waiting for, someone who is engaged and interested in the conversation at hand. A person who is interested will be smiling, leaning in, making frequent eye contact, open arms, and looking directly at us with their chin up. We need to encourage this behavior with continued positive interaction. Enjoy the interaction and keep it moving if possible.

Cue Five: Understanding Who’s Present in the Room

Lastly, to better understand the non-verbal and verbal interactions in the room, it is important to understand the relationships of the people at the event. If we’re at a work event, it is good to know who the supervisors are and who are the subordinates.

When the higher-ups walk in the room, people may behave differently. Some people may straighten up their behavior and some may “shine” to impress the bosses. On the other hand, people who have lower status may present as deferring to others. They may agree to whatever is being said, not speak up and share opinions, or try to blend into the woodwork.

At a social event, we may have individuals in the room that have previously dated, are dating, friends, frenemies, or competitors. By being aware of these relationships, we can better read the social cues that we encounter. There may be strained relationships that we want to avoid or conversations that we might not want to have in that setting. The more we know about the participants, the more successful our social interactions will be. Furthermore, having this awareness will make it easier to not attribute people’s social cues to us and to realize that there are other dynamics in play.

What do you think of my recommendations? Do you think they will help you read the room and impact your social interactions? When you think back to a time you were successful at reading a room, were you following these steps? I look forward to hearing your comments below!

How to mingle at a work party

Work parties can be a daunting experience for the low social energy person.

The thought of skipping a work party for comfy PJ’s and a glass of wine on the sofa has tempted me before. Us low social energy people crave our downtime to unwind. However, skipping every work party can have a negative impact on our business future.

We never know when a simple conversation could be the catalyst for a future workgroup opportunity, new client, or a promotion.

What keeps a low social energy person from jumping up and down when the invite hits our email?

We worry about who we’re going to talk to at the work party. We dread endless small talk about the weather. Lastly, we over-analyze what we’ll say in each social exchange.

By that time, we’re too exhausted to go.

Before I discovered the secrets to mingling at a work party, I tossed the invitation in the nearest trashcan. If I somehow convinced myself to go, I headed to a chair by the wall and kept my head stuck in my phone. However, not all work party conversations have to center around the amount of rain we’ve had or whether the sun is going to break through the clouds. It is possible to have a deep and meaningful conversation at a work party. The key is not to throw the invitation away and learn to mingle effectively.

What does effective mingling at a work party look like? Successful mingling at a work party makes it look like we are an open, friendly, and engaged person. Whereas ineffective mingling, i.e., no mingling, implies that we are insecure or think we’re better than the others in attendance.

So, how can we mingle effectively at a work party? To mingle effectively, there are several tips to improve our chances of being successful. As a result, we can not only navigate the event, but we can enjoy ourselves and not dread the next invitation. What is the most important thing about a work party? We must go to the event and dress appropriately based on the instructions in the invitation. One time I went to a work event and realized halfway through the work party that I had on one blue shoe and one black shoe. Granted, they were both the same style of shoe, but talk about awkward!

Have a Goal

The first tip for successful mingling at a work party is to identify a goal. Of course, a lot of this will be determined by who is on the guest list and whether we know all the attendees.

Do I want to meet a certain number of people? Have I always wanted to speak in person with a specific client? Is there a co-worker that I’ve never met, but I was inspired by an article or email that they wrote and distributed?

The only way to know if our mingling is successful is to establish a goal and achieve it.

Warm Up

One potential way to prepare to mingle at a work party is to practice mingling earlier in the day. We can spend some time with our friends talking, chat with the gas station attendant, or participate in an engaging conversation with one of our co-workers that we’re comfortable with. The goal is to feel comfortable talking before branching out to people we don’t know.

Choose Our First Introduction

When I go to a work party, I like to approach someone who makes me feel comfortable first. This eases the tension. One way to do this is to look for someone else that is on the outskirts of the group and approach them. Not only does this make me feel more at ease, but I also get to help someone else who is feeling uncomfortable. With that first social exchange out of the way, it is easier to approach the next person.

Introduce Ourselves

If I don’t know a person that I want to meet, I introduce myself. To properly introduce ourselves, we must provide our name and office department. We can’t forget to small and give a solid handshake.

Ask Questions

After introducing ourselves, we need to ask the person questions. People are attracted to confidence and genuine interest. If the person is one of the clients for the business that we work for, we could ask about their products, how they chose their line of work, or when and why they began doing business with our company. How about if the person is a co-worker? Similar questions work for a co-worker as well. We could focus our questions about their length of service, why they chose to work for the business, or even what they enjoy doing outside of work.

We don’t have to be bogged down with endless chit-chat about how much it snowed or how dry it is. Many low social energy people find small talk annoying, so it is best to encourage a more meaningful conversation. Unless there is a threat of a tornado or another weather apocalypse, no one really wants to talk about the weather.

Politely End the Conversation

Once we’ve introduced ourselves and chatted for a few minutes, we must politely end the conversation. This does not mean we trail off our last sentence and walk away. It is rude to walk away without acknowledging the person. I prefer to say, “It was a pleasure to meet you. Thanks for taking time out of your night to speak with me.”

Avoid Overindulgence

Another tip for effective office party mingling is to avoid too much alcohol. As an employee, we reflect our company. By getting drunk and saying or doing inappropriate things, we could be subject to discipline. Not to mention, the purpose of the party was to meet people and present a respectable image. Vomiting, falling, or bad-mouthing the boss, were not our identified goals for the evening.

What do you think of my recommendations? Do you think they will make your work parties more comfortable? When you think back to a time you were comfortable starting a conversation with a new person at a work party, were you following any of these tips? I look forward to hearing your comments below!