One of the many fears about approaching is the fear of being able to keep the conversation going. Why start a chat when you know that you are going to freeze and have trouble coming up with the next word to say, feel awkward or fumble your way out of the discussion. It is difficult to keep the conversation going when you don’t have the techniques to do so.
I, too, can relate to that. I have little difficulty starting a conversation. I know different strategies that I can use to initiate contact and apply them successfully. But as the small talk wears off and the conversation continues, I begin to get nervous, and my mind starts racing with what I should say next. As I do contemplate on what to say, here comes that awkward silence. Then you sheepishly end the conversation and start beating yourself up for allowing the conversation go the way that it did.
Well, although I find this more difficult than starting a conversation, I have discovered four techniques that help to keep the conversation going. If you apply these same techniques, you too will be able to approach and keep the conversation going without it getting awkward.
The following are the four techniques to keep the conversation going:
Have a conversation starter.
To have a conversation starter is to have something to say ahead of time. By keeping up to date with world events or the news and formulating an opinion on it, helps you to have something to say. You can then ask about it, share your opinion on it and then ask what they think about it.
If you haven’t prepared a conversation starter ahead of time, you can use your surroundings. Be observant and Take a look around you. Then develop a comment on what you saw. For example, if you are at the buffet table, take notice of the variety of food, then say a comment about it such as “Look at this spread, have you tried this (insert food item) before? What do you think about it? or What do you recommend?”
If you are nervous about having something to say, you can wear a conversation starter. Wearing a conversation starter is wearing something that will allow someone to come up to you and compliment or ask you a question about it. For example, you can wear a shirt with a cool statement on it, or you can wear a unique accessory. Wear something that makes you stand out so that people will approach you and start a conversation.
Being prepared gives you something to start with so that you are more confident in initiating the conversation.
Ask open-ended questions.
Asking open-ended questions provides you with more than a yes or no response. The responder is likely to respond with a sentence that you can then comment on or ask a follow-up question. The reason why you don’t want to ask a close-ended question is that it produces a yes or no response. When some answers just yes or no, you can’t continue the conversation, and if you do, it is at the risk of the conversation becoming awkward. It’s hard to gauge whether someone is interested in talking with you when their response is so limited. Especially if they don’t follow up their answer with a question, when you ask open-ended questions instead, you can carry on the conversation a lot easier. If the person you are talking to needs some more time to warm up, your interest and engaging discussion will help ease them.
Apply Reflective Listening.
You become a reflective listener when you listen to the response of the responder and paraphrase what they say. This action lets them know that you were listening, and it also makes them feel heard. You can also do this by summarizing what they say and ask them if you heard them correctly. You can start your statement by saying, “what I hear you saying is…” then summarize or paraphrase what they said in your own words. They then would most likely confirm it and then may continue with more. They may also correct what you said, giving them a chance to clarify.
The benefit of your paraphrasing lets them know that you want to understand them and who doesn’t want to feel like they are heard. The best advantage of paraphrasing is the fact that it helps you to fill in the gap if you don’t know what to say. Instead of thinking of what next to say, just repeat what was said. It works every time.
Prepare a closing statement for the conversation.
One of the hardest things about holding a conversation is ending the conversation. Something that could help is preparing a closing line that you feel comfortable saying. For example, you can say something like this, “It was nice speaking with you. I would love for us to chat again. How can we make that happen?”
This, of course, would be used at the end of a conversation that you are enjoying. If you are not enjoying the discussion or if you don’t wish to talk to the person again, you may not want to invite them to speak in the future like what was done in the example. Either way, you would need to know when it is an excellent time to end the conversation, you don’t want to talk too long, and you don’t want to run out of things to say.
Ending the conversation at the peak of the discussion is not necessarily a bad thing because this makes the person want to talk to you even more so in the future. After all, you left the conversation like a cliff hanger.
In short, if you don’t remember anything else, remember this. Practice makes perfect. The more you have conversations with people, the easier it will get. Practice with your family, practice with your friends. As you get good at that, having a conversation with a stranger will be so much easier and even enjoyable. You will no longer be awkward, and you will be able to hold a conversation without fear.