Regardless of whether you consider yourself an introvert or not, becoming a better conversationalist is high on the list of personal goals for many of us. Because let’s be real, who wouldn’t love to have that Oprah-like ability to connect with everyone she meets?

After all, being able to make others feel seen, heard, and genuinely understood is what charm (our focus for the month) is all about.

While the following five tips will certainly help you strike up a conversation more easily with strangers, upping your conversation skills is not just about being the best networker in the room. Instead, it’s about knowing how to turn an acquaintance into a friend, or having a supportive, productive discussion next time you and your S.O. butt heads. So read on and rest easy knowing the days of those panicky what are we even going to talk about!?! thoughts are numbered.

image by Lucy Cuneo

image by kristen kilpatrick

Have some (not boring) conversation starters in your back pocket.

How many dead-end conversations have you had that started with “So what do you do?” I’m willing to bet, more than a few. Don’t get me wrong, asking where someone works is an easy icebreaker, but it’s always a good idea to have a few other topics on hand to turn to when the work conversation inevitably fizzles out. Doing your best to keep up-to-date on current events and pop-culture is one great way to ensure you’ll almost always have common ground with your conversation partner. Share your opinion on the latest celebrity scandal or must-see Netflix series and ask the other person what they think. Then, keep the conversation going by asking if there are any news stories, shows, or podcasts that they’re particularly obsessed with at the moment.

Whatever topic you pick as your go-to conversation starter, remember the golden rule: Always ask open ended questions. If all of your questions can be answered in a sentence or two, you’re going to run out of things to talk about in a hurry. So instead ask broad questions that require thought and explanation. Your conversation will flow more smoothly, and you may just end up making a new friend.

image by kristen kilpatrick

Listen first, talk second.

We all know how rewarding it is to feel like someone is really listening to you. Not just hearing what you have to say, but understanding what you’re expressing in the way you meant them to. And that’s where this tip comes in. Being a better conversationalist has just as much to do with what you don’t say as it does with what you do. So fight the urge to fill every silence with information about yourself and instead be genuinely curious about the person you’re talking to. Listen to the stories they tell and the information they choose to share about themselves — you’ll find that you’ll learn a surprising amount about them, and will definitely find at least a few other ways to keep the conversation going.

image by Hannah Haston

Pick up on their passions

One of the best reasons to be an attentive listener is that you’ll start to notice the topics the other person is most excited about. Maybe you pick up on the fact that they have one restaurant recommendation after the next, so ask them about the best thing they’ve ever eaten or their favorite family recipe. If you stay cued into the things they’re passionate about (and openly curious about them!), keeping the conversation going will feel like a snap.

image by kristen kilpatrick

Be vulnerable.

When it comes time for you to do some of the talking, do your best to be open. Instead of dolling out your usual canned answers to questions like “how are you?” or “where do you work?” go a little bit deeper. We’re not suggesting you bare your heart at your next cocktail party, but don’t be afraid to show a little bit of vulnerability – it will go a long way in carrying the conversation.

3 comments
  1. 1
    Amy Colton | October 3, 2019 at 10:21 am

    Great suggestions for those of us who are “shy” in social settings – thanks! Can you please identify the brown dress and blue sandals in the photo?

    Reply
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