Making conversation has been a learning curve for me. I tend to over-analyze and over-think things. I stutter, trip over my words, and make up new ones. Over time I’ve learned to minimalize or mask these things with humour. As a “functioning” adult with the façade of being well spoken and articulate, I’ve learned a few things that make conversations easier. I’m sure you’re familiar with most of these and if you have any others, I’d love to hear them.
1. Speak slowly
When I’m in a conversation, I often speak quickly, afraid that someone will cut me off before I finish. Speaking too quickly causes me to slur my words and trip over my tongue. If I slow down, I can choose the exact words I want to use and it reduces my stuttering. It also has the added benefit of making me appear thoughtful and well-spoken.
2. Ask questions
One of the best ways to keep a conversation flowing is to ask questions. If someone has recently gone on a trip, I ask questions to find out where, when, what they did, how they felt, what their favourite part was. You can also interject your own experiences, similar or otherwise, to add your thoughts to the mix. This creates the illusion of a balanced conversation even though you’re the one driving it.
3. Discover mutual interests
Finding something that both of you enjoy or are passionate about creates a conversation that fuels itself. By looking at their clothing, accessories, the book they’re carrying, etc, you can gain insight into their style and the things they like. I’ve seen people with cute characters on their bags and started a conversation from there. People love talking about things they like, so its a great conversation starter.
I’m sure most introverts have perfected this one. In any conversation, listening is just as important as speaking. If someone doesn’t feel as if they’re being heard, it discourages them and they’re less likely to contribute next time. I know this from a lot of personal experience. Being a good listener, nodding and making eye contact helps the speaker to feel as if they’re being heard.
5. Create an exit strategy
I always have an exit strategy prepared for any situation. If a conversation is starting to drag on or if I need to take a break, I have a few options to excuse myself politely. If I’m in a one-on-one conversation I’ll usually remark on how I enjoyed our conversation and how I need to *insert reason here* with a smile. Then I leave right away. If I’m in a group conversation, I’ll politely excuse myself with a simple ‘excuse me’ and depart.
6. Take note of non-verbal cues
Facial expression, body stance, and tone of voice are huge indicators of how others are feeling or reacting. If you’re aware of other people’s non-verbal cues, you can adjust your conversation accordingly. I wrote a short post here about the subject if you’re interested. Additionally, knowing how you come across to others can be beneficial as well. For example, a straight posture conveys confidence, appropriate eye contact conveys interest and sincerity, and facial expressions can speak louder than any words. What you don’t say is just as important as what you do.
Do you have any tips for better communication?