As human beings, an ability that makes us unique – is the ability to speak.
Daily, we engage in many verbal exchanges with other people. Naturally, we find ourselves in many uncomfortable situations and awkward conversations. Of course, not all conversations can be ideal, but we can do our best to make them as smooth as possible.
If you ever wondered how to keep a conversation going, we are here to answer all of your questions. We will give you actionable tips and proven methods to avoid awkward silence and show you why silence is not always a bad thing.
Let’s get started!
The Importance of Good Communication
Some people are naturally gifted with the ability to communicate well. Regardless of the situation, they always know what to say and how to behave.
But, even the best among us make mistakes. Sometimes even the real naturals can’t find ways to keep up the conversation or preserve its direction.
There is no reason to worry! Following the steps in this guide will help you avoid awkward situations or at least remove the feeling of guilt. Also, they can reduce the possibility of losing the chance to meet a spectacular person or maybe a business opportunity.
Remember: conversation is a two-way street, but everything starts with you!
#1 – Know Yourself
You have to start from somewhere, and there is no doubt that you are the only sure participant in your next conversation. So, before it even starts, you can be prepared.
It’s important to work on yourself daily, expand your interests, know what you are good at, and be ready to share your knowledge with someone else.
Having your field of interest, more information about it than someone else will immediately make you a more interesting conversationalist. Also, it will make it easier for you to start the conversation.
Knowing what you are good at makes you confident, strong enough to share your opinions on a particular topic.
This attitude will encourage people to want to know as much as possible about you and listen to what you have to say for a long time.
#2 – Ask Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask. People love talking about things they are passionate about.
Just be careful – you are not a police officer, so it would be better if your questions are open-ended.
It’s also not a test – you are not looking for specific information. You just want to meet another person with all their education, pets, hobbies, favorite colors, dream travel destinations, and so on.
The FORD Method
After engaging in small talk, don’t forget the FORD method. It implies asking questions about:
It is a great way to get to know the other person. Keep in mind that questions where somebody can answer with “yes” or “no” shut down the conversation on the spot.
On the other hand, open-ended questions make room for another person to elaborate their answer, maybe surprise you and tell you more than you asked.
The Magic Word
Let us reveal a secret here.
The magic word that will enable you never to have an awkward conversation again is ‘WHY‘.
It doesn’t sound all that complicated because it isn’t.
Asking people WHY they did something will enable you to go deeper with your conversation. It will help you make a better connection while, of course, respecting the other person’s comfort level.
You can mirror their questions, too – if someone asks you a question, there is no chance they would not be happy to talk about the same thing.
Also, people love being “guardian angels” to others, so feel free to ask for advice or recommendation. This is a good chance to show respect for another person and prove that you trust them regarding a certain topic. Not only that, you will certainly get some useful information.
You will make the other person feel special. They will naturally want to talk more, so you don’t have to worry if the conversation will continue.
#3 – Listen & Connect
When it comes to learning how to keep a conversation going, listening to what other people say could be crucial.
Always wait until the person finishes talking before you react. The point of this is not to be patient while you get your chance. It is to understand what they are saying and respond appropriately or ask a follow-up question.
If you are an attentive listener, you can use any misunderstood parts or unexplored topics mentioned earlier at any moment of the conversation.
Furthermore, listening opens up the possibility of empathizing. It allows you to put yourself in another person’s shoes, understand their behaviors and feelings, and continue the conversation from a new perspective.
Empathy & Relating
There is another benefit of thoughtful listening – relating. It is the ability to connect your own life experience with the experience of others.
There is a certain power of relating – it encourages people to open up more and makes you a part of their world. That will make them like you more and want to continue talking to you in the future or maybe share their next adventure with you.
With that in mind, it is clear why people who know when to stay silent and listen usually have longer-lasting relationships, more friends, and stronger connections.
#4 – Find the Balance
As in everything in life, it is important to find an appropriate balance when it comes to asking and listening.
By asking too many questions, you can tire another person. Also, asking all at once will make you get an answer only from the last question.
The person you are tirelessly questioning can quickly forget what happened and focuses on the last point of conversation with a desire to continue it.
Asking too much kills the conversation dynamics.
On the contrary, passive listening can make you disinterested. It may be a sign for the other person to hurry up with their talk, or they will intuitively narrow down his exposure.
That reduces the chances of continuing the conversation, getting more information, and maintain a friendly atmosphere. It suddenly becomes uncomfortable, and the person wants to get away.
The IFR Method
Don’t worry, though – we got you covered. Next time, you could try the IFR method to find a good balance between asking and listening.
In everyday life, this rule should look something like this:
- Inquire – Ask anything you want to know more about.
- Follow-up – Based on someone’s story, ask a follow-up question.
- Relate – Share something interesting about you and break the routine of asking and answering.
We guarantee that if you start implementing this method, the nature of your conversations will drastically change.
#5 – Stories Are All Around Us
Sometimes, you don’t feel comfortable or don’t want to share emotional and detailed information about yourself. That is perfectly reasonable.
In those cases, you can choose any random topic you heard that day via TV, radio, newspapers.
If you have heard something strange or something that is yet to happen – just tell it. People love hearing about unusual or new things. Be the one to tell the news, and you will establish a more interesting image of yourself with ease.
People around you will ask you to say more about that topic, to talk about the details, and that’s a good way to keep up the conversation.
Spontaneously, you will become the main speaker in your social circle, so all you have to do is enjoy the conversation and have fun.
On the other hand, people will remember that topic for sure. That’s a great way not to be forgotten. When they see an advertisement for that event or product, the first person to come to their mind is you!
So, stay well-informed. You can read the latest news every day or follow social media trends (be careful not to clutter your life with this, though). Nevertheless, it will help you immensely in your task to keep a conversation going for ages.
#6 – Be Natural
When we meet someone or communicate with anybody important to us, we want to leave a good impression and present ourselves in the best possible way.
That is not a bad thing at all, but you have to be careful and take care not to become someone else in that game.
You don’t have to be perfect nor always say the ideal things. When you try to make everything so clever or interesting, you will get stuck in a place where it is very hard to come up with anything to say, so you stay quiet.
It is so much better to say something imperfect than not saying anything.
The key is to be interested in the conversation, not try to be interesting.
Trying to put yourself in a frame makes you a more cold and reserved person, so people may question if they could believe you or not.
- It’s fine to ask random questions. That doesn’t make you boring. Instead, it makes you sincere so you can react naturally to the response.
- Don’t be afraid of what other people think. They seldom think that much about what you said but have the same wish as you – to keep the conversation going.
- Change fear to fun. Say whatever is on your mind, respecting your partner on the other side of the net.
There is one interesting psychological concept called behavioral leakage. This concept says that anytime you try to act out of character, your true self and emotions will tend to come out in subtle ways. They will leak out, despite your desire to show them.
It’s better to be true to yourself and make people love you for who you are and not detest you for who you pretend to be. You can’t hide from yourself anyways.
#7 – Expect the Silence
You shouldn’t be afraid of silence. It can help you catch your breath and arrange your thoughts. Also, it can be a sign you have to change the topic.
Silence can work for you – wait for the other person to break it.
It is not only you who has to keep the conversation going.
Next time you feel an awkward silence – don’t panic. The other person isn’t expecting you to do something. They are just trying to come up with something to say, just like you.
Also, the discomfort after the silence is the one that creates the awkwardness, not the silence itself. So it is important not to see silences as the problem.
If you continue like nothing happened, then there is usually no awkwardness.
When you are friends with someone for so long, silence is proof that you feel comfortable with that person. Sometimes, silence says more than words.
Having said that, silence may be a sign to end the conversation. You can’t keep all discussions going forever. It is better to finish a short but effective conversation than kill it by wanting to continue talking forcefully.
#8 – Body Language
Nonverbal communication is important, just like verbal. Nonverbal signs follow our words but often come before them.
During the conversation, it is always good to show relaxed and confident body language. That will make people around you feel comfortable and open, so they will continue talking to you.
A few quick pointers that you can follow:
- Make eye contact when you talk.
- Anytime it is appropriate, brighten up the atmosphere and smile.
- Turn your body and your feet towards the other person because turning away says you are ready to leave.
- Uncross your arms and legs – crossed arms say that you are disinterested in what the other person is talking about. It can also make you look defensive.
You can also check out our full guide on confident body language here.
In the end, it is good for you to know that conversation never has to be scripted. There is no secret formula for what you have to say or how you should act.
But, we would also like to hear from you.
What tip do you find the most useful in everyday conversations?
Please tell us by leaving a comment below.