Conversation Tips

An Introvert's Tips on Conversation

  1. Introduction - Small talk is important.

    Although small talk is roundly criticized as trivial and unimportant, small talk is typically the first introduction to your spouse, future bosses, and life-long friends. Try to get better at it.

  2. Be Brave

    Starting a conversation is a risk. We fear to strike up conversations because of our pride - we don't want to be dismissed, it hurts. Most people fear the chance of failure more than the benefits of success. Be different, take the risks and grow.

    1. You will have failures and that is OK.
    2. Be willing to risk rejection.
    3. Be the initiator.
  3. Be genuinely interested in the other people book

    The most important point Dale Carnegie made in "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is that you really have to be interested in others. People can tell when you just fake interest.

  4. Encourage people to talk about themselves

    The same pleasure centers in their brains activated by food and money are stimulated when a person talks about themselves.

  5. Ask for advice

    People love to give advice if the listener is sincerely interested. You might just learn something.

  6. Be positive about other people

    When you only talk positively about other people, your current conversation partner will be more trusting of you, thinking you would do the same for them.

  7. Finding a conversation partner

    Find approachable people. Alone people willing to make eye contact and smile.

    Not everyone will be a successful conversation partner; don't press the conversation, graciously exit.

  8. Ice Breaker Questions: Use Open Ended questions.
    1. Tell me about your last vacation.
    2. What's a busy day for you like?
    3. Tell me about your family.
    4. What's new with your family?
    5. Where did you grow up?
    6. What do you think of this weather?
    7. What brings you here?
    8. What's keeping you busy these days?
    9. What podcasts do you listen to?
    10. Have you read anything interesting lately?

    Everyone is valuable...Be humble.

  9. You can't learn with your mouth open.
  10. Free information are clues you can use to help start your conversation:
    1. Visual

      This is something they are wearing. "I see you have a Garth Brooks t-shirt. Have you been to one of his concerts?". The reverse of this is helpful as well. When you are going to a gathering, wear something to strike up a conversation with, like a hat or t-shirt that people can ask you about.

    2. Behavioral

      This is something they are doing. "What got you into playing tennis?"

    3. Occasion

      This is where someone is. "Any particular topic bring you to the conference today?", "Are you friends of the bride or groom?"

  11. Be a good listener
    1. Nod your head
    2. Look at them! Keep the room scanning to a minimum.
    3. Turn fully toward the other person
    4. Introject comments, but not too many.
    5. Interrupt with questions, but not too often.
    6. Repeat back phrases, but not too often.

      Don't do the reflection thing, it's annoying. "I hear you say that you're upset you lost your job."

    7. Silence

      Don't be afraid of silence. Everyone has a personal threshold of awkwardness. Better to pass that occasionally than to monopolize the conversation.

  12. How to tell if you are boring the other person
    1. They give no verbal responses.
    2. Their eyes are darting around the room.
    3. They are yawning.
  13. The Ball Metaphor

    Good conversations are like tossing a ball back and forth. If you toss a comment to a stranger and they just do a minimal response, it's like they dropped the ball. Move on. Don't try to force a conversation.

  14. Conversation Killers
    1. Monopolizers

      These people are constantly talking and never ask questions.

    2. Braggers

      In five minutes you know about her Nobel prize, trip around the world to cure cancer, and three adopted kids.

    3. The Inquisition

      These people just do a rapid fire of questions, but don't really listen to your response or ask followup questions to something you said. Where did you go to school? How long have you lived here? Where do you work?

    4. Toppers.

      Toppers always try to one up you. "You walked the Great Wall of China? I walked from Machu Picchu to Tierra Del Fuego and discovered three new species of spiders."

    5. Interrupters

      Interrupters have something more important to say than you do.

    6. Know it all

      Any topic that comes up they will give you the definitive answer.

    7. Problem solvers

      "What you really should do for your diabetes is take vitamin C. "

  15. Avoid boring your friends by avoiding these subjects
    1. Plot of a funny movie
    2. Directions and road maps
  16. Analyze Conversations

    Occasionally think about your conversation as you talk. What is the other person trying to convey? Make a mental list of the different intentions of people. Unthinking people often just want you to think well of them, that they are smarter than the average bear, and would be a valuable person to know. Thinking people will try to learn something about you and what you believe.

    When you talk with an excellent conversationalist, think about what they do that puts you at ease.

  17. Exiting a faltering conversation:
    1. Excuse me, I need to get something to drink.
    2. Excuse me, I need to visit the restroom.
    3. It's been great talking with you, Sam. I especially liked hearing about your figurines made of earwax, but if you'll excuse me, I need to go talk with some other people over there. (hearty handshake while looking them in the eye.)
  18. Aristotle's tips ... (coming soon)
  19. Other Conversation Questions
    If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
    What is something you plan on doing in the future?
    What is the most distant place you have visited?
    What is one hot topic that makes you upset?
    What is one thing you are doing to improve yourself?
    Is there anything you have anxiety about?
    What is one gift you were thankful for?
    What are you currently reading?
    What is your favorite song and why?
    What is your favorite musical group and why?
    What is your favorite TV show?
    Hardest and most fun subjects at school?
    Worst thing you've seen happen to other student?

    See also 36 Questions , The Family Dinner Project and Conversation Starters .

    It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" -Winnie the Pooh