Do you find it hard to make a conversation flow? Don’t worry. It’s rather easy to become a good conversationalist. You can excel at small talk without feeling awkward by following a simple principle.
Matt Mullenweg the original lead developer of WordPress once said: “Everyone is interesting. If you’re ever bored in a conversation, the problem’s with you, not the other person.”
At the time, Ernest Hemmingway famously said:” I drink to make other people interesting.”
Ernest Hemmingway is one of my favourite writers, but I will go ahead and believe it was meant as a joke, since I agree with Matt Mullenweg.
So, how do you make a conversation flow with new people?
Become an interested listener
Maybe you want to network or maybe you have been dragged out for some drinks, either way it can be hard to make a conversation flow with strangers.
Some people are born more outgoing. They can easily make a conversation flow, but others find it hard to keep a conversation going. It can be a struggle or maybe even uncomfortable.
Luckily, it’s not that hard to become a good conversationalist.
In Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friend and Influence People he covers this topic in a chapter. Why? Because when you know how to talk to people, then you will not only become a good conversationalist; you automatically also become more likeable and more entertaining.
But it all starts with you being an interested listener.
We like to talk about ourselves
Humans are incredibly self-absorbed. It’s not an insult. It’s just a fact. We spend a lot of time worrying about little things we did and what others think about us.
Dale Carnegie recalls an incident with a woman at a bridge party:” All she wanted was an interested listener, so she could expand her ego and tell about where she had been. Was she unusual? No. Many people are like that.” (Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friend and Influence People, page 88)
If you’re not convinced, then try to remember the last time you felt embarrassed. Maybe you were out one night and drunk-texted someone, or you did something one time that in your mind was enormously embarrassing.
The next day your brain will torture you and replay it over and over again. The funny thing is that in these situations the other people that were involved usually don’t give it a second thought.
And it’s not because you don’t matter, but they are busy with their own life. They don’t sit around all day and think about what you did or didn’t do. They’re self-absorbed as well. The word self-absorbed is not meant to be taken as an insult in this situation.
Therefore, a conversation can easily be started and kept going if you focus on the other person rather than yourself. Ask questions, but don’t just reply with a yes or no. Listen to them and show interest. Respond with new questions based on their previous answers, and you’ll soon realize that people don’t mind sharing a piece of their mind.
Seek first to understand – Then to be understood
Stephen R. Covey said: “Seek first to understand… Then to be understood” (Stephen R. Covey, 7 Habits of highly effective people, page 145)
If you allow yourself to listen to people, like really listen, then you’ll often end up hearing fascinating stuff and learn new things – either about the topic or people in general.
It’s a rather simple principle, or a tool if you would like to call it that. When you encourage others to talk about themselves, then they will appreciate your interest (if it’s real). The conversation will automatically flow better.
Later, you can walk away from the conversation with new knowledge or maybe even a new friend. It often leads to something more, because once a person (truly) feels heard – they want to hear your story as well.