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How to have better conversations: 10 easy tips
Getting stuck in awkward silences during conversations can be uncomfortable for everyone alike!
Be it while having lunch with your boss or having a chit chat with your friend you just came across. It may not necessarily mean you are bad at communication, just that you may have run out of fresh topics to talk about.
Suppose you have carpooled and the ride seems boringly long, you can enjoy a good talk with your carpool buddy and the ride seems to get faster.
Whereas not knowing how to be in conversations at social gatherings like office parties and get-togethers can make you corner-zoned. So, it gets essential to cultivate better conversation habits.
What makes a good conversation?
Not being into a conversation can also mean we have not been listening! It’s very common at times to be preoccupied with things in our head like our office work that’s been pending for a long time or probably anything.
Being physically present but mentally absent during a conversation spoils the very essence of conversations.
According to a study by Harvard University psychologists, we may spend up to 47% of our awake hours being preoccupied in the head with things not of the present.
While this is an excellent cognitive trait, it is energy (mental) intensive and tends to make us unhappy plus weakens bonds among friends and other relations.
Even at times when we are mentally present, there can be chances of us focusing less on listening and more on validating what the other person has been saying. We try formulating responses and preparing to speak back.
The first step to a good conversation would be:
Overcome the greatest obstacle of our own mental dialogue. Marking your presence in a conservation requires motivation and practice, like devoting time for any other important task.
The best part being even if you lose focus at one point in a conversation, you can always speed up on the next corner. Showing mental presence is enough to boost a good conversation by 10 or 20% and helps improve upon productivity levels.
Two best practices here, recommended by the experts that can help you be more present in conversations are:
Try to be in the present. Learn to do it from sports professionals. They use a mental prompt to be mentally present in the present during the sport. Imagine being on and off a conversation as binary, either true or false. Once in a conversation, you are in a true state like a switch is on. You need to be in the same state until the off switch is active. Once the conversation is complete, turn off and change the state to false. But don’t forget to turn yourself on for the other task you do next! Continue the process throughout for some days, and you’ll find yourself accustomed to it.
Once you learn to be actually present during conversations, you become aware of things that have been causing disruptions to your healthy conversations. You should target to finish off these thoughts the earliest possible and try to switch yourself back into conversations every time you drift off in those thoughts. It may seem like a difficult job at first, but you can train your conscience to act accordingly. Keep practicing these habits. And once the levels of your distraction reduce, you shall find yourself effective in starting up engaging conversations. Remember, every practice can become a habit if practiced regularly for 21 days.
Better conversations habits
Conversations reflect a person’s cognitive traits, mindfulness, consciousness, and much more.
And effective communication and mindful conversations are key attributes of a good leader. In his book, Inner Productivity: A Mindful Path to Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work, Christopher Edgar explains that the greatest challenge of leaders is the inner state of awareness of your thoughts and emotions and managing the mental “chatter” that can interfere with your optimal performance.
So let's look at some tips on how to have better conversations.
Tips to have better conversation habits
Let conversations be normal: Do not worry about conversations being dragged way too long or not being able to convey all your talk in a single conversation. Avoid hurrying up in conversations, as it gives a wrong impression to others in the conversation that they are not important to you. There is a need to balance your pace of thoughts and feelings and speak with the flow.
Take a Pause and Breathe: Don’t let your breath go away during any regular or intense conversations. There is a direct relation between shallow breathing and oxygen supply to the brain. And if the oxygen supply to the brain gets shallow, it might affect your cognitive functions. So, remember to take regular normal breaths whenever you get intense with things as a mindful practice.
Be focused: One of the main reasons that can affect mindful conversations is your mind wandering all the time during conversations. Regular meditation can help you be engaged in mindful conversations. Anytime you feel your attention wandering away during a conversation, calmly forget whatever you have been wandering about and tune into the conversation right in time.
Pay close attention to the mind and heart: It is very important to be a good listener in conversations. Reach out to the emotional connection of the other person with compassion while being sensitive to their emotional state. At times, you need to think emotionally and other times, by your mind to have better conversations.
Stay Curious: The best mindful practice to have better conversations is open-mindedness and having a curious mind where you are free from any assumptions as to what has happened or what is next. You should be willing to look onto different perspectives and seek out others’ perspectives openly as well. It will only make your conversation more meaningful and better.
Practice non-judgment: Practicing non-judgment and easy acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean you have to always agree with everyone else’s opinions or notions; but accept people as they are without judging them by immaterial factors. It also necessarily means accepting your own self and all your shortcomings and negativities.
Be attentive to the conversation: You might be present but absent in conversations quite many times. Maybe you are thinking of the response you would give or the next conversation you should have, or probably reviewing some of the previous conversations. In any case, stop being partially present and pay close attention to the conversation that is happening at the moment.
Being mindful is the key to having better conversations and marking your full presence. One way is to stop using electronic devices like smartphones while having a conversation to focus your 100% on it.
Watch your response: Be mindful and polite in your responses rather than merely reacting to it. Even during heated conversations, try being polite and nonreactive. You might end up being triggered during an intense conversation unconsciously. You need to look out for your reaction. Mindful conversations aid you in the identification of the emotions in a conversation and respond intentionally in accordance with it.
Try to understand the other person: Before starting any conversation, try to understand the state of the person, their insecurities before getting deeper into the conversation. It will only make the conversation meaningful and add to a positive spoken culture.
Ready Topics to kill awkward conversations
Having discussed good conversation habits, you probably might be thinking about how to keep the conversations flowing and avoid speechless awkward situations in between conversations. Here’s an intensive cheat code of interesting conversation tips to keep your conversations flowing!
Hey, so what is your favorite TV show of all time? (Later on, speak about your favorite)
Do you love watching movies? I simply love being at the movies.
So, which movie have you watched the most? (or is your favorite?)
Do you like reading books? (or which book you read last?)
Which are your favorite online streaming platforms? (You can talk about the latest stuff on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.)
Have you been to the opera?
Do you like stand-up comedy shows? Who is your favorite comedian?
Hey, do you like playing video games?
So what do you love doing in your free time? (Sweet and simple as it could be. It is one open-ended topic and keeps the conversation flowing for a long time. )You can also ask specific questions on the same such as:
What is your favorite art form?
If it is one guy talking to another, you can talk about cars, video games, technology and stuff (Not stereotyping here, just that being a guy here I do these talks with my mates)
Do you dance?
Do you like listening to music? Who is your favorite singer?
This topic is exclusive and may vary from person to person. Some people may find it boring, but for others, it might be the best topic to talk about and listen to! So, it would be better to learn about the person you are talking to before talking about work/school.
So, are you studying or working?
What was the best class you liked back at school?
Which subject do you like studying the most?
(If the other person is a graduate) Are you planning to complete your post-graduation?
How is work going? Are your co-workers friendly and helpful?
Do you love your work and or are planning for a job switch?
Tell me one thing, if money wasn’t a concern, what would you love doing in life?
In every person’s life, there is a little part containing memorable experiences of traveling. These experiences can be a great topic to talk about and have better conversation habits.
Which places have you been to? Which place would you love to revisit?
What was the best experience you had during your travels? Why so?
Which countries have you been to?
What was the culture of a place that caught your attention?
How would you compare your home place to the places you have been before?
So, tell me about your worst travel experience? Why so? (If the person says having been robbed, you can apologize for asking about it)
Do you love traveling solo? Which places have you been solo?
Do you speak other countries' languages?
Which of the places would you love to settle in after your retirement?
It can be a light and fun topic to start with. Everyone loves food and has their personal taste in it. If the person is a foodie, it would be the best conversation topic.
Do you like going to new restaurants? Which is your favorite restaurant that you visit the most?
Do you like cooking on your own? How do you feel about it? (Dislike or relaxing)
What is the favorite dish you like cooking?
What type of cuisine do you like eating the most? (Continental, Indian, etc.)
Do you follow any diet plan? You seem to be so fit! (Avoid asking this to a overweight person, as they might end up getting offended or sensitive about their weight)
If you are close to the person you are talking to, you can always engage your conversation in personal experience questions like:
Where were you brought up as a child?
How naughty were you as a kid?
What did you want to be when you grew up or even want to be in the near future?
What were your past jobs like?
Do you have any siblings?
Which superhero did you love as a kid? (Or what did you like more as a kid, Doraemon or Shinchan?)
So, what are your plans for the weekend?
Where do you prefer to live in, the city or the farm?
What do you aim to achieve in life? (Try sounding a bit more friendly and not as an interviewer).
Enough said these simple yet on point techniques are the hack to have better conversations while being more present in the interaction. Remember to speak out your heart, and people would find you an engaging person to talk to. A good conversation always boosts up our satisfaction levels the best!
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