Good communication skills are needed to get by every day, so how do you start engaging conversations with anyone you meet and leave them with a lasting impression?
It sounds tricky, but learning how to be a good conversationalist is plausible if you’re aware of what interesting topics get people talking and listening to you.
Imagine that you just walked through the door at a party. You’ve been invited by a close friend, but there are several people there that you have never met. Your friend greets you with a big smile and hug and then introduces you to another person standing nearby. Your friend then immediately excuses herself and leaves you alone with this stranger.
Both of you stand there in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes and then you suddenly have an urgent need to escape. You tell them that you need to use the restroom and you scurry away. Awkward, right?
Do you feel awkward starting conversations, especially with someone you just met? Do you often wonder what to say or what topics to talk about to keep a conversation going?
If this sounds like you, you’ll be pleased to know that you’re not alone. Figuring out how to talk to people and hold a conversation is a very common struggle for many.
You may feel relieved to know that, but what can you do about it? You can’t exactly avoid talking to strangers for the rest of your life. Rather than run to the bathroom every time or worse, hide away as a hermit, and never go out, you can learn how to be confident and comfortable when talking to strangers.
Yes, that’s right! This skill can be learned!
You can find an unlimited supply of conversation starters and topics just by doing a quick Google search. It’s certainly helpful to have a few in your back pocket but to be truly comfortable in conversations, it’s best to dig a bit deeper.
When you’ve learned how to approach interactions with people you don’t know with an inner calm and confidence so you can engage in conversations from a place of authenticity, you won’t need to rely on those conversation starters as much.
Here are 5 communication secrets that will help you have engaging conversations with anyone.
1. Plug into the connection
Most of us are so much in our heads when we feel that awkwardness meeting someone new. We are thinking so much about what to say and how we are being perceived. The focus is on ourselves and that makes us nervous and self-conscious, which makes the entire interaction uncomfortable and it goes downhill from there very quickly.
You can avoid that scenario very easily if you shift your focus to the connection you are making with the other person, instead of what you should say. Remind yourself that there is an energetic exchange that happens whenever we encounter another individual. You sense it, even if you’re not aware of it.
Have you ever felt a “vibe” coming from someone or in a room full of people? For example, when you walk into a party, you can feel the excitement and the party atmosphere. Your mood is instantly elevated and people are smiling and laughing. If you walk into a funeral, however, the energy in the room is somber, sad, serious, and subdued.
As we communicate, we sense the energy of the content and the emotions being sent our way and we likewise send content and emotions to others. If we plug into that deeper connection, our conversations can become much more interesting and enjoyable.
We can also learn how to express our inner thoughts and feelings in ways that strengthen relationships.
The next time you’re in a conversation, try plugging into that energetic connection. Get out of your head and tune into your heart and that energy between the two of you. Allow the words you speak to come from that place of connection rather than from your head.
Experiment with this idea in your conversations with people closest to you and see what happens. Dial into the emotions behind your thoughts and words and be aware of the energy in them as you speak.
Afterward, reflect on what that felt like and record your thoughts in a journal. Once you get comfortable with this technique, you’ll be able to use it with any conversation and find that they are much more engaging and authentic!
2. Practice intuitive listening
Listening is the most important aspect of communication. You can be a powerful force by learning to deeply listen. You can more deeply understand others’ perspectives, concerns, ideas, and needs.
Intuitive listening means paying attention to the energy, the core message, hearing what’s not being said, tone of voice, emotions, and body language of the other person.
When you listen at this level, you tune in to the heart and deeply connect with the other person. The speaker truly feels heard, seen, understood and gains insight for themselves. This can enable them to discover their own solutions and insights, which is much more powerful than being given advice.
Being an intuitive listener takes practice. Most of us don’t do it naturally. We are usually either not listening at all and thinking about something else or we are listening on a surface level, all the while thinking of what we want to say next.
When it is our turn to talk, we usually turn the conversation back to ourselves. For example, someone is telling us what happened to them that day and we come in with this reply, “Oh yes! I know what you mean! That happened to me, too. Let me tell you about…”
Intuitive listening is different. The focus is entirely on the other person and the heart of what they are saying, not just their words.
An intuitive listener is seeking to understand the other person, to really know where they’re coming from and what they are trying to communicate. The listener is not thinking about themselves at all, they are completely curious and open.
Here is an excellent way to practice intuitive listening. Ask someone to do this exercise with you called “The 90-Second Conversation”.
Set a timer for 90-seconds. One person talks the entire time about anything while the listener sits quietly listening. The listener is not allowed to interject, interrupt or ask questions. At the end of the 90-seconds, the listener repeats back to the speaker what they heard. Then switch places and the other person talks for 90-seconds.
After the exercise, reflect on what it felt like to listen and be listened to in such an intense manner. What did you learn about the other person that you may have missed otherwise? What did you learn about yourself?
3. Be genuinely curious
This secret to engaging conversations is an incredibly powerful game-changer, not only for conversations but also for deepening relationships and navigating conflict. Approaching conversations with genuine curiosity and no judgment opens the space for the other person to process things out loud in a safe environment.
This helps fix the most common mistake people make in conversations — focusing on themselves. It helps you get out of your head and let go of the need to come up with some sage advice. Genuine curiosity also helps you show up in nonjudgment.
When you’re truly curious about someone, you are open to learning about their perspectives and how they see the world. You must let go of your own opinions, judgments, and conclusions in order to be genuinely curious.
The person you are talking with will feel that openness and let down their guard because they will know they are in a no-judgment zone. This frees both of you up to have an engaging, authentic, and uplifting encounter with each other.
When I do this, I imagine myself entering what I call a “curiosity bubble”, where I shut out all outside distractions and close myself in that bubble with the other person. No one else is there with us and, in that moment, nothing else matters. I focus my attention fully on them and I begin to wonder.
I wonder what is behind their words. I wonder why they feel the way they do. I wonder what makes them who they are. I just start wondering about them.
And when I do that, questions come naturally because I want to learn more. The result is that they feel seen, heard, and valued.
When you approach conversations using the three keys of connection, intuitive listening, and curiosity, you will find the awkwardness melt away and every interaction with another person will become a fascinating adventure.
Imagine how much more enjoyable it will be to meet someone new at a party!