A recent study found that 45% percent of adults have a difficult time making new friends. Part of the problem may be that we get some level of socialization through our social media. In fact, at VP Legacies, we refer to this phenomenon as the personal connection crisis!
We can read, respond, and move on without giving the conversation (or the person) a second thought. As a result, we have to wonder if good conversation is a lost art! Read on to find out how to start an interesting conversation that will lead to a lasting and meaningful friendship.
Think About Your Self-Presentation
Self-presentation refers to the image we create of ourselves when interacting with other people. Research finds that a genuine self-presentation is received better than a carefully crafted one. However, there are still a few things you can do to put your best self out there.
How Are You Dressed?
Make sure that you have bathed and brushed in the past 24 hours. Wear clothes that are free of stains and odors.
What Is Your Facial Expression?
Some people scowl when they listen. Others smile when they’re nervous, even if the conversation they’re having is a somber one. Make sure that you keep your expression both inviting and dynamic!
What Are Your Goals?
Set goals for your evening that aren’t too ambitious but will still push you past your comfort zone. You may want to connect with a few new people but don’t hop from person to person or you may miss your opportunity for meaningful conversation.
Related: Why Empathy in the Workplace Matters
Use the Right Greeting
First impressions are hard to beat. Make sure that your introduction is strong and sends the right signals.
If you want to show the person you’re interested in chatting with them, introduce yourself when saying hello. “Hello, my name is John,” opens the door for a reciprocated introduction. Saying hello, alone, does not make it clear that you hope the conversation continues.
Waving is a safe gesture upon first meeting someone. High-fiving the air, but at a distance may come off a bit silly, but it’s inviting and encouraging. However, hugging may cross the boundaries, and not a good idea during the pandemic.
How to Start an Interesting Conversation
Now that you’ve got the floor, it’s time to launch into a conversation that doesn’t just concern the weather! If you need help learning how to have an interesting conversation, you might benefit from a course on personal communication and connection.
Alt Text: couple drinking coffee inside coffee shop
Uncontroversial Current Events
Most of us tend to be in the loop on the latest headlines, although we may not want to discuss our politics or religious beliefs with a near-stranger. Stick to the safe zone. This includes pop culture like music and television, celebrity gossp, coronavirus impact, and fun new things to do during a quarantine.
The best way to start an interesting conversation is to land upon your shared interests. Once again, safe categories fall under the pop culture category! If you get a whiff of shared political or religious beliefs, you may tentatively broach them but don’t forget to be respectful.
How do you land upon shared interests? Ask questions! You might ask, “Do you like to read?” or, “Any TV shows you’ve been into lately?” Asking questions will give your conversational partner the opportunity to steer the conversation in directions they’re comfortable with and excited about.
Continue to ask questions to get deeper and deeper into the iceberg of personal connection.
How to Show Interest
Nothing makes a person want to walk away from a conversation like a bored listener. Make sure that you’re not only listening to the speaker but conveying an interest in what they’re saying. You can repeat a word or phrase that the speaker says to show interest or you can express your interest by nodding and using other physical and verbal cues. When using verbal cues, try not to interrupt the speaker even if you are excited about what they are saying. Wait for an appropriate moment to say more than, “Mhm,” or, “I hear ya,” before giving your two cents.
In addition to staying on comfortable topics and expressing interest, we have a few additional tips that will keep the conversation (and friendship) from stalling out.
Have a Repertoire of Stories
Have a few entertaining stories in your back pocket that reveal a bit about yourself but don’t make other people feel awkward. Stick to stories that are relatively PG, have a humorous element, and have a positive ending. If anyone is the “butt of the joke” in your stories, make sure that it is you or you may send a signal that you are amused by others’ failures. The importance of sharing unique stories is to personally connect based on emotion and details elicit emotion. Personal connections can help turn strangers into friends and overcome social anxiety.
Show Them You Know Their Name
Use your conversational partner’s name once or twice. Right after you learn their name at the beginning of the conversation, make sure to say it at the end of the convo when you are saying good bye, and then once in between. This shows that you listened when they said it and cared enough to remember it.
Don’t Be Self-Centered
If you find yourself saying, “I,” too much, you might be dominating the conversation. It’s important to share details about yourself to give insight into who you are but make sure it’s evenly balanced with inquiries about your conversational partner.
Ask for Contact Information
If the conversation goes well and you’d like to continue getting to know this person, don’t be afraid to ask for contact information. If you’re afraid of coming on too strong, say something like, “I really enjoyed talking to you. Would you ever want to meet up again?” If the answer is yes, say, “What’s the best way to get in touch with you?” That way, they can decide what information they’re most comfortable giving out.
If you ask for someone’s contact information, use it! In the next 48 hours or so, send them a message saying who you are, reminding them of where you met, and acknowledging that you’d like to hang out again.
What’s in a Good Conversation?
A good conversation deviates from small talk. It gives both you and your conversational partner the opportunity to reveal more about your personalities, likes, and dislikes. You should walk away from a good conversation with enough information to build off of in the future. That could be details about where the other person grew up, a TV show you’re both into–anything that creates a launching point for a follow-up hangout.
Put Yourself Out There
If you’re wondering how to start an interesting conversation, remember that the first step is to put yourself out there, even if that’s out of your comfort zone! To learn more about personal connection and gain the skills you need to shine in every conversation, check out our Personal Connection 101 course.