Conversations fill your day, from the news, ordering your morning coffee at Starbucks, to speaking with friends and family. You should be pretty good at conversations by now, but when you really think about it, most of us hardly ever have to entertain complete strangers. Our daily conversations tend to be personal and plain, so when the opportunity arises to make attractive and interesting small talk, we lack the experience and skills to effortlessly handle the situation.
As I continue to emphasize, becoming good at anything requires practice. The ability to have an effortless, confident, fun, and interesting conversation is no different. The first step is internalizing specific rules, the second is preparing what to say and knowing what to avoid saying, and the third is gaining actual experience.
Rules for successful and attractive conversations:
- Don’t take rejection personally. Most people are open to meeting new people and engaging in conversation, but there are always people and times where it is just not welcome.
- Accept your role as the creator of interesting conversation. Even though most are open to conversation, you’ll find they don’t have much to say and can, strangely enough, be incredibly boring. Regularly disassociate from yourself and take a look at your life, then write down interesting or fun stories that convey parts of who you are that can help liven up your conversations.
- Pay attention and calibrate. Every specific situation, even the clothes he/she is wearing, are incredibly important in handling a conversation (i.e. in line at a store, on the street, in a night club, etc.). Shape your commentary to the situation. For example, don’t talk about junk food while working out.
- Stay positive.
- Keep great interactions short. Unless you do something to affect it, a good impression will stay a good impression regardless of time.
- Listen. The majority of your time in a conversation should be spent listening. For example, in the previous article, part 1 – body language, I mentioned focusing on a person’s eyes to help avoid fidgety eye movements and to convey you are listening.
- Practice. Say “Hi” to anyone. Make small talk about your surroundings. Utilize open-ended questions (those that require more than a one-word answer) and opinions that invite response, rather than statements, which will keep a conversation going.
Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative – Oscar Wilde
What to say and not to say:
- Do not begin a conversation with an apology. (i.e. “Sorry for bothering you…”). If you believe that you are bothering them, the why are you talking to them?
- Start with a smile. A wave can also be a great tool from a distance. These two actions let the other person know you are friendly and open to starting a conversation.
- Develop three openers (conversation starters that grab attention) and three fun/interesting stories from your life to bring up during conversation. An opening line can be as simple as, “Hello,” or if the situation warrants, “Wow this music is great,” but you need a follow-up to continue the conversation and make it interesting for the other person. The success of an opener can increase drastically with just a little more thought and effort. For example, “Wow, the music is so much better than it was last week. I almost can’t stop from getting all Jersey Shore. Fist Pump!! Haha, really though, how did Jersey Shore get the credit for the fist pump anyway?” This can segue into stories about going out, reality T.V., etc.
- Respond to standard questions in a fun and non direct way. Basic questions about work, school, and family are great opportunities to have fun with the person you are interacting with in an unexpected way.
- Ask questions that are playful. For example, “What did you want to be when you were growing up,” her favorite board game, holiday, place to visit, Sunday morning cartoon, etc.
- Avoid turning conversations into an interview or interrogation.
- Review top headlines in pop culture. These are great fillers in conversation.
- Do not brag.
- Do not display too quickly and bluntly that you are romantically interested. If the other person is showing that he/she is attracted to you, subtlety respond through a complement or more positive body language. The less information given directly, the better.
- Always get contact information before the end of the interaction and only for a specific reason. For example, you have made plans during the conversation or are going to follow up about something specific.
- Be direct, especially if time is of the essence or an opportunity may pass. For example, “Hey, I really have to run, but you’re super cute and there’s something about you that is breathtaking. There’s this event this week that I’m going to that seems perfect for a girl with your style. What’s your phone number so we can talk a bit before hand and make sure we’d be able to stand each other,” or, “Hey, I have to run but I’d be kicking myself later if I didn’t ask you for your number.”
Confidence in what to say during the first few minutes of an approach will be especially helpful in keeping positive and confident body language and voice structure (part 1- body language and part 2 – voice). Emotions, such as nervousness or a lack of confidence are conveyed through body language and voice, the two most important aspects of your persona during an approach, and can end up sabotaging your first impression.
Just like everything else that you want to be good at, these are specific skills that take practice to perfect. Practice; even when alone, coming up with a few different interesting and fun comments or opinions on your surroundings, and in your current relationships.
Every shoulder you brush against has a story – Street art in Wicker Park
Benjamin Ritter, MBA, MPH, is a freelance writer and a private relationship-and-social-dynamics coach in the areas of public health, fitness, and social dynamics, a writer and editor for Ask Men.com, and the interpersonal relationships columnist for lodeplus.com. His passion lies in guiding and providing tools to men for overall self-improvement. His debut men’s self-help guide, The Essentials, is now available on Amazon.com (The Essentials by Benjamin Ritter).
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*Edited by Rachel Ritter