With the mushrooming of digital interactions and connections over social media, mobile applications are replacing conversations. This is why many people are lamenting the ‘death of conversation’, calling it a lost art.
Although digital communication has its own advantages, in-person conversations can turn a bad day into a good one. It teaches you skills that are important for your overall well-being. It’s about time that we start unplugging and revive this lost art.
So, what is it that makes a good conversation and why should you learn how to start a conversation?
In a nutshell, a good conversation is a balance between simplicity and details. You stay on topic and ask relevant questions. You monitor your body language, pay attention to your tone and use appropriate words to communicate your intentions or feelings. You need to master the ways to start a conversation because no matter where you go, you will meet new people. Whether it’s shifting to a new place or getting a new job—a conversation is an excellent foundational skill for networking and building interpersonal relationships.
Powerful Conversation Tips
Starting conversations can be intimidating, especially when it’s with a stranger. It can even be anxiety-inducing. But with practice, you can overcome the jitters, strike up a conversation and keep it flowing. Here are some useful conversation tips to help you get started.
The Myth Of The Perfect Line
The ‘perfect line’ is a trap as people often get hung up on it. Many of us search for the best opener and overthink it. You can always start with a simple ‘hello’ and see where it goes. If someone doesn’t respond, accept it and move on. Remember that the perfect first line doesn’t exist; it depends on the way you introduce yourself and the way your listener responds.
Avoid The Cliches
‘How are you?’ may seem like a safe bet but it’s a lazy way for starting conversations. Moreover, it doesn’t lead anywhere because of short responses like ‘good’ or ‘I’m fine’. Instead, ask people ‘tell me about you’ as it’s more open-ended and shows your interest in getting to know them better. You can also check whether someone is comfortable by gauging how much information they’re willing to share.
Take Advantage Of Available Resources
One of the easiest ways to start a conversation is to use what you already know to your advantage. For example, you’ve been invited by one person and you come across strangers. You can always ask, ‘how do you know the host or hostess of this party?’ In professional settings like business conferences, you can ask, ‘which panel are you on?’ or ‘which organization do you represent?’ In short, use the venue, common connections or the occasion to strike up conversations.
Keep The Flow Going
Often, we know how to initiate a conversation but don’t know how to maintain dialogue. If you find yourself falling short of topics to talk about, you can always rely on ‘what keeps you busy’. It’s a much better question than ‘what do you do?’ because it’s open-ended and allows the speaker to share their interests beyond the professional domain. If they feel comfortable, they may even share details from their personal life and that’s more input for you to keep the conversation afloat.
The Balance Of Opinions
All of us have opinions, they’re a great way to spark conversations. However, if you want to keep a conversation going, you need to provide others the space to voice their opinions too. If you feel that you’re taking up too much space in the conversation, pause and ask your listener: what do you think? Not only does it allow the other person to talk but it also shows that you respect what they have to say.
Follow-Ups And Verbal Clues
A conversation is a two-way street. If someone continues to talk, then it’s crucial that you respond and make them feel heard. Verbal clues and follow-up questions are excellent ways to show that you’re paying attention. Ask simple questions, ‘what happened next?’ or ‘how do you mean?’ Following along enhances the quality of conversations as the other person continues to open up.
Body Language Is Everything
Body language is the most important factor when it comes to introducing yourself to a stranger. You need to look approachable for someone to feel comfortable talking to you. If you feel nervous or awkward, try to shake it off by taking a brisk walk or giving yourself a pep talk. Continue to smile, make eye contact and walk confidently. Always appear calm and don’t cross your arms or legs. The most successful conversationalists look and feel confident.
How To Start A Good Conversation: Lockdown Edition
2020 has been a difficult year for all of us. As the world shifted online and digital interactions became more prominent, the lost art of conversations gained a new definition. Virtual meetings and work from home have become the new normal. Additionally, online classes, webinars and even house-parties (quite literally) are some of the other ways for people to stay connected.
We find ourselves juggling between two extremes—conversational fatigue with family and crowded households and the lack of positive conversations as the world faced a difficult time. It’s important to step outside the bubble and engage with things that can help you deal with negativity. Here are some effective ways in which you can build a virtual presence and strike conversations easily. You will also learn how to make your conversations productive with friends, coworkers or strangers you meet during a workshop.
Break The Ice The Right Way
You can choose a wide variety of topics to break the ice but a great way of starting conversations is by asking for information. It’s a quick way to build rapport and people feel valued when someone listens to them attentively and respectfully. Here are some questions that can help you get started:
How are you keeping yourself busy at home?
Do you have a favorite quarantine outfit?
Did you get a chance to cook during the lockdown?
Mirror Your Audience
Every person is dealing with the lockdown in their own unique way. It’s crucial to avoid sensitive topics unless your audience wants to talk about them. If someone seems optimistic and talks about their productivity during the period, feel free to chime in and talk about the things you’ve achieved or changed. Remember to mirror their tone, voice and language—it helps establish trust and makes the individual feel comfortable in your company.
Create Sparks In Conversations
Even the most mundane things can seem interesting when you’re talking to people virtually. Use a storytelling technique to narrate everyday scenarios. Imagine that you’re taking an online class for the first time and you want your audience to engage and ask questions. A great way to get them started is by capturing their attention. You can talk about the different ways of making coffee or how the birds pay you a visit every evening for food. Simple stories and mundane trivia have the power to make unexciting things exciting.
Talk About Everyday Activities
You don’t want shop talk to dominate every team or business meeting. All work and no interesting tidbits make meetings boring. An effective way to get everyone excited is to talk about activities from everyday life. It can be anything from binging a popular television show to listening to a new podcast. Informal conversations are really helpful in taking your mind off of things and boosting teamwork. Vulnerability leads to trust, which further leads to collaboration and productivity.
Honesty Is The Best Policy
If you feel that you can’t hold a conversation, let your listeners know. You have the right to excuse yourself or be present without engaging. Your friends, coworkers and family will completely understand if you tell them how you feel. Moreover, conversation starters don’t necessarily need to address the virus that shall not be named. If you feel uncomfortable, voice your opinion.
Build Presence: Online And Offline
The art of conversation is a highly valuable trait. Harappa Education’s Building Presence course will teach you how to spark up dazzling conversations and leave lasting impressions. The TEA—Trust, Authenticity and Emotional Intelligence—Skills framework will teach you how to be persuasive and empathetic towards your audience. The Non-Verbal Cues framework will guide you in paying close attention to your body language and exhibiting confidence. Spark conversations that people will remember you by!
Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics related to the COMMUNICATE Habit such as Understanding Body Language, What is Mirroring, Importance of Interpersonal Skills, How to Take Charge of Your Personal Development and Fun Icebreakers to improve communication and start interesting conversations.
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