How To Talk To People – There’s an art to conversing with others. It’s not enough to know how to skillfully strike up a conversation with someone, you have to be able to keep the person engaged, add interesting information, and otherwise avoid bad conversational habits. While some people are naturals, others could certainly benefit from some help.
That’s why we put together this handy guide on how to talk to anyone, about anything. The following tips will help you navigate conversations – whether you’re at a coffee shop, a cocktail party or a conference room.
1. Introduce Yourself
This won’t work in every setting, but in many cases, the good old “Hi! I’m so-and-so; Thought I’d introduce myself!” will do the trick. As surprising as this sounds, people feel more special if you approach them and introduce yourself. It takes guts to walk up to someone and be the first to talk. The fact that you went out of your way to do this, will make the person feel important- and will probably make them want to talk to you, as well.
2. Ask For Help
You don’t have to have a great opening line in order to start talking to someone. You can start by asking for some help. In fact, it can be a really useful conversation starter – of course, it has to be in context. For example, if you’re standing at a bus stop, you can say: “Excuse me, do you know how often the bus runs?” Even if you already know the answer to the question, this approach can be a great way to start a conversation with someone – because most people like to feel helpful.
3. Ask For Their Opinion
Every person has their own view of the world – so take that to your own advantage, and start asking them about their thoughts:For example: “What do you think of this place?” “What’s your favorite blend of coffee?” Stick with lighter subjects at first, such as your surroundings, food, drinks, or music- this should give you inspiration to start a quick, but interesting conversation. If the person is open to conversing with you, you can chime in with your own opinions – to keep the conversation going.
4. Reference A Topic That Has Mutual Appeal
Another useful approach, is to make reference to something that had just occurred. For instance, if you were attending a talk, you could spark up a conversation with someone who was also in the same session. It makes it easier to reference a specific topic. Let’s say that you were attending a Tony Robbins event.
You already know that everyone else attending the event is probably already a fan of his. So, you could ask what their favorite books are, or if they saw his Netflix special. The point is to try to keep the topic you reference, relatively specific. By limiting yourself to something specific, you can actually open up a lot more doors for organic conversation.
5. Use Subtle Humor
Using humor is another great way to start talking to someone, when appropriate – you probably don’t want to try this at a funeral…The trick here is to use humor as a tool, and not make jokes at the expense of others. You want to get people laughing with you, and avoid coming off as rude or insulting in any way. Make sure that your humor is related to the conversation or the occasion. If you have a rehearsed story, wait for the right time to say it.
6. Stay On Top Of the News
Being familiar with current events is absolutely the best way to have enough topics to bring up in any conversation. The topics don’t have to be heavy, or involve in-depth expertise. Just, try to leave the weather outside…Because, unless you’re a meteorologist, the chances that you or anyone else has something truly interesting to say about the weather is extremely small.
7. Ask Open-Ended Questions
People generally like to talk about themselves. Not always because they’re egotistical, but often because it’s a safe topic, and one they obviously know very well. If you’re struggling to think of what to say, simply ask good questions. Asking questions shows a level of personal interest and causes the other person to feel cared for.
So how do you find the right questions to ask? By simply paying attention and carefully observing the person, to find clues. For example, if they have a nice hairstyle, you can say: “Your hair looks great. What hair products do you use?” The key is to ask open-ended questions and get them talking – rather than asking questions that elicit yes or no answers. This allows the person to elaborate more, and it keeps the conversation going – it also helps you find out more about their personality.
8. Go For Compliments
Just like people like to hear themselves talk, they love it even more when someone else has nice things to say. Complimenting people is a great way to get a conversation going, and it’s also a great way to stick in someone’s mind. By complimenting someone on something specific – like their smile, their jewelry or their shoes – you increase your chances of being remembered and well liked.
9. Rephrase What They Say
Sometimes, conversations can wane if you can’t really relate to the topic being talked about. If you have little knowledge on the subject, it can be hard to add your opinion – and awkward silences can ensue. In this case, a good technique, is to rephrase what the other person has said. If someone is describing their complicated job to you or a profession you’re not familiar with, they may be well aware of your lack of knowledge.
By repeating what they say or asking for clarification, you’re creating a sense of interest and rapport. Not only does this show that you’re listening to what they’re saying, but it gives them a chance to point out discrepancies – and your interest makes them eager to tell you more.
10. Share Small Things About Yourself
Some people find sharing things about themselves unnatural – and this is especially true for introverts. However, sharing small things – no matter how insignificant – will show the other person that YOU WANT them to get to know you. The idea is to be confident in bringing up topics, and not to overthink how you come across with your words. It’s really not about what’s being said in a conversation that people remember the most – they remember how they felt in your presence.
11. Tell Your Story
Sometimes, people respond faster if you tell them a little snippet about yourself before you ask for their story. Think of a story that closely connects to the current situation you’re in, and just share it. For example: “I waited for five hours at the airport the other day. I hope this flight will be on time today”. If you’re honest with your words and feelings, the other person will open up to you and hopin on the conversation.
12. Remain Positive And Keep An Open Mind
Have you ever met someone who just complained about everything? It’s annoying right? On the flip side, someone who remains positive, and exhibits a genuine and open outlook on their surroundings, seems to naturally draw people in. Of course, staying positive is easier said than done. Being able to maintain a positive outlook requires some deliberation.
You need to work toward being very self-aware, and monitor how you react to various situations. Whenever you find yourself leaning toward negativity in the way you communicate, try to correct the behavior. In time, you will find yourself feeling more confident – and as a result, more charming to those around you.
13. Don’t Hold Back Your Enthusiasm
Your first inclination may be to suppress your energy and enthusiasm, hold your hands in your pockets when you want to gesture, and generally stay ‘cool’. However, people will typically react more positively when you show enthusiasm through hand gestures, facial expressions, and you speak with different tones and volumes. This makes a conversation more interesting – and we would all rather be around someone fun and energetic, than someone dull and lifeless.
14. Don’t Assume People Will Agree With You
Research on social psychology shows that many of us engage in the “assumed similarity bias”. It’s not safe to conclude that just because you are opposed to a political party, that the person you’re talking to is, as well. But, debates can make for enjoyable conversations. If you just assume that everyone thinks and feels the way you do, it’s likely you’ll get started on the wrong foot – and end up with it in your mouth.
15. Know When Not To Talk
Sometimes silence can feel awkward. Your natural inclination may be to fill that silence with chit-chat. However, there are times that it is best to stay silent. If you’re bored on an airplane, you might want to entertain yourself by talking to the person sitting next to you. But, if they are giving you obvious social cues signaling that they are not interested in talking to you, you should find another way to amuse yourself.
If someone is avoiding eye contact, that’s a sign that they don’t feel like talking. Someone who is reading or listening to headphones is probably also content to remain silent. Talking to strangers CAN be intimidating, but it doesn’t HAVE to be. Prepare yourself with these methods for starting a conversation, and you’ll be fine. After a while, you may even forget about how awkward you felt at first. What do you think? Did you find these tips helpful? Is there anything else you would add? Let us know in the comments below.