Have you ever felt victimized by awkward silences in a conversation? You’ve gotten comfortable starting conversations, but inevitably the other person stops talking. But you struggle with how to keep a conversation going. It’s one thing to keep all those conversation starters in mind, but then what?
Well, there’s good news: keeping a conversation going doesn’t have to be that daunting. With the right tips at your disposal, you can become a better conversationalist. By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll know the strategies a good conversationalist uses to keep a conversation going.
Create a Friendly Mindset
Igor Ledochowski, a hypnotist expert, talks about the importance of disciplining and rehearsing the ways you want people to feel about you. Unconsciously, others will reflect to us the way we feel.
Here’s his method: Think about a pet/person you love and have good memories about. You’ll develop a happy feeling, a happy “glow", that will transmit friendship signals to the other person.
A) Think of a person or a pet that you already have a great connection with.
B) Intensify that memory until you start to feel good.
C) Project this positive feeling onto the person that you are about to speak to.
Become a Talk Target
Source – Inc Magazine, Talk Targets: Becoming a Magnet
Become a talk target. A talk target is someone who draws other people to himself (or herself) because she helps others talk easily about themselves, and demonstrates true caring for that person through the way s/he listens to others.
Quoting from this article, here is a partial list of specific behaviors talk targets show:
•Listen to introductions. Good listening requires practice and sometimes silence.
•Maintain eye contact and smile.
•Use humor appropriately to lighten conversation.
•Consider what is said and address it. Let the situation set the agenda.
•Be well-read and familiar with current events.
•Have a broad range of topics of interest.
•Encourage others to contribute.
•Volley the conversation by answering questions with a comment and a “return question.”
•Learn about the perspectives and background of other parties.
•Converse with an aura of authority and expertise.
•Ask the opinions of others.
•Tell interesting stories.
•Be open to change and exchange.
•Use others’ names in conversation.
•Refrain from monopolizing conversation.
•Use varied tones, inflections, and pacing.
•Pay attention to what has been said, and respond accordingly.
•Put people at ease with friendliness.
•Open up the circle of conversation by physically stepping back and allowing people to join.
Learn to Become a Good Listener
Here are some helpful tips from a reddit.com thread –
Make mental notes of what the person is saying. From within those notes, pick one thing and build on that topic. Avoid making one word answers
ABC : Are you still friends with XYZ
You : no.
end of conversation because you didn’t add anything here.
ABC : Are you still friends with XYZ
You : No. We fell out of touch when we started different colleges;
I went to <some place> and he went <somewhere else>.
Facebook is where we mainly keep in touch. I heard he got married recently.
Here’s a good quote from that thread:
A conversation is like a tree data structure where the topics are the nodes and it keeps on branching and creating new nodes as the conversation moves. If one branch dead-ends, recurse up to a previous unused node and branch from there.
Listening helps you receive the messages the speaker is sending. When you listen well, you communicate caring and respect to the other person.
Reflecting is a process where you paraphrase and restate both the feelings and words of the speaker.
Reflecting helps the speaker
- hear her own thoughts and focus on what she is saying and feeling
- shows the speaker you are trying to perceive the world as they see it, and that you’re doing your best to understand their messages.
- encourages the other person to keep talking
Reflecting is NOT introducing a new topic or leading the conversation in a new direction. Rather, with reflecting you are helping the speaker feel listened to and understood, and you are helping her focus her ideas.
Here’s a humorous video clip from Everybody Loves Raymond that illustrates reflective listening.
Here are two main techniques for reflective listening:
Mirroring is a simple reflection. It’s enough to simply repeat key words or the last few words spoken. This shows the speaker you’re trying to understand what he’s saying. When you mirror someone, you also help prompt them to continue explaining his thoughts and feelings. But don’t over-use this technique, or it can become distracting.
Paraphrasing involves using other words to reflect what the speaker has said. Paraphrasing shows not only that you’re listening, but that you’re attempting to understand what the speaker is saying. This technique takes practice, and can feel awkward at first. Practice with a friend until you feel comfortable with it.
For more information about reflective listening, check out this article from Skills You Need.
Also, Only You Forever podcast posted this helpful session and article called, Listen to Understand.
Resources – How To Keep a Conversation Going
How to Keep a Conversation Going (video from Howcast)
WikiHow- How to Keep a Conversation Going
How to Keep a Conversation Going – from reddit.com
You’re now ready to practice keeping a conversation going. Use these techniques to improve your comfort with talking to others.
And now, I want to hear from you! Please leave a comment below telling me what tips you use to keep a conversation going.