Improving Conversational Skills
In this article, you will learn how to start and maintain an interesting conversation with anyone, anytime. There are three main reasons for having a conversation:
- You are interested in having a relationship with the person. It could be because you want to make friends or attract a partner.
- You want to have a conversation because you want to enjoy the conversation itself, or it would be too awkward not saying anything. This often happens if you end up next to someone on the train or the people you see at work, in school or through various interests.
- You want to ask the person something or learn something, such as asking for directions or how to perform an exercise at the gym.
See my complete guide on how to avoid awkward silence here.
If you walk up to a stranger, no matter what the purpose of the conversation is, make sure it will APPEAR like the last type of conversation: You want to know something or ask something. Coming up from nowhere and starting to talk without a clear reason will creep most people out. If you are attracted to someone, or just want to talk to someone for fun, you can even say something like:
“I just wanted to start talking to you because you look like a nice person to get to know”
How to Start a Conversation
Starting a conversation with someone that you don’t know can be difficult if you feel nervous. The nervousness blocks you brain and you will have a hard time coming up with things to say. Meanwhile, it can be super-easy to come up with things to say when you are around people you know.
There are many ways to start a conversation. As you now know, you need a purpose for talking to someone. Ask a question about something to start with. Alternatively, make a statement and follow it up with a question.
The rules for the statements and questions when talking to someone you just met are the following:
Only ask or talk about something that is closely related to the situation you are in. When asking, use open questions.
Open questions are questions that you cannot reply yes or no to. For example, ask “What did you think about Paris?” instead of “Did you like Paris? This is also a great way to avoid awkward silence.
This rule will minimize the risk of coming off as weird. It will actually make it easier for you to come up with things to say when you initiate a conversation. Start by saying “Hello” and give a natural smile. Here are a few examples of things you can say. All of the examples follow the rule of being closely related to the situation that you are in, and you can use them in many different situations:
How do you know the people here?
How long have you been here?
What makes you come here?
This is a nice place. What brings you here? (Statement + question)
When you have received an answer, do any of the following:
- Make a statement out from the reply that you got (And follow up with a new question)
- If you don’t come up with a follow-up question, ask something else closely related, such as:
“How has your day been?
“What’s going on this weekend?”
“Is this how you usually spend your Wednesdays?”
Pay attention to what the person is saying, and ask follow-up questions:
You: -How has your day been?
Person: -It’s been good, I woke up at 10 AM today
You: -Nice, late night yesterday?
As soon as you notice the other person talking more than you, make some statements or tell something about yourself. If you ask too many questions without letting the other person know something about you, they will feel uncomfortable.
How to Keep a Conversation Going
There are two main reasons for a conversation to die.
- One person doesn’t know what to say next. This could be due to nervousness, or because it feels like there’s nothing more to say.
- The conversation is not very interesting and one of the participants doesn’t feel like making conversation anymore.
How to Make the Other Person Know What to Say
To make it easy for the other person to say something, make sure to put a question after your ending statement.
“Yes, it was great visiting France. What’s your favorite country?”
How to Make the Conversation More Interesting
See our main article about making conversation interesting here.
We are more interested in ourselves and our own lives and experiences than other people’s lives and experiences. This creates a problem when two individuals meet. They are both mainly interested in themselves. A person will find a conversation interesting when they get to talk about something they can relate to. No matter how interesting you are and how many adventures you have been on, people will get bored if they can’t relate to what you are saying.
As a rule of thumb, you and the and the person that you are talking to should talk roughly half the time each. If there are three people in the same conversion, everyone should talk one-third each, and so on. You can control this by asking questions when you notice that you have done your share of the talking. Asking questions is an excellent way to involve the other person, and getting to know him or her.
By asking questions, you will also find out about mutual interests and similarities that you have. Similarities mean the jackpot. When two people feel similar enough, friendships will emerge. As soon as you have found something that you both like, make sure to talk more about it.
How to Improve Your Conversation Skills Even More
Focus 100% on the person you are talking to. Do this by looking the other person in the eyes when he or she is talking. When the other person is taking a pause, quickly summarize in one sentence what the person has been talking about. This is a great way for someone to feel understood.
Person – So I don’t know if I should study or travel to Asia. I like both options.
You – You feel stuck between two good alternatives.
Person – Yes, exactly!
You should also try to mirror the social energy level of the person you are talking to by talking as fast or slow.