By Paul Sanders–A communication expert who tries to help people improve their social skills and make friends anywhere. https://www.lifehack.org/author/paulsanders
One of the BIGGEST problems you may face when trying to meet new friends is the awkward silence. Encountering this situation is so uncomfortable that it can even force you to avoid meeting new people in the first place, but there is a way to get around it.
In the past, I struggled with this so much that I thought it could never be solved. I even thought it had to do with my DNA or something… but I proved myself wrong when I learned how to solve it.
Not knowing how to keep a conversation going can harm your social life, but if you know how to keep those words flowing, you can meet, talk to, and get to know pretty much anyone you like—creating great possibilities for friendship, fun and shared activities that you would otherwise have missed out on.
Why You Run out of Things to Say
After studying this in depth, I found patterns of behavior that can keep you from making great conversation with people. One of these common behaviors is the habit of filtering—holding back from saying something until you’ve “checked” with yourself to make sure that what you’re about to say is cool, impressive, smart, and interesting.
What does that do to your conversation ability? It kills it!
Another problem is not learning to get in the mood for conversation. If you spent a whole day working or studying analytical or logical subjects, and you don’t know how to switch from that, then it can take a lot of time to warm up and start interacting with people socially.
You can overcome this simply by learning a few new skills, such as the ones listed below. Once you do that, you’ll be able to talk to new people, and make friends, much more easily.
How to Keep Conversations Going
Let’s get you started with a couple of basic, yet solid techniques on how to be a great conversationalist:
Technique #1 No Filtering
This is the reflex that allows you to say whatever goes on in your mind. No filtering, no checking with yourself “would I sound cool if I say this?”. None of that.
The best way to practice this is to start doing it with people you kind of know—do you dare to try it? It’s fun to realize that you’re allowed to say whatever is on your mind, and no-one is going to judge you for it.
As long as you don’t say anything that could land you in jail, you’re okay! People don’t care too much about how “awesome” what you’re saying is, because they’re too focused on how THEY are coming across. Get it? If so, let’s move on…
Technique #2 “Interesting, tell me more!”
This works 99% of the time. It’s a surefire technique, and it works especially well for beginners. People love to know that you’re interested in what they have to say, so if you show some interest, they’ll hang around and want to talk to you even more.
All of the “oh! that’s interesting…”, “Hmm, I’ve never heard of that”, “Hmm, cool!” expressions are reactionary bits of conversation that prove to the other person that you’re really listening, and that’s very flattering to them.
Technique #3 Stories from everywhere
Everyone knows that stories juice-up conversations, but most people only talk about stories from their own lives. You don’t have to draw from your own experience when speaking with someone: you can use stories from anywhere, from stories that happened to people you know, to those you came across via the radio, TV, magazines, etc.
How can you integrate the stories into your conversation? The key is to first realize that you can use them. You’ve already heard them, and the more interesting or weird they are, the harder they are to forget, so you’re all good.
Your brain doesn’t lose them. When someone mentions something related to any of them, just tell the story, even if it’s not from your life. It can be any silly story, short or long, interesting, or totally awkward—just use it!
People love talking to people who can just share stuff openly like that. These techniques should get you started, but if you want to take it to an advanced level—to the point where you can just have fun when talking to anyone, meet the right people you want in your life, and be able to make friends with them fast—then I recommend that you take a little time to learn more about how conversations work.
If you do that, you’ll make conversations far more interesting, with natural ease, avoiding all awkward silences that might prevent you from meeting the right friends that you would love to have around.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know the tricks to keep a conversation going, the next thing you should do it apply one of these tricks the next time you talk with someone.
Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to use all these tricks at the same time, get used to one of these first. When you can master one of the tricks, you’ll feel more confident to apply the other techniques in your upcoming conversations too!
For more conversation starters see: