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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.