Humans are awkward creatures.
We are one of the only creatures to walk on two legs. We have less hair than most.
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And we actually speak to each other in a definable language.
We’re a weird aberration in the animal kingdom, but we value the antithesis of our awkward nature.
We want our conversations and our actions to be smooth jazz played by a professional musician. But often we end up like a middle school band playing Aud Lang Syne.
Knowing how to talk to anyone can be a true mystery to some. But conversation among people is nothing but a learned skill.
And overcoming awkward conversation is as easy as following a pattern.
1. How To Talk To Anyone With A “Yes, And”
We’re always told not ask close ended questions when we want more information out of people. But that’s just not how we tend to ask questions.
And, unfortunately, closed-ended questions are the great conversation ender. And it’s probably what makes 80% of conversations supremely awkward.
But, you can combat the conversation-ender. It’s called “yes, and”, and the brilliant Tina Fey in her book Bossypants coined the term. Although, the practice itself has been used in improvisational comedy since the dawn of improv.
If someone asks you a closed-ended question, the temptation is just to answer them with a “yes” or a “no.” But you have to weigh exactly why the person just asked you a close ended question.
Do they really just want a simple answer or were they awkwardly attempting to start a real conversation?
If they ask you, “Have you seen the Avengers movie?” and you answer with a simple, “Yes.” Where does the conversation go from there? You probably just stand there looking at their shoes before saying bye and moving on.
But, here’s how to talk to anyone using “yes, and” and it doesn’t even have to be a “yes”, it can be a “no” as well. Let’s pretend someone asks you “have you seen The Avenger’s Movie.” You can reply “Yeah, and I loved the scene where the Hulk smashed everything. What was your favorite scene?”
There, you’ve turned the conversation on its head and created a wonderful conversation starter.
If you hadn’t seen The Avengers Movie, you can still answer in the negative. Say, “No, but I’m kind of against Disney buying up so many franchises and bastardizing them. I did read the comics when I was a kid. Who’s your favorite Avenger?”
2. Avoid Small Talk
It’s snowing outside right now. And if you tell me about it when I first walk up to you I’m going to think, “It sure is, Captain Obvious.”
But I’ll probably continue to play the game because I’m a nervous human being who sucks at small talk.
This is why you should avoid small talk.
It’s really how to talk to anyone without quickly killing the conversation. Your mind is more creative than that and so much is happening in the world outside of the weather and sports.
I mean, unless you are a meteorologist and the person you’re talking to is an earth scientist, you’re not getting very far with weather talk.
Instead, think of any recent news topic. Don’t go too flagrant or you might find yourself quickly making enemies.
But if you bring up any world event, you’re going to find the person quickly opening up about. Even if they have no clue what you are talking about, they will try to come up with something similar to match and off you go with your conversation.
3. Master The Introduction
Here’s not how to talk to anyone when you have a partner or friend present: “Hey, Bill meet Brad, Brad meet Bill.” Then smile like an idiot while everyone else tries to figure out how to continue the conversation.
Another faux pax you might not realize you’re doing in conversation is focusing on someone’s career when introducing them.
Unless their career is, say, Head of NASA or “professional scuba diver”, you’re not going to get much out of a conversation from that introduction.
Instead, think of unique things about your friend. Don’t be too embarrassing, that’s not the point of a conversation.
You can bring up a hobby or places someone has traveled. These topic are always good conversation starters.
4. Listen With Reciprocation
You aren’t the hero in your own story. Sorry to say.
Which means that not every conversation you are going to have is about you. If you try to make every conversation about you, you’re going to quickly find that people avoid your presence.
Instead, you should make the conversation about the other person. The way most people do this is by asking questions.
Asking questions isn’t necessarily wrong, but it can be quite tiresome when people constantly interrupt your story with more questions about the details.
In the 1960’s a man by the name of Joesph Weizenbaum built a computer program therapist named Eliza. And Eliza was designed to ask reflective questions; simple reflective questions that kept the other person talking.
They actually used this computer in therapy sessions for a while and people believed they were talking to a real person on the other side. Some people even preferred the computer to the real therapist.
Why did Eliza’s programming actually work? Because she was designed to repeat what the person was saying and encourage them to continue.
You can emulate this in your own conversations. When someone is telling you a story, repeat small details of the story and ask them to continue or even ask how they felt about certain events in their tale.
5. Switch Gears At Seven Minutes
It’s known as the “Seven Minute Silence” or the “Seven Minute Lull” to some people. It’s used in comedy and fiction for dramatic effect.
And it’s how to talk to anyone and be the great master at steering the conversation.
In a group conversation, the group is statistically going to stop talking all at once. Why not take advantage of this by bringing up a new topic.
It’s as easy as remembering that your best friend just got married or Joe across the table just got a promotion. Then the conversation will be off to a roar again.
Conversation can be hard. You’re not alone. Most of the human race finds it hard to keep a conversation going.
What are some tricks you’ve learned over the years to keep a conversation going? Let us know in the comments below.