It happens to the best of us: we’re talking to someone we’ve just met, and the conversation is stalling. We don’t know where to take it, how to keep it going and the silence is making us feel awkward. Although in the grand scheme of things, these moments are meaningless, they can be quite a burden for you when they happen.
I think the biggest problem here is not that awkward feeling though, but the fact that not knowing good ways to keep a conversation going can make you lose the opportunity to get to know an otherwise great person.
It is common for conversations with new people to have bumps at the beginning. Get them over those bumps successfully, and you could find yourself building a beautiful relationship.
- Find what to say in your favorite topics
We all have things we are passionate about: activities, hobbies, projects, goals, ideas or jobs. Take some time to make a short but relevant list with the things you are most passionate about, and would make easy conversational topics for you. Read that list a couple of times and get to know it well. Then, when you find yourself in a stalling conversation, think about the list and find a way to maneuver the conversation to one of the topics on it.
- Ask open ended questions
One way to keep a conversation going is to get the other person talking. And the best way to do this is by addressing her open ended questions. These are questions which require more than simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, and offer the possibility of much richer answers. Question like ‘What do you think of this event?’ instead of ‘Do you like this event?’ These kinds of questions encourage people to talk and they can be a life saver in stalling conversations.
Often, we find it hard to keep a conversation going not because we can’t think of anything to say, but because we fear the other person won’t enjoy that particular subject, fact or opinion we have in mind. However, most of time, this fear is not anchored in reality. This is where blurting comes in. Blurting is a conversational technique which means saying whatever you’re thinking about in that moment, instead of censoring yourself. Give it a try, and you’ll discover that people are not that harsh and they can enjoy a lot of things in a conversation.
- Let the other person end the silence
Most people are uncomfortable with silences in a conversation. When one occurs, they immediately try to fill it by finding something to say. You can use this to keep a conversation going. When for example, you’ve just met a person at a party, you’re talking and the conversation is stalling, do not leave that person and go find the peanuts or something like that. Instead, hang in there and let the silence work for you. Most of the time, the other person will eventually pick up the conversation and end the silence.
- Practice, practice, practice
I know many people which had huge problems with keeping conversations going and now, they can do this even with the most shy or uncooperative person. How did they manage to get to this point? They’ve practiced. They consciously pushed themselves out of their comfort zones, to meet new people, to socialize and to apply techniques like the other 4 mentioned above. Do the same, and you’ll see the same kind of results with your conversational skills.
Finally, remember that you don’t have to keep a conversation going no matter what. If you see the person you’re talking to is simply refusing to participate in the conversation and be sociable, you can end the conversation politely and go talk to someone else. However, I believe you have the responsibility to at least try and make a conversation work. And if you do this well, you will be significantly more able to make great friends and influence people.