Photo Credit: Benson Kua
Conversation is important. It allows people to meet new friends, future lovers, and potential business partners. But conversing is not easy. Sometimes conversations just flow. Sometimes conversations are awkward and forced. These five tips should help you minimize those awkward conversations:
1. Let them do the talking.
People love talking about themselves, and they love the people who allow them to. Do not interrupt. If they want to interrupt you, let them. Ask questions, but not too many. Do not make it an interrogation. Have something to contribute now and then, so they know you are listening.
2. Be legitimately interested in what they are saying.
Pick out words or topics that interest you then branch out from there. If they say something like, “I just finished be degree in history at UC Berkeley,” you can talk about a few things: Berkeley, California, academics, history, job hunting, or graduation. Maybe you saw on the news Berkeley had another political protest on campus. Maybe your uncle is a Civil War buff. Maybe you just had to start looking for a new job yourself and can offer a few pointers. Try to relate.
3. Ask more than just yes or no questions.
Terse replies kill conversations. If the person is someone who is not talkative in the first place, and you give them an easy out, they will take it. Ask open ended questions; questions that require explanation. If they give a short reply, have a follow-up question in mind, something that needs to be answered in detail.
4. Avoid one word replies.
If you give a one word reply (like a simple yes or no), the other person probably will not expect such a short answer, and an awkward silence will follow. Add some detail or a story to your replies. Point the conversation in a direction, and see where it goes.
5. Practice open body language.
Open body language sends a signal that you want to have a conversation. Folding your arms or crossing your legs sends a subconscious message that you do not want to deal with this person at the moment. Make eye contact, smile, nod occasionally, and mirror their gestures.
Remember, the more practice you get, the easier conversations become. Start a conversation on the bus, flirt with the cashier, ask the mailman about the weather. Talk to people even when you do not want to. You will become more outgoing, and you build your network with every new person you meet.