Start a Conversation When You Have Nothing to Talk About
Starting a conversation to get to know someone or breaking an awkward silence can be very stressful. To start a conversation when you have nothing to talk about, use these guidelines.
Doc:Open Ended Conversation Topics,Conversation Starters,Great Conversation Topics,Ways to Keep a Conversation Going
Finding Things to Talk About
- Remark on the location or occasion. Look around and see if there is anything worth pointing out. Examples of location or occasion comments: "This is a gorgeous room!", "Such incredible catering!", "I love this view!", or "Great dog!"
- Ask an open-ended question. Most people love to talk about themselves; it's your place as the conversation starter to get them going. An open question requires an explanation for an answer rather than just a simple yes or no. Open questions tend to begin with who, when, what, why, where, and how, whereas closed questions tend to start with do, have, and is/am/are.
- Closed questions: "Do you like books?", "Have you ever been to this university?", "Is spring your favorite season?", "Am I intruding?", and "Do you come here often?"
- Open questions: "What sort of books do you like?", "What did you study here at this university?", "Which is your favorite season? Why?", "What are you doing right now?", and "Where's your usual watering hole?"
- Know how to combine general remarks with open-ended questions. Since either one of these might be awkward or out-of-place on its own, combine them for maximum effect. For example:
- "That's a nice handbag, where did you get it?" This lets the handbag owner talk about the day that they went shopping and all this funny stuff happened, as opposed to: "I like your handbag!" "Thank you." (The end.)
- "What an amazing buffet! Which is your favorite dish?" Asking an opinion is especially useful, as it can be followed up with the classic open-ended question: “Why?”
- "Fantastic turnout! Which of the lecturers is your favorite?"
- "I love your costume. What are your favorite sci-fi movies?"
- Ask them about their pets. Animals are often common ground with people you have nothing else in common with. If you like animals in general, it's easy to relate to other animal lovers whether they prefer dogs, horses, birds, cats or wildlife. While talking about your own pet might be annoying to some people, asking them about their pets is a great way to get people to open up and start having fun.
- Brush up on current events. Chances are they'll know about it too and if they don't then that's a good thing to talk about! Read or watch the news and when you're ready to start a conversation with someone, say something like, "Hey, did you hear about that helicopter crash? That was pretty crazy."
- Draw on previous discussions. If you know the person, review a mental list of topics you’ve discussed previously and continue on one of them. For example, their kid’s milestone, one of their projects, or some bad news that they shared with you. This not only gives you something to talk about, but it also shows that you pay attention when you talk to them and you care about their problems and experiences enough to think about and remember them.
- Ask questions that are easy to answer. Some questions are a little harder to answer than others. Has someone ever asked you your weekend plans and you thought, "I don't want to think about my weekend plans... do I really have to answer that?" Most people prefer easy questions, like "what are you up to today," or "is school killing you these days?" This should make conversations flow better and feel more comfortable.
- Be sensitive to their feelings. Keep your questions non-invasive. Be sure you're not asking them questions about topics they'd rather not discuss. For example, some people might be very uncomfortable discussing issues that they feel touch on them personally, such as weight, lack of having a degree or qualifications, lack of having a steady date, etc. Try to be as thoughtful as possible even though you don't really know them yet.
Remembering the Basics
- Let go of your fears. When you suddenly feel that you're not able to engage in conversation with another person, it's likely that you're telling yourself a few negative things, such as worrying that you're boring, not good enough, too unimportant, intruding, wasting their time, etc. This can leave you feeling tongue-tied. Feeling self-conscious when carrying on conversation with others is not unusual but it's also not productive.
- 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).
- Try to keep in mind that everyone has these self-doubts from time to time but that it's essential to overcome them in order to engage with fellow human beings. Reassure yourself that the other person is not judging you. Even if they are, it's unlikely to have any real impact on your life, so just relax.
- Introduce yourself if necessary. If you don’t know the person, breaking the ice is very simple: look approachable, tell the new person your name, offer your hand to shake, and smile. This is not only polite but it also is a good way to start a conversation. Sometimes introductions might be saved until after a conversation is started, however.
- Keep the conversation going with small talk. This keeps the conversation light and simple, which is especially useful for people who are still getting to know one another better. Use small talk to establish rapport and similarities rather than set each other up for an opinionated argument.
- Small talk encompasses such topics as your blog or website, the purchase of a new car, house renovations, your kids' artwork prize, vacation plans, your newly planted garden, a good book you've just read, etc.
- Small talk is not politics, religion, nuclear disarmament or fusion, or criticizing anybody, especially not the host or the event you're both attending.
- Although talking about the weather is a cliché, if there's something unusual about the weather, you've got a great topic of conversation.
- Synchronize with your conversation partner. Once your partner-in-conversation has started talking, follow his or her cue to keep the conversation going smoothly. Use active listening to reflect what they're saying and to summarize their possible feelings.
- Answer questions when they ask, ask them questions about what they're talking about, change topics when there is a pause in the conversation, and make sure they get the chance to talk at least as much (if not more than) you.
- Say the other person's name now and then. Not only does it help you to remember them but it's a warming sign of respect and will make them feel more comfortable. It shows a more personal approach and makes the conversation feel more real and intimate. Once every other conversation "turn" and at least once per conversation is a good rule of thumb.
- Give acknowledgement cues. You don't even have to say things a lot of the time; you can nod, say “ah-ha” or “wow’ or “oh” or “hmm,’ sigh, grunt convivially, and give short encouraging statements such as "Is that so?" and "Goodness!", and "What did you do/say then?" and "That's amazing!", etc.
- Keep your body language open and receptive. Nod in agreement, make occasional genuine eye contact without staring, and lean in toward the other person. Place your hand on your heart now and then, and even touch them on the upper arm if you're a touchy-feely person. This makes people feel more at ease and leads to more natural conversations.
- Keep a reasonable bubble of personal space if the person you're talking to is a stranger or someone that you don't know well.
- Stay engaged in the conversation. Stay interested in the other person and focused on them. Keep your curiosity piqued rather than withdrawing back into yourself. This is important for keeping conversations comfortable and finding new ways to continue the conversation. It may even lead you to find openers for future conversations with the same person, as you can ask for an update on some aspect of their life that they're talking about now if you pay attention the first time around!
- Respond naturally to situations. Smile and laugh when the other person makes a funny comment or a joke. Don’t force laughter, as this is cringe-inducing; smile and nod instead or smile, shake your head, and look down.
- Practice getting conversations started. You may feel a little clumsy at first, but with practice it can become easy to start good conversations. Every time you're in a situation where you're called upon to converse with others, see it as part of your ongoing practice, and note how you're improving each time that you try it.
Keeping Things Interesting
- Follow your partner's lead. 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've been going on for too long. It's important to try to follow their cues in order to make conversations as pleasant as possible and to leave them feeling like they'd want to talk with you again.
- This can sometimes feel like a hard skill to learn, but just practice. It's really the only way to improve.
- Use words of a sensory nature. These are words such as "see", "imagine", "feel", "tell", "sense", etc., which encourage the other person to keep painting a descriptive picture as part of their conversation. This can make conversations more engaging and will also leave an impact on your conversation partner. For example:
- Where do you see yourself in a year's time?
- What's your sense of the current stock market fluctuations?
- How do you feel about the new plans for renovating downtown?
- Maintain the equilibrium. As the person who started the conversation, the responsibility initially rests with you to maintain the momentum. So what happens when the other person starts practicing active listening and open questions back on you? You have several options:
- Relish it as their cue to let you start talking about yourself. Just don't overdo it; remember to keep engaging them back with open questions and active listening at the end of your own recounting.
- Deflect it if you'd rather not be the center of conversation attention. Say something like: "Well, I like Harry Potter books, and I especially loved the last one. But you don't want to hear about me all night! What were your favorite moments in the Harry Potter series?"
- Answer questions with a question. For example, "How did you manage to get away so early?" could be responded to with, "Well, how did you?" Often the other person will be so intent on filling you in on their side of the story that they'll forget they asked you the question first!
- Don't be afraid of pauses. Pauses can be used to change topics, re-energize the conversation, or even to take a short breather. Letting a pause hang is the only time you should worry about silence in a conversation. As long as you move naturally to the next subject or excuse yourself from the conversation, then it's fine and you shouldn't stress.
- Try not to make your partner uncomfortable. Respond respectfully to someone who remains awkward or uncomfortable in your presence. If your conversation partner appears withdrawn and uninterested in sharing information with you, don't persist too much. Try a little more before making a decision to move on.
- Don't ask too many questions if your conversation partner continues to appear unresponsive.
- Give yourself an out. A great entry into starting a conversation is to mention you can only talk briefly as you're meeting up with other friends or have a meeting to get to. This relieves your partner of a feeling of being trapped or obligated, and gives you both an easy out if things don't progress well. If the conversation does progress well, you can always delay leaving your partner for as long as you like.
- Remember not to overdo it, because they might think that you don't want to talk to them, but prefer to be with your friends. Just use this trick once or twice.
- Act relaxed. It's hard to start a conversation when you're a quivering nervous wreck.
- To break the ice, a compliment is always nice.
- Speak with clarity and purpose. If you're mumbling, it makes conversing a lot harder.
- If you're shy, it is helpful to have thought about a topic or two in advance that you feel comfortable talking about.
- Be bold. Connecting has been such a necessity recently that you can't be shy about it. If there's a reason to connect, find a way. If you love somebody's work, tell them.
- Try to use body language when communicating with the other person. By doing so, it will engage them more in the conversation and will keep the conversation going for longer.
- Make sure the person you want to have a conversation with is also interested in talking to you. You should always smile and never interrupt when talking to that person.
- Remember, whoever you are talking to, you always have something in common. We all experience the weather, like good food, and enjoy a good laugh. When in doubt, just talk to them about what they are there for. For example, if you meet them at a bus stop, ask them where they are going. If they are from out of town, ask them about their life at home.
- Developing your interests. It's easier to start interesting conversations when you invest in developing your own interests. Be familiar with your interest so that you can articulate them. Broaden and deepen your interests by having the attitude that you are interested in everything. Another way to broaden and deepen your interests is to ask questions about others' interests. If your friend loves baseball, ask him which teams and players look good this year or ask him questions that clarify the league structure.
- It also helps to actually be interested in what you do. If your life isn't interesting to you, it's certainly not going to be interesting to anyone else.
- Don’t be afraid to let the conversation go in interesting directions. If you think of something in your head while you're talking, it's probably related.
- Talk to, and about each others interests.
- If you’re consistently unable to connect, it's possible that you just aren't expressing your interests well (whether by under- or over-sharing) or that you're hiding those interests out of fear that people might reject them (and you). The end result – no relevance and no connections. At some point, you have to be interested if you want to be interesting.
- Take a mental note of some amusing things that you saw or heard throughout the day. For example, something funny someone said, a fun activity you did with your friends, or anything interesting. This can give way to future conversation.
- 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.
- Never ever interrupt a conversation between one or more people. Wait for the conversation to stop and then say something. Common courtesy goes a long way.
- Make use of "please", "may I", "thank you", "could you" when someone is nice to you and when you want something. Being polite shows maturity and intelligence.
- Don't ever comment negatively on the person with whom you are talking or anyone else; you never know if there is a personal attachment to the person you are criticizing. However, don't be afraid to tell someone if you've never heard of what they just mentioned, for example a band or famous person.
- Never act arrogantly and pretend to be a Know-It-All when dealing with people.
- Remember that not everyone wants to talk. If the person shows signs of discomfort or loss of interest, you should not bother them.
- Don't be overly invasive with your questions.
- Watch out if you use tons of fillers like "umm" or "soo". It might make the person you're talking to feel awkward or obligated to say something. Instead, speak slowly and pause. This will create a little tension and make your newly found friend more invested in your conversation.
- Never be discouraged when your chatting partner shows little interest, who knows, maybe the next guy shares your interest.
- Never swear, insult, disrespect, use racial, religious, sexual orientation, and gender slurs in front of others.
- Don't always talk about your financial status in the presence of your new friend, especially when a guy has met with a girl.
- Socialize, Be Funny and Make Friends
- Have a Great Conversation
- Join a Conversation
- Come Up with Good Conversation Topics
- Start an Interesting Conversation
- Start a Phone Conversation
- Make a Normal Conversation More Entertaining
- Start a Conversation with New Friends