Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Making Conversation: 5 Easy Tips for Introverts

I have always been an introvert and the thought of making conversations with people less close than my family and best friends made me feel a bit nauseous.

However, I have tried pretty hard to break out of my shell so I can talk with people without fear and maybe even make some new friends! At the very least, it is nice to talk about interesting things that both parties enjoy in social situations.

Source: Valentina Ramos

1. Be nice.

This one is a really obvious one, and it's also the one people talk about the most. A bunch of things fall under this one like: being polite and positive, making eye contact, paying attention and being interested in the person with whom you are speaking.

Lots has been written on this topic, one of my favorites being: How to Charm Anyone. All the Time. Ever. by Sarah Von. In general, just treat the other person you are speaking to nicely - the way you would like to be treated. Also, if you are not feeling particularly nice (hey, we all have those days) look to #2:

2. Learn everyday phrases.

Those little trite and sometimes fake things that people say? Learn them, practice them, and use them. At first it may feel uncomfortable to say "take care!" to someone when you are walking away, or telling someone who lost a loved one "my condolences" but after doing it for a while, it will become second nature.

Even though the words may not be 100% genuine, it is nice to know what to say in certain situations rather than just standing there and feeling really awkward. This can go a long way in making you feel better about the whole conversation - even if it is just a quick "hello, how are you?" in passing.

A good way to learn these is from an etiquette book (love Emily Post's) or just by listening to others and picking up ones you like.

3. Parrot questions back at the asker.

For us introverted types, it is often very easy to be left blabbing about ourselves forever, while the other person in the conversation just seems to be asking the questions. We walk away feeling awfully self-centered. Never good.

The best thing you can do after talking about yourself is to ask the other person "And what about you?"

Source: 47 Project

4. Keep an arsenal of solid questions.

These questions will be your ammo for keeping the conversation going when there is an awkward pause. These questions need to be things you can ask pretty much anyone, and things people generally like talking about. Whatever you do, don't ask them "so, what do you do?" (if they wanted to talk about it, they would bring it up themselves - this is the general rule with touchy topics).

I recommend coming up with 5-10 questions and memorizing them. Some questions I really like:
  • Have you been on vacation this year or are you planning a vacation?
  • Have you seen any good movies/read any good books/watched any good shows recently?
  • What is your favorite restaurant in {the city you are both in}?
What if the person says no to these questions? If they are trying to make conversation with you, they won't. It's as simple as that. And if they aren't interested in conversation, give them a polite everyday phrase (like: "Well, I've gotta run - but it was so nice catching up! Take care!") and move on.

You can even tailor these questions to your own interests so that you have good follow up questions and things you can say easily in response (for example, if you are a movie buff, ask them about movies they like).

5. Have something going on.

Nothing is more boring than when someone asks you how you are and you say "good." A much better response is "good" + something else, in order to start a conversation. This tip is basically saying to be interesting and to have something you are either looking forward to or just did that you like talking about.

So your life is totally mundane and you have nothing to say? Well, that's partially another issue for another day, but my recommendation is to watch an out-there movie, read some fun news and form an opinion on it (Twitter is a great place to collect conversation pieces!), or just do something new in your city, like trying a new restaurant, and that way you can bring it up: "I'm great! I just tried Bob's Diner a few days ago. Have you ever been there? No? Do you have any favorite restaurants here?" See? Not so hard.

Source: Bonnie Tsang

At first this stuff will all be pretty awkward. At least it has been for me! I say the wrong everyday phrase, or I ask someone about something they already told me about (d'oh!) and yeah, I feel like an idiot. But the more you practice and work on it, the better you will get and the more comfortable you will feel making conversations.

So, do you have any conversation tips? Good questions that you keep in your arsenal? I would love to hear them in the comments!!


nisa said...

Thank you..i appreciate you article..going to work on it as soon as :)

DDana said...

Great suggestions! :)

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