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Do you have awkward silences in your conversations or not know what to say? Do you walk away from conversations not knowing what you’ve talked about? Here are a few important tips to improve your conversations within other people.
1) Be Genuinely Interested - The point of a conversation is to communicate with the other person, meaning you need to actually want to talk them to begin with! If you don’t know why you are having a conversation, then you probably shouldn’t be having it! Of course there would be awkward silences if you have nothing to talk about! Genuine interest in another person is essential to keeping the conversation flowing and making both people feel comfortable.
If you actually have something to say, you can always state your reason for wanting to talk to the other person. For example, “I am new to the area and would like to get to know the people here”, “I want to know about mechanical engineering and heard that you were a graduate here”, “I like you and would like to get to know you better”, “I’m studying people and would like to know who you are as a person”, “I always see you here and was wondering who you are”, etc. There would never be any awkward silences in this case because you know what you want to talk about!
Of course, if you did state your desires and the other person looks like he/she feels nervous or uncomfortable with the subject, stop. You can try to find another topic to talk about, or talk with someone else you are interested in. For example, if you said “I want to know about mechanical engineering and heard that you were a graduate here” and the other person tells you that he/she is not, then you can simply move on to something else you are interested in about this person. You can say, “Oh, I’m also new to the area and would like to meet people” or “Oh okay, thanks! Do you know anyone who happens to know about mechanical engineering?”! If that was your only point of interest with this person, you can say “Oh, thanks!” and just go to someone more interesting.
Even if you are genuinely interested in someone, they might not want to satisfy your particular interest. Remember that conversation is a two way street and should occur naturally. Both people should want or need to talk about something!
2) Make The Other Person Feel Comfortable - It may not be so easy to get the other person to satisfy your interest if they don’t trust your motives or feel uncomfortable disclosing information that they deem to be sensitive. For example, you may say to someone of the opposite sex, “Hi, I’m new to the area and would like to meet some people”, but if you are smiling at him/her creepily, he/she might think you want to molest him/her or something.
Therefore, it’s always good to smile and appear friendly and harmless. Then, if the topic is sensitive, you might want to [[build up some trust]] first by disclosing some information about yourself. Introduce yourself, tell them what you do, let the other person know you’re not a serial killer. Then, whether directly or indirectly, disclose your purpose so that they know why they should talk to you!
For example, as I am writing this article on the train, a guy just sat next to me and started asking me, “Where are you from?” The whole time, I am thinking, “What do you want?” There are clearly other seats on the train, and he did not demonstrate some reason why he would like to speak to me. So, the most probable reason is that he wants to make some small talk to pass the time, but I’m someone who’s sitting there typing on a computer. Obviously, there should be some important reason for interrupting me! Additionally, he is sitting way too close to me, making me feel uncomfortable.
When I did answer, he gave me a weird laugh and kept asking me other questions as if he didn’t hear my answer. He also started reading my article out loud, one word at a time, very slowly. He doesn’t look stoned, but is staring creepily at my article, trying to read it. Even though he seems to pretend not to understand, the gaze in his eyes seems to say that he does, so I have absolutely no idea what he wants. As he asks me more questions without answering any of mine in return, I am forced to ignore him.
3) Listen Carefully - This is the next most natural thing to do if you’re actually interested in the person! You are talking to him/her because you want to know what he/she says, right? So wouldn’t it make sense to listen to what the other person is saying? However, like in the situation with the guy who sat down next to me and started talking above, it is surprising how often we don’t do that!
Not only is it insulting to the other person, it defeats the point of having a conversation in the first place! Since people talk because there is a need to communicate, by not listening, that need is not being fulfilled! How can you have a conversation when it’s essentially just one person talking? That is a TV station broadcasting a show, not a conversation!
The guy sitting next to me right now is the perfect example. He is asking me questions and I am occasionally answering, but he doesn’t really react to my answers. It’s as if I never said anything. That’s just a radio channel of some guy. A very bad radio channel.
4) Give The Other Person Time To Think/Speak - In order to listen though, the other person needs to actually be saying something! And they can’t do that if you are talking, right? Just like you don’t want the other person to become a boring TV show, you wouldn’t want to become one for the other person either! So, after you have talked for a minute or two, make sure to pause and give the other person a chance to speak!
Oftentimes, especially if the conversation is interesting, it may take a while for that person to process the information that has been said. This means that even if there is a silence for minutes, he/she is probably just thinking, so let him/her think! Don’t make them uncomfortable by becoming impatient or saying something yourself. Don’t speak again until the other person has given you some sort of indication that they heard you and understand you! You’re just giving them time to give you an insightful response!
Wouldn’t that turn into an awkward silence then, you may ask? Actually, no!! When both people have the understanding that the break is for time to think, it’s actually very very comfortable! In fact, when I talk with the the girl I’m in love with on the phone, we sometimes say nothing for five minutes That’s right, a phone call with 5 minutes of silence! Yet, it’s extremely comfortable because we know the other person is just thinking and taking it all in.
If you have a continued need to keep talking when there is a silence, not only do you not hear what the other person says, the conversation is actually much shorter. It’s simple math:
You Talking Time
You Talking Time+ Other Person Talking Time + Silence Time
Of course the second way yields a longer and more fulfilling conversation! Not only do you not have to keep coming up with “topics” to talk about, you get to learn something of interest to you (otherwise you shouldn’t be talking to this person), and make the other person comfortable by giving them a chance to express themselves. Everyone wins!
Hopefully, these four tips will make your conversations better and more fulfilling! Now go out there and talk to someone interesting!
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