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World Wide Group™

Improving Your Conversation Skills

Introverts & Extroverts Alike—Talking to people is hard, and meeting people can be scary. But, it doesn’t have to be. The key is conversation skills!

It’s 2020, everyone! As you read through the Internet over the next few weeks you’ll be flooded with tips on closet organization, tidying up your home and your life, how to eat more kale and fewer cupcakes, how to get all those steps in, and which weekly planner is best for scheduling out every minute of your day. January often brings a plethora of “helpful” tidbits to get your physical life in shape, and all of these things are valuable (well, most of them). Each one may well serve a purpose for you. Rather than poring over a post about why you should schedule an afternoon to re-organize your refrigerator (which, let’s be honest, we should ALL do), let’s talk about something that may better your daily interactions with those around you: conversation skills!

Talking to people isn’t always an easy thing to do. It can be difficult for some and second nature for others. Whether you’re talking to a group of 10, an arena of 5,700, or trying to summon the courage to talk to one new person, it can be overwhelming and exhausting to know where to start. Introverts, extroverts, or somewhere in between … socializing and interacting takes energy, thought, preparation, and patience.

No matter where you fall on the scale, everyone can use reminders and encouragement, right? Here are some thoughts on ways to make your next interaction just a little less daunting.

Introverts: Study, practice, succeed.

Not everyone is comfortable with striking up a conversation, and that is A-OK. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but it’s how we interact with these parts of ourselves that makes us better people. Unsure of the steps to take when talking with someone? Don’t go in unprepared! You wouldn’t take a test without studying (even cramming counts as studying), and you shouldn’t go out into the world of people without some helpful tips.

Here are some ideas to think about.

  • Talk yourself up. You are a delight, don’t forget that. You have interesting things to say and have the ability to be a fantastic listener. You know a lot about plants, or what restaurants to try, or planes, or boardgames, or business, or whatever! Don’t sell yourself short. Tell yourself how great you are. Write it down if you have to!
  • Visualize how a conversation might go, even if you don’t think the conversation will actually happen. Here’s where talking to yourself comes in handy. Even basic conversations are not easy for everyone. Talk through different scenarios that might come up … mirrors, showers, cars are all great places to chatter away and take turns being on both sides of the conversation!
  • Make a list of conversation topics. This may seem strange but it can really help when you just don’t know where to start. If you are looking for ideas, thescienceofpeople.com has a great list of 57 Killer Conversation Starters organized by type of conversation.
  • Friends. Strangers. PTSA Board Members. EVERYone wants to feel as though you’re interested in what they have to say. Focus on the person you’re talking to and encourage them to talk about themselves. We’ve said it before (Why Acts of Kindness are a Leadership Strength) and we’ll say it again, practice active listening! When you listen to someone, they feel heard and cared for. This is a powerful and amazing thing to offer someone.
  • Be bold. You can plan, prep, and practice all you want, but all of these things are less valuable if you don’t step out of that comfort zone, use your lovely voice, and talk to someone. The first step is the hardest! It’s also going to get you the biggest reward … a dialogue!

Extroverts: Know yourself.

You know better than anyone what your tendencies are. Think about what they are in a conversation. Do you look away to avoid eye contact? Do you slouch your shoulders to make yourself seem smaller? Do you find yourself talking the entire time because you get nervous? Do you give advice when it isn’t asked for?

Each person has their quirks, and you know yours best. Take a look at some of the many ways out there to improve your side of the conversation.

  • Keep an open posture.
  • Smile when you can. Smiling is a way to hug without the actual hugging. It lets people know you’re engaged and interacting—use it when appropriate!
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Avoid touching your face. Research shows that this makes people think you’re untrustworthy, even if it’s just a nervous twitch.
  • Don’t assume everyone has your same opinion or that they will agree with you. They won’t, and that’s not a bad thing.
  • Be empathetic. Put yourself in their shoes and really visualize their feelings as though they are your own.
  • Don’t be judgmental. It’s easy to say, but it can sometimes be much more difficult to implement. Remember, everyone has made choices that they may not be proud of or that they made for a reason. It’s important to maintain the mentality that everyone is doing their best with what they’ve been given up to this point in life. It’s not anyone’s job to question or judge the choices of others.
  • Don’t overshare and don’t try to impress. We all enjoy sharing and showing off a little, but a conversation should be much like a tennis match: The ball should be handed back and forth. How? By asking open-ended questions, of course!

Everyone: Get. Out. Of. The. House.

Looking to meet new people? You’re going to have to go places where you have the opportunity to meet new people! As fun as it is to sit on the couch and marathon British Bakeoff for the fourth time this year (will they PLEASE release another season already?!), if you want to meet people, you have to leave home. Sometimes this is scary.

Here are some places that are less scary:

  • Talk to your neighbor. Do more than just wave. See them outside? Go ask how they’re doing, introduce yourself, tell them how great their new gutters look, or ask what they think of that new stop sign down the street.
  • Walk your dog someplace new. Not only will you see (and maybe talk to!) new and interesting people, but your dog will thank you for the scenery and smells.
  • Volunteer in your community. Take an hour or two out of your week and interact with your local community. You’ll feel great about serving those around you and you’ll get to talk to others doing the same!
  • Join a book club. Maybe you know someone already in a book club but you’ve been too afraid to go. Go! Don’t know of an existing club? Local bookstores often advertise a monthly get-together, or if you’re feeling adventurous, start your own! Pick a genre and read through that TBR pile. 

Does all of this feel big, scary, and overwhelming? That’s okay too. Take small steps and wade the waters before jumping in. Try visiting a social environment where you don’t have to engage but are still around people. When you’re feeling brave, go with it!

Not every conversation you start will end in a new best friend or a lifelong business partner. What’s important is that you learn from every interaction. The more open you are with people, and the more frequently you interact with those around you, the easier it becomes.

Happy New Year, everyone! With the world around us bustling with resolutions and goals, what are some of yours? Share in the comments below!

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