“Hi, where are you from?”
“Oh, me too.”
What do we say next?
Tired of the awkward pauses? Is it a chore to keep a conversation afloat for more than 13 seconds? Are you always finding a way to excuse yourself from a conversation? How easy are you to talk to? Let’s look at some easy ways to make you easy to talk to.
1. What’s their name? Say it again!
Let’s start with an easy way to make people at ease during conversation. Say the other person’s name occasionally. Change “You’re right” to “You’re right, Tim.” One of the sweetest sounds to a person is the sound of his own name. So don’t underestimate the power of this gift to others in conversation.
This is especially helpful if you’ve just met someone. It tells him that you’re remembering his name, and it helps you remember it by practicing it frequently. If you’ve just met him, incorporate his name in the first question you ask.
2. What’s their eye color?
A while ago, I noticed a nasty habit of mine. I found that I don’t look people in the eye enough when I’m talking to them. It revealed a deeper flaw: that I was more interested in what I was saying, and it didn’t matter who I was saying it to.
Sometimes we say things simply to reconfirm our own opinions and feelings; we aren’t taking a sincere interest in the other person. To be easy to talk to, you need to show a genuine interest in what others say. One way to do this is to be sure you are looking into their eyes.
One thing that helps me if I ever find myself talking or listening without looking at the person is quickly asking myself in the back of my mind: What color are his eyes? Not only does that focus me more on the emotion or motivation behind what he’s saying, it also takes the focus off myself.
Be sure you express interest with your eye contact. Did you know you can even “smile” with your eyes? Try it, and watch people become more engaged in your conversations.
A couple words of caution. First, this doesn’t mean you should stare the entire time into the other person’s eyes. It is often natural to look away occasionally while you’re talking. And when you look at others, don’t look above or below their eyes, or they’ll wonder if something is wrong with their hair or their mouth. Finally, if you’re closer than an arm’s length away, you may want to pick one eye. Shifting your gaze back and forth between eyes could make others uneasy.
3. Avoid ending with statements.
The problem with the conversation you read at the beginning of the article is that the person who is also from California ended with a statement. It didn’t invite any further contribution, so all the other person could come up with was, “Cool.”
A question could have easily followed the statement: I’m from California too. What part of the state do you live in? There are so many things you could ask after that point. Did you grow up there? Is your whole family from California?
Beware of yes-no questions. If you ask, “Is it hot there?” The other person could say, “Yes, very,” and you’re back to the forced “Cool” statement or, worse, the “Oh.”
The more you practice, the better you will get at asking questions and keeping conversations alive. But how do you think of questions? Good question.
4. Prepare when possible.
Once, I was assisting a good friend of mine in hosting a dinner party. He gave me an assignment for the dinner table: “Can you have some topics for discussion ready in case the conversation lags a little?”
I accepted, though I have to admit I had never heard of such an idea at the time. But what a great idea it was, and it really is a key to good conversation.
Do some research. Listen to the Trumpet Daily or Trumpet Hour to catch up on the latest news events. Check theTrumpet.com for some analysis of current trends. If possible, find out a little about the person or people you’ll be conversing with, and research topics the other person may have special interest in. Perhaps you just found out they’re fanatical about horses, or their family just returned from a trip to Asia.
This will make you easier to talk to because you will always seem interested in what others have to say. You will always have a way to make others feel like they don’t just have to stand there and try to think of something themselves.
Of course, you can’t always prepare or research topics before someone walks up to you at Church services or school. But even then, you can try to have a few topics to always draw on.
These tips will help you in all your conversations—from the dinner table to the school hallway, even from the job interview to landing a sale in your work. Look people in the eye, find out their interests, pepper their name throughout the talk, ask them questions that don’t put the pressure on them to find something to say. And instead of aching to find a way to say goodbye to the person you’re talking with, you can say goodbye to the awkwardness and put everyone—yourself included—at ease.