Many of us fear not knowing what to say after the first few minutes. Conversing is a skill; it takes practice and planning. Unfortunately, many young people resist “preparing” to meet someone, they want to be spontaneous or free flowing (Flanders, 1976). That would be nice but for some of us conversing takes work. The major problem is the fear, i.e. suddenly there is silent pause and we start to panic. If we blush or break out in a sweat, it adds to the embarrassment (and builds our fear of silence). How can we reduce the fear? By becoming better talkers by preparing.
There are two options when talking: continue on the same topic or change it. A good conversationalist is able to ask questions and may be able to share his/her own ideas and experiences. Practice both, pursue the “finer points” of any topic, ask personal questions, and tell your own stories. When a topic is exhausted, don’t panic…almost any topic will do (Russell, 1965). Practice having a topic or two ready for instant use; up to a point, continuing a conversation is a compliment. You are offering your interest and time. Lastly, practice ending conversations tactfully: indicate you must do something else, give the person a genuine compliment, and suggest a specific time to see him/her again (if that seems appropriate).