Monday, 19 October 2020
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Communication

How To Talk To People

How To Talk To People

Whether we’re a die-hard introvert or an extravagant extrovert, there will always be those strange and awkward moments in a conversation where we struggle to know what to say. The feeling of panic can arise as we desperately search for the right words yet this usually causes that mental block of appropriate topics to talk about.

We all fear the awkward silence when we're expected to make small talk with a stranger. Perhaps it's at a business dinner, and you're sitting next to a new colleague. Maybe you're at a wedding, and you meet a friend of a friend of a friend. How do you get past the initial introductions? How about when you're in a high-stakes situation, such as a job interview, where you're expected to outshine the competition? Then there's always the blind date. How can you turn it into the start of something big (assuming you want to)? 

So why exactly does this happen? Well it has a tendency to happen when we aren’t so familiar with a certain person or group of people. When you’re thrown into a conversation before common ground has been found, it can be difficult to keep the interaction going in a smooth and natural way because we’re not entirely confident of what and what not to talk about.

 

How to Keep a Conversation Going With Someone You’re Unfamiliar With

Having a few good techniques under your belt is essential for these exact moments. It will not only help you socially, allowing you to forge better building blocks for potential friendships, but also in professional connections where networking is important.

Don’t Make ‘Being Interesting’ Your Goal

Many people believe that for people to want to build some kind of relationship, they must win them over with interesting or humorous chat. In reality, this isn’t really the case. The interaction doesn’t have to be insightful for it to be meaningful. Don’t get caught up in the belief that what you have to say isn’t good enough – just say it anyway.

People generally don’t remember what has been said in any given conversation, just that an interaction has taken place. Don’t get hung up on impressing them, just be yourself. 

 

Let Them Talk about Themselves by Asking Good Questions

People generally like to talk about themselves. Not because they’re egotistical but because it’s a safe topic and one they obviously know very well. Therefore, if you’re struggling to think of what to say simply ask good questions.

Asking questions shows a level of personal interest and causes the other person to feel cared for. You do this by paying attention and observing the person to find clues. For example, if they look particularly tired, ask them what they did yesterday. If they have a certain item of clothing, mention you’ve been looking for a similar item and ask where they got it from or can they recommend where you can get one.

The key is to ask open-ended questions and get them talking rather than questions that elicit yes or no answers. This allows the person to elaborate more, keep the conversation going and helps you find more clues to their personality. 

Have a Conversation About Food

The point of this is to find a universal topic. Not everyone knows about the latest technological advances or fashions but you know everyone has a passion or at least an opinion on food.

If you’re eating together it’s an easy way to start a conversation by simply commenting on the food. Or expand by talking about different cuisines or other foods you’ve tried. If you’re eating a meal later, asking or suggesting what you should eat will always be a successful topic.

It’s all about finding that common ground and food is a perfectly simple and universal topic to bring up. 

 

Simply Rephrase What They Say

Sometimes conversations can wane if you can’t really relate to the topic they’re talking about. If you have little knowledge on the subject it can be hard to add your opinions and awkward silences can ensue.

A good technique in this case, is to rephrase what the other person has said. Not only does this show you’re interested and listening to what they’re saying, but it gives them a chance to point out discrepancies or be eager to tell you more because of your interest. If someone is describing their complicated job to you or a profession you’re not familiar with they may be well aware of your lack of knowledge. By repeating what they say or asking for clarification, you’re creating a sense of interest and rapport.

Sharing things about yourself can seem unnatural to some – especially introverts. However, sharing small things no matter how insignificant will not only show the other person you want them to get to know you, but it’s an easy conversation filler.

As mentioned before, it’s really not about what’s being said in a conversation that people remember. A person is more likely to remember the feeling of an awkward silence with you over a seemingly meaningless conversation about what you ate yesterday or what new gadget you bought. 

The idea is to be confident in bringing up any topic. If you do sense awkwardness, the other person will be more than grateful for your effort in keeping the conversation going so don’t think too much about how you’re coming across with your words.

Knowing it ‘All’ Doesn’t Make Someone a Great Conversationalist

Always keep this in mind. While having a breadth of knowledge can make it easier to converse with different types of people, it’s not necessary.

Know-it-alls do have a tendency to dominate conversations which we all know can turn people off. You’ll be much better off turning your knowledge to the tips above and applying these fundamental rules to the conversations you have. Remember you’re looking for flow and connection in a simple way. Don’t overthink it.

 

10 Tips to Talk About Anything With Anyone

Everyone has a different conversational style. If you have an extroverted personality, you can probably be planted in any social situation and at least get the small talk started without feeling too much pain. If you're on the introverted side, however, these situations can make you cringe. All you can think about is how much you'd like to escape. Most people are somewhere in the middle on the introversion-extroversion dimension but everyone has moments of greatness and everyone has moments of utter failure when the pressure is on to be scintillating. 

Success in the small talk domain is a lot like success in other social situations, including online chats, job interviews, and social networking. The basic premise is that you find common ground with the people with whom you communicate by using the right amount of self-disclosure, empathy, and tact. I've found that perhaps the most useful guide for small talk sphere comes from the person-centered approach to therapy of Carl Rogers. In the 1970s, Rogers made tremendous contributions to counseling and clinical psychology by teaching therapists how best to listen, reflect the feelings of their clients, and turn these reflections into change-promoting insights. Obviously, you're not going to perform psychotherapy in your chats with random social companions. But you can use the insights provided by Rogers to smooth over the rough patches in your chats with strangers. Add to these pearls of wisdom a little social psychology, and you've got a perfect formula for succeeding no matter who you're talking to or how much you dislike or are averse to meeting strangers.

1. Listen. 

Too often when we're meeting someone new, we try to fill the dead moments with chatter about ourselves. Far better for you to listen first, talk second. Of course, someone has to start the conversation, but if you and your companion actually listen to each other and not worry about what to say next, things will flow more naturally.

 

2. Use empathic reflecting skills. 

The next level of Rogerian communication involves restating what you heard or at least what you think you heard. This will show that you've been listening and will also allow your conversation partner to clarify if in fact you are way off in your judgment of what you thought you heard.

 

3. Turn on your nonverbal detectors. 

Rogers was well known for his ability to read the body language of his clients. It's easiest to do this if you refocus your attention from how you're feeling inside to how you think the other person is feeling based on that person's nonverbal cues. If the person seems uncomfortable with where the conversation is heading, shift gears. Though some people enjoy debating politics, religion, and sex, other people would rather keep things light. Learn how to gauge the impact of what you're saying by reading bodily cues such as posture, eye contact, and hand movements.

 
 

4. Avoid snap judgments. 

If you follow steps 1-3 above, you'll be less likely to misjudge the person you're talking to, but we all suffer from the temptation to rush to conclusions about people based on superficial cues. Things aren't always what they seem to be when meeting someone for the first time. If you've listened carefully, reflected back what you heard, and kept your nonverbal channel open, you'll be less likely to make a mistaken judgment based on outer cues.

 

5. Be an online detective or behavioral profiler. 

You can help your case even further if you have the chance to find out ahead of time who you'll be meeting along with a little bit of their history. Then you'll be prepared to ask questions that will be relevant to the people you're meeting. If you don't have the opportunity, practice your behavioral profiling by using the visual cues at your disposal (think Sherlock Holmes, who could infer occupation by looking at someone's hands).

 

6. Don't assume people will agree with you. 

Research shows that many of us engage in the "assumed similarity bias." It's not safe to conclude that because you are opposed to one or another political party that the person you're talking to is as well. Debates can make for enjoyable conversation. If you assume everyone feels as you do, though, it's likely you'll get started on the wrong foot and end up with it in your mouth.

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7. Try to learn from each interaction with a new person. 

A person you've never met before may have been places and done things that you haven't. People from other places, including countries other than your own, can give you new perspectives. They will only open up if you show that you're interested. You can expand your knowledge of other regions, cultures, and nations, ultimately making you a more interesting conversationalist as well.

 

8.  Stay on top of the news. 

Being familiar with current events is absolutely the best way to have enough topics to bring up in any conversation. The topics don't have to be weighty, nor do they have to involve in-depth expertise. Even knowing what the number one box office hit or what the hot songs or videos are is better than being oblivious to what is going on in the world around you.

 

9.  Know when not to talk. 

Some people prefer no conversation at all, especially in confined situations such as public transportation. You might think it's great to while away the boring hours on a long airplane ride by conversing with your seat neighbor. However, if you're getting cues from that passenger (or others around you) to the contrary, then take the hint that your silence would be considered golden. If you find yourself constantly doing this wherever you go (and getting negative feedback), make sure you won't be bored by bringing along something to read or do to keep yourself amused.

 

10.  Don't overshare. 

Perhaps you've heard that it's OK to tell strangers your most private secrets. After all, you'll never see them again. Right? There are three flaws in that argument: 1. You may see that person again, or that person might know someone you know. In the six-degrees-of-separation world that we live in, it's amazing how quickly your personal secrets can spread. 2. People feel uncomfortable when they hear a stranger's deepest secrets. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. How would you feel if you heard someone you hardly know tell you about their love affairs, medical condition, or family disputes? 3. Oversharing can make you a bore. Though we can choose not to read the tedious everyday ramblings of our Facebook friends, it's a little more difficult to do this in person. If you go back to Tip #3, you should be able to judge when you're about to commit the sin of TMI (too much information).

 

 

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