How to make conversation
If you absolutely hate being in situations that require you to ease awkwardness with insincere chit chat, you are not alone. Online polling company Amplicate, recently found 78% of their participants feel the same way. Some see Small Talk as meaningless conversation with people they could care less about and have little in common. However, in social/business settings Small Talk is how we build relationships and make valuable connections. Like it or not the better you are at making good conversation the more doors open up to you. The good news is you can acquire this skill.
The first step to becoming a great conversationalist is to become genuinely interested other people. Many times when you feel awkward because you are among strangers, there are others who feel the same way. It may help redirect your discomfort to focus on making others feel more at ease.
You can open with something simple, for instance if you are at a cocktail reception you can ask, “What’s the best thing you’ve had so far?” or “What’s your recommendation?” Use your surroundings and what is going on to engage people. Another example would be, “I love this location, what do you think?”
I had a client whose promotion came with the responsibility to socialize with company prospects, clients and senior executives from other regions. She dreaded having to piece together conversations at social events to kill the sound of silence. My first goal was to help her to think about these occasions differently. Instead of viewing this as a task, she needed to see this as an opportunity. You can learn something from anyone. Ask meaningful open ended questions that allow the other person to share their perspective……..and then really listen. My client began to realize that most people are interesting in some way and there is commonality in being human.
In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie cites being a good conversationalist doesn’t mean you have to do most of the talking. People like to talk about their jobs, share their opinions and advice; but it’s not often that we can find someone to listen with appreciation. Questions like, “What’s the best thing about your job?” or “What job did you do before this?” can provide real insight. Ask the right questions and become a sincere listener, people will not only want to talk to you, they’ll find you likeable and engaging.
Steer clear of negativity. Many time when people are at a loss for topics they start bringing negative attention to the weather. “It’s so hot.” or “Why did it have to rain?” Look for uplifting things to talk about; there is nothing that can be done about the weather. You want conversation with you to leave others feeling good. Too often people think complaining makes good conversation, it doesn’t.
Always look for something you can sincerely compliment about the other person. Do not talk about politics and never criticize people. If you live in a small town always remember; you may be “Sittin’ on the cow’s head talkin ‘bout his tail.
• Kim Welcome is the CEO of Influential Voice, a communication trainer and coach; she assists businesses and professionals to achieve their goals by helping them to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills. Contact: [email protected] 242-225-9013.