EDMOND—Your stomach feels like a thousand butterflies are whirling around in it. You don’t know what to do with your hands, and your voice is quivering. There is a bit of an awkward silence. Not to worry! Whether you are on a date or talking with a group of people, putting a little effort into practicing these tips can help raise the standard and quality of your exchanges, not only skipping right through awkwardness but also helping you enjoy fun and meaningful conversations and friendships.
1. Say Their Name
Using the person’s name in your conversation, especially if he or she is a relatively new acquaintance, shows you care enough to remember who they are and that you are engaged in what you are speaking about. A great way to build this habit is to start saying, “Hi Jim” instead of just “Hi,” even when just passing by.
2. Look Them in the Eye
Most of us err on the side of not looking each other in the eye enough. It is natural to occasionally look away, but then return to looking into the eyes of the person you are talking to. This shows that you care not just getting through a polite exchange, but about really conveying what you have to say and really understanding what they have to say.
We often don’t realize it, but we are not smiling! We are focused on speaking, on listening or on what we will say next, and we forget to relax, smile and enjoy the moment. This communicates nervousness, which is often contagious. Sometimes it takes a little effort to remember it and to do it, but when you smile, the tone of the whole conversation can change and become warmer, more comfortable and more enjoyable.
4. Have Some Topics in Mind
Putting in a little effort to say their name, look at their eyes and smile at them goes a long way toward ultimately making your conversations feel effortless. The same is true for putting in a little thought ahead of time for topics to talk about if the conversation stalls or meanders. Ask questions about what the person enjoys doing or interesting things they’ve done in the past, for example, and don’t be afraid to lead things off by sharing a funny or interesting story you’ve recently experienced. You can find a lot of interesting topics and questions at websites like this one.
5. Stay on Topic
It is natural for conversations to bounce from one topic to the next to the next, and that’s not a bad thing. There is no rule that says you have to stay on any one topic for any amount of time, and you don’t want to force it, of course. But a lot of times, we bounce away from a great topic that would have yielded a really good conversation. If you hit on something you both like or both care about or are both interested in, see if you can dwell on that topic for a little while.
6: End on a Good Note
Ending a conversation gracefully is something of an art. Sometimes we make it a little awkward when we are indecisive about finishing up or afraid that we will come across as impolite. Simply saying that you need to go, you’ve enjoyed talking with them, and you look forward to catching back up with them in the future is a good way to end on a positive note.
7. Remember What They Said
Make it a point to remember what you talk about in your conversations, and bring up something they talked about in your next conversation. Make it a point to remember where they said they were going for the Feast, for example. This will help you pay closer attention to what they say, and it will help your conversations, and your friendship, build with each time you talk.