Do you have problems with continuing the conversation? Do you sometimes run out of things to say?
You are in the right place.
Because in this post I want to share 8 of my favorite tips and habits that have helped me reduce this problem significantly in my own life.
This is what works best for me not to get caught up in awkward silences or not being able to carry on the conversation.
1. Get into the right frame of mind before you start the conversation.
This is one of the most important things in this post. Perhaps the most important.
Because if you’re overly tense, and end up feeling stiff, you’re in my experience more likely to fall into awkward silences and have a rough time with good ideas about what to say next.
But if on the other hand you get into the right frame of mind before the conversation begins, then words, ideas, and questions will naturally flow out of your mind and mouth.
Here’s a 3-step method I’ve used many times in the past decade to get to the correct headspace:
Step 1: slow down.
As you head to your meeting or conversation, slow down.
Walk slower. Move slower. Then it stopped.
Step two: breathe.
Stand still or sit for a minute or two. Focus fully on your breathing. nothing else.
Breathe deeply through the nostrils and into your abdomen.
Focus only on your slow breaths and exhales for one to two minutes.
This will calm your body and mind and make it easier to think clearly and naturally again.
Another benefit of focusing on your breathing is that it will bring you back to this moment again. And it doesn’t leave you stuck in past mistakes or worries about the future because you’re about to get into that meeting and conversation.
Step 3: Assume a relationship.
This is probably my favorite habit to reduce stress that has often bothered me socially in the past.
So what is the assumption of harmony?
Well, before you meet someone you pretend and think to yourself that you are meeting one of your best friends.
Doing so – especially after you’ve already relaxed using Steps 1 and 2 – will allow you to slide into a more relaxed, confident, and enjoyable state of mind.
In this emotional state and frame of mind, conversation and smiles tend to flow naturally and without thought or hesitation.
Just like with your best friends.
Using these three steps over and over until it becomes a somewhat automatic habit, in my experience makes it a lot easier to have meetings and appointments as the conversations continue to flow with fewer awkward silences.
2. Remember Ford
As you are now in that conversation after using the above three steps, keep FORD in mind to keep the conversation going.
FORD is an acronym that stands for:
It’s an easy reminder.
A reminder of what people tend to talk about. The things and subjects closest to their hearts. The things that keep them busy and motivate them to move forward.
Like their children, their pets, their favorite hobbies, and their dreams about where they want to travel and what they want to do in the next few years.
These four general topics don’t have to be the end of the conversation, of course.
One of them can simply be a springboard that gets you involved in a conversation on a myriad of topics for a coffee date or an entire night out.
So keep Ford in the back of your mind if you know you sometimes run out of things to say or ask.
3. Be genuinely interested (instead of focusing on being fun).
Dale Carnegie once said:
“You can make more friends in a couple of months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. And that’s just another way of saying the way you make a friend is by being single.”
This is a really good tip to get the conversation going as well.
But sometimes it is not easy because we may want to highlight ourselves. Or we think the best way to make new connections is to be more interesting.
But being more interested in an authentic way, asking questions and continuing to explore the other person – eg using FORD advice – rather than directing the conversation back to yourself and what you know right away tends to work well for making new friends and for continuing that conversation today and next week also.
Be sure to focus on using open-ended questions (questions that cannot be answered with yes or no). So ask, for example: “What do you think of this music? Instead of “Do you like this song?”).
4. Talk about what excites you.
So being interested tends to work better than being fun.
But when the spotlight is on you in the conversation, what should you talk about?
A good tip is to talk about what excites you. Your passion no matter if it is gardening, photography, football, music or something else.
Because talking about your passion spreads positive vibes and showcases some of your best parts (something that might not come up very often if you stick to talking about work or current events).
And it opens the conversation to the other person with whom he shares his interests, thus more positive emotions are generated in your conversation.
5. Avoid talking about negative topics.
Some things tend to drag the conversation down or stop the flow of words as negative topics. for example:
- Your bad boss or co-worker.
- Your work is boring.
- Get very technical about your passion.
- Scary subjects like serial killers.
Now, there are of course exceptions when these topics can create good conversations. For example, if you bring it up with people you know a little better or with close friends.
6. Keep some other good stuff in your mental pocket.
Conversational expert Lil Lowndes once said:
Don’t leave the house without reading the newspaper.
This is an easy way to always have something to talk about and to keep the conversation going.
Another good thing that people always like to talk about are likes and dislikes. For example:
- Favorite songs / albums.
- Favorite movies/TV shows.
- The worst food I’ve ever eaten.
- Best vacation ever versus worst vacation.
7. Take a step back and ask a question.
One thing I do a lot when the conversation gets a little off is to take a step or two back in the conversation and ask a question.
For example, if the other person said two minutes ago that one of their favorite trips was to Iceland, you could say:
“You said you went to Iceland, what did you do there? And what was the highlight of that trip?”
Or if she mentioned that she is interested in photography earlier in the conversation, for example, you could say:
“You mentioned that photography is your hobby. What is your favorite photo you took this year?”
8. Practice, practice, practice.
The last tip is to do what you do when you want to get better at anything in life:
To practice. To put minutes and hours into the conversation while using the tips above.
Two other things to facilitate this practice are:
You don’t have to take a huge step forward with what might seem intimidating. Thinking of things this way can discourage you and keep you trapped in inaction. Instead, take a small step forward as you practice continuing your conversations this week.
For example, use the first three steps exercise before today’s meeting. Or keep your focus on FORD as you head into the conversations around the lunch table tomorrow.
Be gentle when you have a setback (talk to yourself like your best friend would).
If the conversation stops or you make a mistake, don’t pressure yourself. A better approach is to ask yourself this:
What would my best friend/parent ask me to do in this situation?
And then you do what he or she tells you. By taking this more gentle and constructive approach, you won’t spend much time beating yourself up, you’ll learn more easily from what happened and you’ll be able to get up quickly and try again.