Friday, December 3, 2010

When You Have Nothing to Talk About ...

Whether you're a host or a guest, there are loads of social situations that will call for interaction, even when you're stumped for some way to oil the wheels of conversation. The seeming inability to start a conversation when you've nothing to talk about is partly about nerves, partly about talking yourself into believing that you have nothing in common with the other person, and partly an unwillingness to try the new or even to put in the effort.
Overcome the nerves and the lukewarm desire to find ways of conversing with others you might never have tried before, and become a lot more comfortable around people in a conversational setting.

1). Begin by introducing yourself. It's very simple, and consists of telling the new person your name, offering your hand to shake and smiling.

2). Be aware of your internal monologue. When you suddenly feel that you're not able to engage in conversation with another person, it's likely that you're telling yourself a few negative things, such as worrying that you're boring, not good enough, too unimportant, intruding, wasting their time, etc. Feeling self-conscious when carrying on conversation with others is not unusual but it's also not productive.

3). Understand the secret to a good conversation. The secret at the heart of a good conversation is to listen and do very little of the talking, apart from encouraging the other person to open up. Once you understand this, you should feel a lot more reassured. Of course, there is an art to getting this happening but it's not hard.

4). Know how to ask an open question. Most people love to talk about themselves; it's your place as the conversation starter to get them going.
• A closed question: "Do you like books?", "Is spring your favorite season?", "Do you come here often?"
• An open question: "What sort of books do you like?, "Which is your favorite season?, "What are you doing right now?"

5). Put the location comment together with the open question and your conversation will be underway. For example:"That's a nice handbag, where did you get it?". This lets the handbag owner talk about the day that they went shopping and all this funny stuff happened, as opposed to, "I like your handbag." "Thank you." and then it's over.

6). Know the stuff of small talk, be aware of good topics for conversation. When you first meet people, it's important to keep the conversation light and simple. Rely on small talk until the two of you get to know one another better, as this is a time when you're both trying to establish rapport and similarities rather than setting each other up for an opinionated argument, such topics as your blog or website, the purchase of a new car, vacation plans, a good book you've just read etc.

7). Use words of a sensory nature. These are words such as "see", "imagine", "feel", "sense", etc., in order to encourage the other person to keep painting a descriptive picture as part of their conversation. For example:
• Where do you see yourself in a year's time?
• What's your sense of the current stock market fluctuations?

8). Synchronize. Once your partner-in-conversation has started talking, follow his or her cue to keep the conversation going smoothly. Use active listening to reflect what they're saying and to summarize their possible feelings.
• Say the other person's name now and then.
• Give encouraging feedback.
• Keep your body language open and receptive.

9). Keep good thoughts going through your head. Stay interested in the other person and focused on them. If your conversation partner appears withdrawn and uninterested in sharing information with you, don't persist too much.
• Keep your questions non-invasive; be sure you're not asking them questions they'd rather not discuss.
• Don't ask too many questions if your conversation partner continues to appear unresponsive.
• ck into yourself. Note each time a similarity or common goal pops up in the conversation to remind yourself of the worth of continuing to connect with this person.
• Smile a lot, and laugh when any quip is made by the other person.

10). Maintain the equilibrium. As the person who started the conversation, the responsibility initially rests with you to maintain the momentum. But what about when the other person starts practicing active listening and open questions back on you?

• Speak with clarity and purpose. If you're mumbling, it makes conversing a lot harder.
• Reflect before speaking if it's your turn to talk and allow silence to also have its rightful place in your conversation. Don't be afraid of pauses – use them to change topics, re-energize the conversation, or to take a short breather even.
• Relax. Chances are that whatever small-talk you're making isn't going to stick out in anyone's mind a few months from now.
• If you think of something in your head while you're talking, it's probably related.
• If you're shy, it is helpful to have thought about a topic or two in advance that you feel comfortable talking about.
• Follow the lead that your listener is expressing. If he or she appears interested, then continue. If he or she is looking at a clock or watch, or worse, looking for an escape strategy, then you've been going on for too long.
• Interesting and funny quotes or facts can lighten things up, and make way for things to talk about.
• Half of an effective conversation is the way you non-verbally communicate, and not necessarily what you say. Practice better non-verbal skills that are friendly and confident.
• Take a mental note of some amusing things that you saw or heard througout the day. This can give way to future conversation.

• Don't be overly invasive with your questions.
• Watch out if you use tons of fillers like "umm" or "soo". It might make the person you're talking to feel awkward or obligated to say something. Instead talk slowly and pause. This will create a little tension and make your newly found friend more invested in your conversation.
• Don't ever comment negatively on the person with whom you are talking, or anyone else; you never know if there is a personal attachment to the person you are criticizing.
• Never swear, insult, disrespect, use racial, religious, sexual orientation, and gender slurs in front of others
• Never act arrogantly and pretend to be a Know-It-All when dealing with people.
• Never ever interrupt a conversation between one or more people. Wait for the conversation to stop and then say something. Common courtesy goes a long way.
• Make use of "please", "may I", "thank you", "could you" when someone is nice to you and when you want something. Being polite shows maturity and intelligence.
• Don't always talk about your financial status in the presence of your new friend.
• Also remember that not everyone wants to talk. If the person shows signs of discomfort or loss of interest, you should not bother them

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