How To Start A Conversation The Right Way
Published on October 18th, 2021
Updated on March 12th, 2022
Conversations can be difficult to start sometimes. It can be hard to know how to start a conversation, and harder to get it to flow naturally. Like flying a kite, a conversation needs momentum to catch the wind and fly on its own. Striking up a conversation is intimidating at times, but there are ways to ensure that it is started the right way.
For a conversation to start the right way, it will need to have a proper tone, intention, and ease. It will also require you (the facilitator) to not only strike up the conversation, but to listen, respond, and engage with the other members.
Asking questions is an excellent way to facilitate conversation, especially when you are nervous or are not confident in your speaking skills. When you ask questions, you express interest in getting to know the other person, and you take the pressure off of yourself to have something of value to say.
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Be sure to ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are questions that are answered with description and without a yes or no. Asking open-ended questions facilitate conversation by making it interesting and help you find points of relatability with the other person to build the conversation.
Having open-ended dialog can go a long way in a conversation. To be open-ended, focus on giving descriptive responses. Do not give short responses that do not leave room for the conversation to grow.
Yes, No, Good, Bad and other short answers make it difficult for a conversation to stay alive. They do not allow for relatability in the conversation, which will cause it to die quickly. Instead of giving short responses, challenge yourself to be descriptive. Aim to have your responses be at least two sentences, even if you are asked a yes or no question.
Example: If someone asks you if you enjoyed the movie, a short answer like “yeah, I thought it was good” is an acceptable answer, but it will be challenging for the conversation to grow from here. Instead, offer descriptive dialog, like “yeah, my favorite part was the action scene at the end, and I liked the way the main character was so dorky”. This offers a jumping point for the other person to relate to, which helps them respond and grow the conversation.
Remember Your Nonverbal Language
Always remember that you communicate through your body as well as your words. If you are nervous, disinterested, or struggling, it may show in your body language. You want to make sure you are communicating through your body language that you are calm, relaxed, and engaged in the conversation.
Even if you are nervous, you can do little things with your body to communicate that you are interested in getting to know who you are talking to. You want them to know that you are engaged in the conversation. To show through your body language that you are engaged and interested in the conversation, pay close attention to the following:
Be sure to make and maintain eye contact with who you are talking to. If you struggle to maintain eye contact, try focusing on the space between the eyebrows instead. Make sure your eyes are not trailing around the room, as this may communicate that you are distracted or losing interest in the conversation.
Your posture tells a lot about your attitude. If you are hunched, slouched, or leaning, this may communicate that you are not interested. Arms crossed in front of your body may communicate that you are nervous or closed off from conversation. To correct these posture mistakes, remember to stand up straight with shoulders rolled back. Have your hands at your sides or in your pockets. If you find yourself nervous and struggling to maintain these changes, try using a fidget toy or rubber band to keep your hands busy. This can help minimize stress.
Conversations involve at least 2 people. Sometimes you will be having a conversation with one other person, and sometimes there will be a small group to engage. Do not get discouraged if the people you are talking to seem disinterested in the conversation. There will be times that the person you are trying to talk to is not interested in talking, and there will also be times when it takes a bit more effort to get the conversation going.
Everyone has different communication styles, so it is best to enter a conversation with openness and patience. You may hit it off right away with another person, or you may struggle. Sometimes you may strike out, and that is okay, too. Find confidence in yourself to be open to others, and do not take struggle in conversations as a failure. The art of conversation is a process, so take your time and find what method works best for you, while also accepting that not all conversations will catch the wind and flow on their own.