You need to understand that to keep a converstaion going, you need to be a good listener. That word is thrown around a LOT but what I mean by a good listener is NOT that you just sit there and listen to whatever anyone has to say but what you need to do is really listen!
Let me explain the difference : the difference being that when someone says a line you make mental notes of different things.(very very important – I’ll get back to this point) Then from within those things, pick up one and ask something about that. Repeat the same thing with whatever reply you get from the person.
Every now and then add to the conversation. Share your own related story/thought/experience related to what you are talking about. That keeps the conversation from becoming an interview.
Almost everyone does this naturally (yes, even most of the socailly awkward), but what you need to do to keep conversation from dying out are just 3 simple things :
Avoid simple yes/no questions, one word reply questions or questions you reply with ok. Avoid them as much as you can ! these are conversation killers ! specially when the other person is not as talkative. Dont ask them unless you have something else you can go on about even with a one
Never EVER reply with a one word reply when asked something. Those are conversation killers. Since the other person doesnt have much to go on about, they might not be able to reply (remember : they have probably not read this wall of text that I am typing, they might not conciously know what they are doing when they are having a conversation with you/anybody). Eventually what happens is even though they are as interested in carrying on the conversation, it turns into an awkward sielnce. If you are asked something that can only be answered in a one word reply, follow up with a question / statement.
ABC : Are you still friends with XYZ You : no.
end of conversation because you didnt add anything here
ABC : Are you still friends with XYZ You : No. We fell out of touch when we started different colleges; I went to <some place> and he went <somewhere else>. Facebook is where we mainly keep in touch. I heard he got married recently.
you added something to the conversation and bam! you have something new to talk about!. like "you know who else got married?"
- remember those mental notes that I was talking about? Those are THE MOST important tool for keeping any conversation alive. If nothing else, read this! When a person says something you have to pick up on the important phrases that they mention. Keep those in mind and pick one of those to continue on the conversation. DO NOT FORGET the other points that the person mentions. These are your go back to points when you dont have conversation flowing with your previous point.
So, for example, if someone mentions they went to college in a different state, you now have 2 things that you can take your conversation forward on. One that they lived in that state and second that they went to college.
Say, you pick up on the state You can talk about how it was like living in that state, if the person worked there or how did they handle their finances without work. etc etc etc. 5 mins into this conversation (where you are still picking up more phrases the entire time) you find that you are approaching that awkward silence phrase (we all can tell if it is coming in, even though if you start to follow this, you’ll probably avoid this phase for a long time). When you are about to get to that phase, look at your list. You now know that this person went to college in a state, worked for a bit managed mostly on his parents money. All the things you haven’t talked about ! ask him which subjects did he take? were the professors any good? what was the craziest thing that he did in college ? where did he work? what was it working like over there? you’ll start a completely different thread of that conversation. Add a few of your own thoughts/ opinions / (occasional) jokes into the mix. Tell them where you lived all your life. How it was like growning up there etc.
Dont make the convesation about yourself too much, concentrate on the other person. Everyone loves talking about themselves – specially the ladies. No guy or girl, young or old, ever complained that they had a boring conversation with someone cos they only talked about themselves.
Another example :
You : So where are you from ? Person A : <XYZ City> You : Born and brought up there ?
you avoided a potantially conversation killer, a one word answer, by asking a related open ended answer.
Person A : No, I was born in ABC town but then moved to <DEF> for college and then moved here after working in <RST> city for a while.
That one line was a potential goldmine! you know ABC town, college, DEF city, first jobin RST city, RST city, XYZ city. What was the person doing there, how was the place, what made them move, etc etc etc. pick one of these and start! then come back to this and continue a different thread. Throw a few non offensive jokes in the mix and the other person would have a fun time and they’ll try to make sure the convo doesnt die out too!
People LOVE talking about themselves. It gives thier experiences a third party validation. It puts them back in the good times mode or reduces their stress. End result is always the same. The person would want to talk to you more.
Additional Notes :
Fake enthusiasm in wanting to hear the other person. If the other person senses that you are interested in knowing about something they’ll talk more. If they sense you are just asking for the sake of asking they are going to stop talking.
Body language and expressions – read up on body language and figure out how to fake interest (things like slightly lean in, smile, nod occasionally). Laugh with the other person as hard as they are laughing even if you didnt find the joke as funny as the story teller.
Always remember : Sometimes it is okay not to say anything. There is the awkward silence and then there are the perfectly acceptable, sometimes short, sometimes long non-awkward silence which is like a break you both would need in between conversations. For example : if you are both travelling in a car for say 4-5 hours. It can be okay to just take a few minutes every now and then and observe the view around you. Point something interesting out and you can continue the conversation.
This is amazingly effective in one on one conversations but a variation can be applied when talking to a group of people. You need to be able to dail it back a notch with asking questions (let othes chip in) and you need to get better at keeping track of different things that different people are talking about. When find out similarities between 2 thigns that 2 people said, point it out (not abruptly) with a joke/question say something like
Person A : blah blah blah "so after that I lived in LA for about 2 years"
Person B : blah blah "I went to college in UCLA" blah blah
You : oh you went to UCLA ? is that how you two met ? while person A was living in LA and you went to college there?
- By the way you cannot have a script for a conversation with anyone. You can start every other conversation with a few selected lines ("interesting weather" "where are you from" "funny thing that happened today") and you can try to stear the conversation into a direction but you cannot have the exact same conversation with everyone because no 2 people would reply with the exact same thing every time.