It’s easy to think that the art of conversation is a skill that gets bestowed on a happy few, while others are cursed with turbid tongues.
While it’s true that some people simply have a greater portion of innate natural charm, the art of conversation is a skill in which all of us can become competent. You may never have a silver-tongue, but you can learn to converse in ways that make you a valued party guest, set you apart at company functions, impress the ladies, and win you, new friends.
I believe that one of the best ways to connect with people and build quality relationships is through making conversation. Although most people can hold a conversation, only a few are smooth and charismatic when they talk.
Before you can get to know someone, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself.
You can introduce yourself to anyone you don’t know, or to remind someone you’ve met before who might have forgotten you. When you’re introducing yourself, you can add a little bit of information like where you first met, or what you do. You can even use your English learning as a conversation starter.
“Good morning! We always have coffee at the same time but we’ve never spoken before. My name is [Your Name].”
“Hello, how are you today? My name is [Your Name]. I’m still learning English so please let me know if I make any mistakes.”
“Hi, Angela. You might not remember me but we met at Tom’s Christmas party last year. I’m [Your Name].”
10 ways to have a better conversation | Celeste Headlee
Topics that are universal can be shared by almost anyone.
Things like the weather, current news, sports, and entertainment are usually safe conversation starters, especially when you’re speaking to a group—even if one person doesn’t really watch sports, someone else in the group might.
Although these topics are talked about by many, some people might not be fans of sports, or might not follow entertainment news, so if you can, try to match people’s interests to the topic you choose. For example, if you’ve heard them talking about big news stories in the past, you could try to talk about a news story from today.
“Did you watch the Oscars last week? I can’t believe Leonardo DiCaprio finally won one!”
“This weather is crazy! It was cold yesterday and today I came in with an open jacket. I hope it stays warm, don’t you?”
“That basketball game yesterday had me glued to my seat. Wasn’t that a great save at the very end?”
If you’re not sure what topic to talk about or don’t have anything interesting to say, you can just ask someone about their day, or you can talk about yours.
For example, you could ask them:
You can also share information about your day and how you’re doing, but try to keep a balance of talking and listening, so you both get to speak the same amount (and you’re not just talking about yourself the entire time).
Even if the person looks like they’ve been having a bad day, you can make it brighter just by making small talk! Make sure not to ask questions that are too personal, and instead offer some nice words of encouragement.
“Hey there. You look like you’re having a rough day. I hope it gets better for you.”
“Good morning! I went camping on Saturday, and of course, it rained all day. Was your weekend any better?”
“The day is almost over! Do you have any interesting plans for the evening?”
Some conversations are only appropriate in a work environment.
Stay even less personal at work than in more casual places, and avoid gossiping (talking about other people who are not present)! Instead, you can talk about the day, an upcoming party or meeting, or ask about the person’s job.
“Hi, Tom. How are things going over in the IT department today?”
“Good morning. I’m really looking forward to the party after work today. I hear Pam brought her famous carrot cake!”
“What a busy day. This is the first time I’ve gotten up from my seat all day! Are you busy too?”
Some of the best small talks are about where you and your conversation partner are located.
It’s something you both share, so there’s no worry that they won’t know what you’re talking about. Look around and find something to comment on, or look at your partner and find something nice to compliment them on. Nothing makes people feel better than a genuine compliment!
“I love your shoes today, they really pull your outfit together.”
“Did you see? They finally fixed the light in the break room. It’s been broken for almost a month!”
“Hey Pam, your cookies last night were delicious! Thank you for making them for the party.”
Keep in mind that English speakers rarely actually say the word “hobby,” so asking “What are your hobbies?” sounds strange and unnatural. Try asking questions instead, based on observations.
“My cousin mentioned you last night. I didn’t know you knew her! Where did you meet?”
“I noticed your hat has a Yankees logo. Are you a fan of baseball too?”
“I tried baking cookies like yours last night and they came out terrible. How do you make them so good?”
You might have noticed by now that most of these small talk examples have something in common: They ask questions. A good way to start a conversation is to make a comment, then ask a question. This keeps the conversation from ending on your comment (and making things even more awkward!).
When asking questions, listen as much as you talk, and don’t get too personal with your questions. And remember to keep things positive!
“Hey, I heard you were thinking of adopting a new dog. Did you find one?”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while: how long have you been working here?”
“Your hair always looks great. What hair products do you use?”
The next time you’re standing with someone and no one is speaking, you know what to do!
Typically, good talkers don’t rush into a conversation. They take their time when they reflect on something and when they say it out loud. They act as if they have all the time in the world. This makes them come off as centered and collected. Model this way of talking and you will create the same effect.
Most people keep eye contact about 2/3 of the time or less when they talk. In my experience, it’s a very good idea to hold eye contact just a bit more than that. This will convey confidence and interest in interacting with them.
People with good conversation skills tend to notice the kind of things that the average person doesn’t notice and to bring such details into the conversation. They may notice and point out an interesting ring on the other person’s hand, a certain foreign accent, or a certain voice tone they use when saying a name. Thus, such individuals impress people in a very elegant manner.
Anybody can pay a generic compliment to try and get another person’s appreciation. Charismatic people, on the other hand, are able to really pay attention to others, to look beyond the facade and thus, pay unique compliments. Do the same and besides wooing others, you may even help them find out things about themselves they didn’t know.
7 Greatest Conversation Starters That Actually Work
It’s very rare to meet a person who is comfortable talking about their emotions and how certain things make them feel, especially with strangers. Yet this way of talking is a real virtue. Don’t just present the facts, you’re not a newspaper. Express your feelings about those facts. Keep in mind that it is at the emotional level that people connect best.
Anybody can talk about the news or express basic opinions. But good talkers can frequently tell you things you didn’t know and that you’ll find fascinating. This is why it’s good to have knowledge into fields such as psychology or sociology and bring such knowledge out at the right moments in a conversation.
The ability to talk smoothly has a lot to do with choosing the precise words to convey your precise feelings or thoughts. Constantly develop your vocabulary and practice communicating as accurately as possible. It will help you develop a way with words and allow you to express yourself more easily.