- Make a good first impression. Smile, ask questions that require more than a yes/no answer, and really listen. Maintain eye contact and keep as friendly and polite as possible.
- Listen. This is the most important part of any conversation. You might think a conversation is all about talking, but it will not go anywhere if the listener is too busy thinking of something to say next. Pay attention to what is being said. When you talk to the other person, injecting a thought or two, they will often not realize that it was they who did most of the talking, and you get the credit for being a good conversationalist – which of course, you are!
- Find out what the other person is interested in. You can even do some research in advance when you know you will have an opportunity to talk with a specific person. Complimenting them is a great place to start. Everyone likes sincere compliments, and that can be a great ice-breaker.
- Ask questions. What do they like to do? What sort of things have they done in their life? What is happening to them now? What did they do today or last weekend? Identify things about them that you might be interested in hearing about, and politely ask questions. Remember, there was a reason that you wanted to talk to them, so obviously there was something about them that you found interesting.
- Forget yourself. Dale Carnegie once said, “It’s much easier to become interested in others than it is to convince them to be interested in you.” If you are too busy thinking about yourself, what you look like, or what the other person might be thinking, you will never be able to relax. Introduce yourself, shake hands, then forget yourself and focus on them instead.
- Practice active listening skills. Part of listening is letting the other person know that you are listening. Make eye contact. Nod. Say “Yes,” “I see,” “That’s interesting,” or something similar to give them clues that you are paying attention and not thinking about something else – such as what you are going to say next.
- Ask clarifying questions. If the topic seems to be one they are interested in, ask them to clarify what they think or feel about it. If they are talking about an occupation or activity you do not understand, take the opportunity to learn from them. Everyone loves having a chance to teach another willing and interested person about their hobby or subject of expertise.
- Paraphrase back what you have heard, using your own words. This seems like an easy skill to learn, but takes some practice to master. Conversation happens in turns, each person taking a turn to listen and a turn to speak or to respond. It shows respect for the other person when you use your “speaking turn” to show you have been listening and not just to say something new. They then have a chance to correct your understanding, affirm it, or embellish on it.
- Consider your response before disagreeing. If the point was not important, ignore it rather than risk appearing argumentative. If you consider it important then politely point out your difference of opinion. Do not disagree merely to set yourself apart, but remember these points:
- It is the differences in people–and their conversation–that make them interesting.
- Agreeing with everything can kill a conversation just as easily as disagreeing with everything.
- A person is interesting when they are different from you; a person is obnoxious when they can not agree with anything you say, or if they use the point to make themselves appear superior.
- Try to omit the word “but” from your conversation when disagreeing as this word often puts people on the defensive. Instead, try substituting the word “and”, it has less of an antagonistic effect.
- Consider playing devil’s advocate – which requires care. If your conversation partner makes a point, you can keep the conversation going by bringing up the opposite point of view (introduce it with something like “I agree, and…”). If you overuse this technique, however, you could end up appearing disagreeable or even hostile.
- Do not panic over lulls. This is a point where you could easily inject your thoughts into the discussion. If the topic seems to have run out, use the pause to think for a moment and identify another conversation topic or question to ask them. Did something they said remind you of something else you have heard, something that happened to you, or bring up a question or topic in your mind? Mention it and you’ll transition smoothly into further conversation!
- Know when the conversation is over. Even the best conversations will eventually run out of steam or be ended by an interruption. Shake hands with the other person and be sure to tell them you enjoyed talking with them. Ending on a positive note will leave a good impression and likely bring them back later for more!
- Choose carefully when asking personal questions. You do not want to venture into overly personal issues. Even if the other person might be willing to talk about it, you may end up learning things that you really do not want to know. You certainly do not want the other person to think afterward that you coerced them into revealing personal information.
- Be sincere! Compliments are great, but too much flattery is obvious and will reveal you as being insincere.
- Beware of topics that can be inflammatory – such as religion and politics – and don’t venture into them unless you know the person has roughly the same convictions as you, or the circumstances otherwise allow for pleasant discussion. Again, it’s fine to disagree and can be nice to talk about differences, but it can also be a quick step toward an argument.
- Try not to argue! You do not have to agree with everything someone says, but you do not have to tell them all about how you disagree. If you feel the need to explain an opposing viewpoint, express it simply and without putting the other person on the defensive. It is better to simply change the subject in a casual conversation than to get involved in an argument.
- Try not to nod or respond with “Yes” and “I see” so much. It might make the person think you are bored and sometimes it may seem like you are rushing them along. Never say anything hurtful or offensive to the other person, this may project a bad feeling between you.
- If it is a planned conversation, try listening to the news in case you run out of thing to say, it is always a good solution.
- Also try not to cut the person off mid-sentence. It seems disrespectful and it makes it seem like what you have to say is more important than what the other person has to say. Let the person finish their thoughts and then continue on with thoughts of your own.
Are you very shy when it comes to new surroundings, such as starting a new class or moving to a new area? Sometimes, it is necessary to overcome your shyness and speak confidently. By doing this, it can help you not only to share your ideas properly to others, but also to learn communicating with others. Here are a few steps to consider when speaking with confidence.
- Learn how to have conversations with people. Your ideas or opinions may not always be accepted by others, but this is nothing unusual. Open your mouth, express your beliefs! This will improve your courage.
- Don’t be afraid and speak loudly. If you speak in a low voice, not only will others not be able to hear what you say, but you will also portray a submissive demeanor, which suggests the opposite of a confident one.
- Make eye contact when you speak. For one thing, it is polite for others. Also, eye contact will help others to listen to your thinking carefully.
- Praise yourself everyday! This will promote your own confidence, which is important when you speak. With more confidence, people will take your thinking more seriously.
- Don’t be nervous when you make mistakes. Human error is far from being a new concept — nobody is perfect! It is normal for everyone to make mistakes. Just calm down and keep speaking bravely.
- Try and try again! This may be difficult for a shy person at first, but you need to force yourself to speak, and not seclude your thoughts. If you have some ideas, then try to speak out! Don’t just keep them in your head.
- If you have self confidence issues, try to think that you are the only one who has sound knowledge about the topic. Then go ahead and impart your knowledge to the audience in an effective way.
- Remember that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Don’t portray an exaggerated amount of confidence, or you will come off as arrogant, believing that your ideas are better than the ideas of everyone else.
How to Start a Conversation with New PeopleWhether you are a host or a guest, there are many social situations that will call for interaction, even when you are stumped for some way to get it going. For example, you might want to help a friend’s new “significant other” feel comfortable. Or, you might see a stranger across a crowded room, and realize that this is your only chance to impress Mr. or Ms. Wonderful. Then, you realize that you’re not sure what to say.
- Start with a “hello,” and simply tell the new person your name then ask them theirs. Offer your hand to shake, upon his/her responding to you. (If you go to other countries, greet the person in tune with the particular culture). If you already know the person, skip this step and proceed to step.
- Look around. See if there is anything worth pointing out. Sure, talking about the weather is a cliche, but if there’s something unusual about it–bam!–you’ve got a great topic of conversation.
- Offer a compliment. Don’t lie and say you love someone’s hair when you think it’s revolting, but if you like his or her shoes, or a handbag, say so. A sincere compliment is a wonderful way to get someone to warm up to you. But be careful not to say something so personal that you scare the person off or make him or her feel uncomfortable. It is best not to compliment a person’s looks or body.
- Ask questions! Most people love to talk about themselves — get them going. “What classes are you taking this year?” “Have you seen (Insert-Something-Here)? What did you think of it?” Again, keep the questions light and not invasive. Do not ask too many questions if he or she is not responsive to them.
- Jump on any conversation-starters he or she might offer; take something he or she has said and run with it. Agree, disagree, ask a question about it, or offer an opinion, just don’t let it go by without notice.
- Look your newfound friend in the eye, it engenders trust (but don’t stare). Also, use the person’s name a time or two during the conversation; it will help you remember the name, and will draw the person’s attention to what you are talking about.
- Don’t forget to smile and have fun with your conversation!
- Just relax. Chances are that whatever small-talk you’re making isn’t going to stick out in anyone’s mind a few months from now. Just say whatever comes into your head, so long as it’s not offensive or really weird. (Unless, of course, the person you’re attempting to converse with is into weird stuff.)
- Remember, if you think of something in your head while you’re talking, it’s probably related.
- It will help if you watch some TV, listen to radio shows, and/or read a lot — newspapers, magazines, and/or books. You need to have some idea of what is going on in the world. Also remember and plan to share anything you like, think is funny, or find intriguing. This is building up your own library of things that might be helpful to another person during a conversation someday. It will be amazing how you thread these interesting things when you least expect it, and make conversation an adventure instead of a dreadful task. If you take it to the next step and say things that you want the person to think of as adding value, and keep to yourself things that the person might not, you are actually honing your own personality to be appealing to the other person, and what is a greater act of kindness than that.
- If you are shy, it will be helpful to have thought about a topic or two that you could talk about.
- Follow the lead that your listener is expressing. If he or she appears interested, then continue. If he or she is looking at a clock or watch, or worse, looking for an escape strategy, then you have been going on for too long.
- Interesting and funny quotes or facts can lighten things up, and make way for things to talk about. You could also use a set of conversation starter question cards for inspiration.
- If talking over the phone, keep the person involved in the conversation at all costs. If you can’t come up with a good topic, try the “questions” game. Just keep asking them questions; random questions work just fine as long as they are appropriate. This technique can save a phone conversation. The questions should be open ended questions that do not require a yes or no answer. For example “How do you know the hosts?” This way you can ask questions about what they just said or follow up with how you know the hosts (for example) instead of acting as if the conversation is an interrogation.
- Half of an effective conversation is the way you non-verbally communicate, and not necessarily what you say. Practice better non-verbal skills that are friendly and confident.
- Read newspapers and magazines to increase your knowledge so you can have more interesting things to talk about