Last week we started the conversation. Now for the fun part – keeping the conversation going! A great conversationalist not only projects confidence but makes people feel important. And who doesn’t want to feel important?
Don’t forget, it’s natural to have lulls in conversation regardless of how well it’s going (in fact, studies show silence occurs roughly every seven minutes), so use the silence to take a breath and remember these tips.
Avoid Yes or No Questions
Conversation is all about the back-and-forth exchange. When you ask a yes or no question, the other person doesn’t have to contribute anything to the conversation other than a quick yes or no answer and then the ball is back in your court. After a few of these, you’ll think the person you are talking to is boring and you’ll run out of questions to ask. Not good! Go for open-ended questions to really get the ball rolling.
Take small talk to the next level – rather than the expected questions about the usual subjects, try some conversation card style questions. For instance, rather than, “Wow, it sure is cold out tonight,” or “Can you believe this weather we’re having?,” how about these?
- When was the last time you were in weather this cold/hot?
- What’s the coldest/hottest you’ve ever been?
- What’s your favorite season?
One of the best parts about striking up a conversation is the element of surprise. You just never know what you’ll learn (either about the person or a topic), who you’ll meet, who you may meet through the person you just started talking to, or how you’ll be different as a result of talking with someone. Be curious. Dig for that element of surprise. Be interested in the person you are talking to at the moment. In the end people like to talk about themselves (a topic they know well and are comfortable with) so give them a chance to do so.
If your struggling for topics, start talking about your own experiences, hobbies, interests. If your contributions are unique to the audience, the people you’re talking to will never know to ask about them so help them out and offer up information about yourself.
I share this last point with a caveat – don’t be the guy/gal that talks the whole time! ;-) Oversharing puts another conversation topic out there, gives the other parties license to share their experiences, and can often result in deeper, more interesting conversation. If it seems like the topic you brought up isn’t instigating conversation, switch to another one!
Just writing this post makes me want to rush out to a party. Here’s to many interesting and surprising conversations!