Gratsiela Toneva

Insider Tips for How to Keep a Conversation Going Like a Pro

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Some people seem like they were born with social skills. Drop them into any life situation and they communicate with anyone–the mechanic at the garage to prestigious public figures–with no hesitation.

Meanwhile some of us feel less than confident when we’re thrust into an unexpected conversation and we end up either mindlessly babbling or staring intently at our shoes. And it’s not our fault. While growing up in American culture, emphasis often times rests only on public communication skills–like how to give a speech or formal presentation–rather than how to comfortably engage in casual, everyday conversation.

But there’s no reason to let conversations be an ongoing stress-point. Because conversation skills only seem unattainable. In reality, they can be learned and mastered just like many other life skills.

How to Keep Conversations Going

  1. Be yourself. Too often times, we are burdened by worry over how people will perceive us and we try to consciously project ourselves as smart, witty, or important. But trying to calculate and manipulate how others feel about you actually takes away from the ease in which you interact with others. It can make you come off as distracted or even fake. Instead, try these down to earth tips for making a good first impression.
  2. Show enthusiasm. If you demonstrate that you are interested and appreciate a person’s stories, it will make them enjoy being around you…and, interestingly enough, they’ll end up liking you more as a result. Using phrases like, “You’ve got to tell me that story” or “What’s the best part about that experience?” can make the other person relax and feel accepted, which leads to more enthusiastic and open communication.
  3. Listen well. Try to listen without jumping ahead to form your next thought. When you plan the next thing you’re going to say in your head, it can make you more likely to interrupt. It can also cause you to check out and fail to fully understand what the other person is communicating. It’s okay to pause and develop your thought after they finish sharing a complete idea.
  4. Take cues from what they say. A person often gives off clues about what they do and don’t want to talk about. If they light up when discussing their children, for example, that’s a great topic to stick with. If their face clouds over and they begin providing short answers in a discussion about their workplace, though, that’s a sign to move onto a new topic. It’s fine to test plenty of topics–gradually getting deeper as you get to know someone better, but always respect what they want to talk about.
  5. Ask questions about them. People often go through their whole without anyone expressing interest in them or their opinions. If you become one of the rare people who does, it will boost their desire to talk to you! To start, ask about their family, their job, what they did this week or what they plan on doing. Also, listen especially for hobbies or passions they mention, and make it a point to ask additional questions about how they came to love these things. People love to talk about their favorite activities!
  6. Use welcoming body language. For example, sit with a relaxed posture, facing them. Don’t cross your legs, lean forward slightly, and maintain eye contact and a warm smile. These small gestures go a long way for making someone feel heard and appreciated.
  7. End the conversation before it goes too long. If someone mentions they need to get going or exhibits impatience (tapping their foot or checking their watch, for example), graciously exit the conversation to make the transition go smoothly. Tune into changes in behavior that come late in the conversation as well. If a person begins giving short responses or if they begin to look away from you repeatedly, they may be becoming bored or distracted and will appreciate you winding down the discussion.
  8. End the conversation with charm. If someone is highly engaged in talking about a topic, but you need to go, a good technique is to suggest talking about it later. The magic words for this scenario? “I can’t wait to hear more about this. Remind me to get back to this topic.”

As you keep these tips in mind, also remember that no skill is developed overnight. Make a habit to reflect on how conversations went, after they end. Try to identify the highlights–things that contributed to the conversation going well. And also try to pinpoint any lowlights–things that felt off, were uncomfortable, or took away from the flow. Make a mental note to try and avoid similar downfalls the next time you engage in casual conversation.

As you continue to groom yourself to be aware of how conversations go, and what behaviors make them most satisfying and successful, people will begin to see you as one of those naturals who can easily talk to anyone anywhere!

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  1. Tom_In_Fort_Wayne

    Deep down, I think I clicked on this because the women in the pic remind me of all the Italian women in our family. I know we don’t have the corner on friendship, but man did I have a warm upbringing with lots of love. Everyone was welcome at our house, no questions asked. The world could use more of that now.

  2. BlueStateHick

    I agree about Italians. My Greek relatives are the same way but I wonder if it could’ve been generational too.

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