If you’ve ever fallen victim to that awkward silence when trying to get to know someone, you know the feeling I regularly experience. Though I have gotten better over the years, I still have a long way to go before I can even consider myself competent. So why on God’s green earth would I decide to write an article to share with you about how to hold a conversation? Partially because I think I’m a masochist…
Confidence contributes more to conversation than wit.
– Francois de La Rochefoucauld
Actually, it’s because I am forced to get better in order to bring valuable information to the table. I don’t know everything there is to know about every topic I write on, so I spend a lot of time reading about it before I write anything for you. As a result, these articles help me learn as much as, if not more than, they help you (my readers) learn.
Back to the point at hand. I suck at conversation. Did I mention that already? Here’s the thing: I’m socially awkward as all get-out. I don’t pick up on body language or verbal subtleties, and I have no clue when someone is even interested in what I have to say. I don’t do a great job of asking questions, I talk too much, and I have a tendency to interrupt people. When any of these things occur, I’m oblivious to my blunder. On top of all that, my anxiety peaks in situations with strangers and large numbers of people. And if I’ve never met you before, I’m not likely to say much.
I’m a flaming mess, aren’t I?
With some good coaching over the past 7 years, and my awesome wife to help guide me through tough situations using little hidden gestures (to indicate when I’m talking too much or have interrupted), I have been able to dramatically improve my ability to navigate this field that has caused me so much trouble.
It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.
– Yogi Berra
And, there I go, talking about me a little too much again. These are supposed to offer you useful tips. If you’ve experienced any trouble with conversation, small talk, or social situations, then fear not. You can overcome your challenges and live life a little fuller. It all starts with a willingness to get better. Read often, and put your learnings (did I make that word up? My spell check doesn’t recognize it…) in to practice whenever you can. Test your new found abilities with people you’re comfortable with so you can successfully conquer social gatherings and networking events. I have two suggestions for your reading to start. One of the books on my shelf that has helped me tremendously is The Art of Conversation by Catherine Blythe. The second suggestion is far more brief, so you can put the lessons to use today. Best-selling author Gretchen Rubin offers some great tips on how to keep a conversation going. Have a read, and I’ll talk to you later!