How to Initiate Meaningful Conversations
Social gatherings give us plenty of opportunities to form different relationships. We meet new people, see acquaintances, and be with the people we love. Sometimes we need to initiate conversations with a stranger beside us at a party or chance by a new colleague in a business dinner or were introduced to a person by a friend. The challenge here is to get past initial introductions. What can we do so we do not end up in awkward silence? We want to leave a good impression and a lasting impact on each person we encounter.
Conversational styles vary for each person. Extroverts, for instance, can eventually start a conversation no matter where they are planted. Introverts, on the other hand, may cringe in situations where they are compelled to initiate the conversation. Those who are somewhere in the introversion-extroversion dimension would have their shining moments and not-so-great moments, depending on the situation.
The secret to success in initiating and sustaining conversations is to find common ground or points of interest with the people you are with, and knowing how much of ourselves can be disclosed, practice empathy and consider tact at all times.
Starting off with small talks. Carl Rogers, in the 1970s, made a significant contribution to counseling and clinical psychology. He imparted the best people-centered approach to therapy which involves ways to best listen, reflect on clients’ feelings, and channel reflections into insights that can promote change. This technique can come in handy for you to initiate meaningful conversations with random social companions.
So here are the ways to wing conversations.
It pays to listen. When you do, you can get points for what the person says, which can be an excellent follow-through to keep the conversation going. Start with a question or a nice comment to ease the person into speaking to you. Avoid filling the dead air with chatters about yourself first. Listen first, then talk second.
- Use empathic reflecting skills.
Another Rogerian move in communication is to rephrase or restate what you heard from the person you are speaking with. This is an excellent way to show that you are listening and mindful of what they say. It sends a message that you’re interested in what they have to say.
- Turn on your nonverbal detectors.
Rogers is also keen on the body language of his clients. You can also see the person’s feelings instead of focusing on what you feel. If you see indications that the person is uncomfortable with where the conversation is heading, you can consider shifting topics. Not all people like debates and heated issues like religion, sex, and politics, and some enjoy topics on current events. Bodily cues can help you with posture, eye contact, and hand movements.
- Avoid snap judgments.
Listen without prejudice. When you listen, restate, and observe bodily cues, you can avoid being judgmental of what you hear. Opinions are not to be imposed, nor should they be debated. So listening is the key to preventing snap judgments.
- Be an online detective or behavioral profiler.
Not that you will be a stalker, but it can help if you know a bit about the interest of the one you will be speaking to. For instance, in interviews, you obviously need to be well-informed about the company you are applying in and the interviewer’s profile. You can also have your friend tell you more about the person they are about to introduce to you before the gathering. Knowing a little bit of their history can be an excellent reference to start topics of conversation.
- Don’t assume people will agree with you.
Not all the time, “assumed similarity bias” is valid for all conversation settings. Debates can be enjoyable as well as long as you are not imposing. Do not assume that people will agree with everything you say.
- Try to learn from each interaction with a new person.
Conversations are opportunities to learn something new. Being a good listener allows you to be that kind of learner. People can have more experience than you in some fields, and the same goes for you. Learn to listen to each other and be keen on what they can impart to you. This will broaden your perspectives, expand your horizons about religion and culture, and eventually, their insights can help you become a good conversationalist.
- Stay on top of the news.
Being a netizen includes being aware of what is happening around you. Current events are good topics to start conversations with. These topics do not only dwell on the heavy stuff. You can also go from songs, entertainment news, stocks, and other lifestyle topics.
- Know when not to talk.
Feel the situation if it is still okay to talk. There are instances when the person you’re beside on a long plane ride wants to sleep first or is not feeling well. Be on the lookout for non-verbal cues to know if talking is okay at that time; otherwise, better if you set aside talking for now.
- Don’t overshare.
The right amount of disclosure about oneself can go a long way. You do not need to overshare about your life. Be on guard of your private life and secrets because this will spread like wildfire without you knowing it. Stranger danger! Besides, you do not want to put the person in an uncomfortable position while you tell about your family disputes, love affairs, and medical condition. Oversharing also bores people. Too much information is not an excellent way to sustain conversations.