Do you have no problem starting conversations but flounder once the ice breaker question is over? Once you have mastered the art of how to start a conversation with just about anybody in any situation, generating lively conversation for more than a few minutes is a conversation skill all of its own.
For example, you can easily approach an attractive individual from across the room, say your hellos and then get a standard response - the standard way how to start a conversation. You may then make small talk with safe topics like the weather, the economy and your connection to the party host for approximately 5 minutes and then end up facing the so-called conversational wall.
Either way, you know how to start a conversation but you don't how to sustain it. The good news is that you can improve your conversation skills with the following tips.
Assume Your Share of the Responsibility
Regardless of who started the conversation, you must assume your share of the responsibility to keep it going for longer than the 5-minute mark for small talk. You cannot be indifferent to the obvious effort being made by the other person to continue the conversation for several reasons.
First, your social interaction with said person will die an early death, which may mean losing a potentially important personal and professional contact. Second, you may acquire a reputation within your circle of acquaintances as someone who knows how to start a conversation but falls flat during the conversation itself; you may end up becoming the social wallflower, not the social butterfly.
To assume your share of the responsibility in keeping the conversation going, you must make an effort, too. Keep in mind that a stimulating conversation is a two-way street.
Ask the Right Questions
One of the most important conversation skills is the ability to ask the right questions. When we say the right questions, we are referring to the following:
- Open-ended questions are designed to elicit answers that lead to more stimulating questions, thus, keeping the conversation going. You must avoid questions that lead to monosyllabic responses (i.e., yes, no, perhaps, or I don't know) because then you are slowly but surely killing both the other person's interest in talking to you and the conversation itself. By now, you will notice that you do know how to start a conversation but you also know how to kill it prematurely.
- Questions about the other person's interests, passions and aspirations. You want to draw him/her out of her shell by trusting you with what is happening in his/her present and what he/she plans for the future. Keep in mind that everybody wants to talk about themselves because it is the single topic that they know best.
In fact, if you want to know the best way how to start a conversation with a person you find attractive, we suggest asking somebody else, say, a common friend, a thing or two about him/her. You will then have a specific interest, passion or hobby to ask him/her to start the conversation.
Listen with Genuine Interest
Now that you are asking the right questions, you must listen to the answers with genuine interest. Not only will you learn something new about the other person - or something new about other topics - but you will also encourage him/her to continue talking.
When you listen with genuine interest, you can also expect the same courtesy from the other person. And that is how to keep a conversation going and how to gain new friends!
If you will remember, the most important tip in how to start a conversation is to practice, practice and practice your conversation skills even when you experience more failures than successes during your first few tries. In time, your skills in starting and sustaining stimulating conversations will grow by leaps and bounds so much so that others will seek out your company and you will become the life of the party in more ways than one.
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