How to Talk to People Without Being Awkward: 3 Quick Tips
How to Talk to People
Meeting new people is a great way to add value and diversity to your life. Getting up the courage to talk to people can be a little scary, but once you start getting to know the person, you’ll be glad you did.
If you want to talk to people, first find someone who seems open to conversation. Look for a person who makes eye contact with you and who seems to have a friendly expression. Don’t try to start a conversation with a person who is busy or talking to another person. When you find a person you want to talk to, start the conversation with an icebreaker. Find common ground by making a comment about the weather or complimenting their outfit.To learn how to build on your conversation, keep reading!
Starting a Conversation
Talk to a new person.Sometimes the hardest part of talking to people is figuring out how to start the conversation. This can be particularly intimidating when you want to talk to someone that you have not previously met. To strike up a conversation with a new person, try to find some common ground.
- For example, if you are waiting in line at your neighborhood coffee shop, you could say to the person in front of you, "What's good here? I've never tried any of their specialty drinks."
- You can also comment on the situation. Try saying, "Isn't it nice out today?". If the person responds in a favorable tone, you can follow up with some more specific comments.
- Another conversation starter is making a comment about the person you want to talk to. You could say, "I really love that bag you're carrying."
Choose the right person to approach.Look for someone who is not otherwise occupied and has a friendly expression. For example, if you are standing in line and someone makes eye contact with you, offer a smile and an opening question. Avoid trying to start a conversation with someone who is speaking to someone else or who is actively engaged in a task.
- At a party, a good place to start a conversation is near the food table or bar. These things provide natural conversation starters, such as "Have you tried the spinach dip?" or "Can you show me how to use this wine opener?"
- If you are having trouble mingling at a party, head towards the kitchen. This is often a gathering space, and you can join in the crowd by helping to mix drinks or set out snacks.
- The same rules apply when deciding when to approach a co-worker. Wait until they are not obviously engaged with someone else. Lunch is an ideal time to start a conversation.
Approach someone you know.Maybe you want to talk to someone you've met, but you don't know how to break the ice. One effective approach is to ask that person something about themselves. Questions are a great way to get the conversational ball rolling.
- If you want to chat to a colleague in the cafeteria, questions are a good way to start. Try saying, "How was your weekend? Did you take advantage of the great weather?"
- Maybe you'd like to get to know your new next door neighbor. When you see her grabbing her mail, say, "How are you adjusting to your new neighborhood? Let me know if I can recommend a good pizza place."
Keep it simple.You don't have to have a great opening line in order to start talking to someone. You can start by saying something as basic as "Hi" or "How are you?". The other person will often take it from there and keep the conversation going.
- You can make a simple statement about yourself. After a challenging spinning class, say to the person next to you, "Wow, I'm going to be sore later."
- By keeping things simple, you are starting the conversation, but allowing the other person to help you get things started. It also takes some of the pressure off of you to find something clever to say.
Avoid over-sharing.When you are trying to start a conversation, it is important that you do not make the other person feel awkward. Many people have a tendency to babble or chat nervously when making small talk. This can lead to a common social problem known as over-sharing.
Know when not to talk.Sometimes silence can feel awkward. Your natural inclination might be to fill that silence with chit chat. However, there are times that it is best to stay silent.
- If you are bored on an airplane, you might want to entertain yourself by talking to your seatmate. But if she is giving you certain social cues, find another way to amuse yourself.
- If someone is avoiding making eye contact, that is a sign she doesn't feel like talking. Someone who is reading or listening to headphones is probably also content to remain silent.
Part 1 Quiz
How can you start up a conversation with a new person?
Continuing the Dialogue
Ask questions.Once you have broken the ice, there are several things you can do to keep the conversation going. Asking questions is a great way to continue the dialogue. Try asking the other person to do something simple for you.
- For example, if you are picking your child up at school, you can say to another mom, "Can you remind me what time the early dismissal is tomorrow?"
- You could ask your colleague to offer you some advice. Consider saying, "Brad, your Powerpoints always look so polished. Would you mind offering me some tips?"
Continue with open-ended questions.Asking any question is a great way to get the conversation going. But open-ended questions are the key to keeping the chat flowing. Ask questions that require much more than a yes or no answer.
- Instead of saying, "How was your trip to Phoenix?" try saying, "I remember you saying you were traveling. What sorts of things did you do on your vacation?" This will allow for elaboration.
- Continue asking questions after the initial response. If the person says, "We did a lot of golfing", you can say, "Oh, what's your handicap? Can you recommend any good courses? I'd love to improve my game."
- You can also turn compliments into questions. For example, you could say, "I really love that dress you're wearing. How do you find such great pieces?"
Be genuine.Don't try to force a conversation. Instead, try talking about something that you genuinely care about. If you are feigning interest, it will usually be evident.
Avoid conversation killers.After you have been chatting for a few moments, you might feel more comfortable with how the conversation is going. But you still need to make an effort to make the conversation flow smoothly. Part of being a good conversationalist is knowing how to avoid saying things that will make the other person uncomfortable.
- You've probably heard the old adage that you should avoid talking about politics or religion in social settings. You should heed that advice when you are in a diverse group of people.
- Avoid boring people. For example, don't give long, intricate summaries of your favorite reality show or your cat's health. Give others a chance to participate in the conversation.
- Strike the right tone. For the most part, small talk should be happy. After all, you are looking to make someone like you. And we are all naturally drawn to positive people. When in doubt, try to look for something upbeat to say.
- For instance, you could say, "Wow, we've had a lot of rain lately. But at least we're likely to have some gorgeous spring flowers!"
- It's ok to commiserate about an uncomfortable situation. Just try to put a positive spin on it. For example, "Bummer we're stuck working late tonight. Want to grab a late dinner? I know a great pizza place."
Shift topics.During most conversations that last longer than a few minutes, you will probably cover more than one subject. Be prepared to move on to something other than your ice breaking question. A good way to be prepared is to pay attention to current events and pop culture. You'll always be able to offer observations about those things.
- For example, you could say, "Did you see any of the movies up for Best Picture this year? I really loved Spotlight."
- Be ready to transition to new topics. Try saying things such as, "Oh, your story reminds me of my trip to Greece. Have you ever been there?" This tactic will help the conversation flow naturally.
Reach out to other people.The more people that are involved in a conversation, the less pressure there is on you. Take steps to involve others in your group. For example, if you are eating in the cafeteria at work, reach out to your coworker who is looking for a place to sit. Say, "Hey, Lucy, would you like to join Tim and I?"
- You can also do this in social situations. Maybe you are making small talk with an acquaintance at a cocktail party. If you see someone standing alone nearby, draw them into your circle. Say, "Wow, this shrimp is fabulous. Have you had a chance to try it yet?"
- Drawing others in to your conversation is not only polite, but it can help keep the conversation moving along. The more people that are involved, the more you will find to talk about.
Be a good listener.Listening is just as important as talking. To become a good conversationalist, you need to practice active listening. You can verbally indicate that you are listening and engaged.
- Try offering neutral comments such as "That's interesting." You can also say, "Tell me more" to encourage the other person to continue with the story.
- You can use a method called echoing to demonstrate that you are listening. Say, "Wow, that is amazing that you have traveled to every single country in Europe."
Part 2 Quiz
Which of the following is a conversation killer?
Using Positive Body Language
Smile.When you are having a conversation, your body language can be just as important as the words you say. One of the most effective ways to communicate is to offer someone a smile. This is an especially great way to connect with someone you don't know very well.
- Smile at someone at the dog park. If you notice your dogs are playing together well, grin over at that poodle's owner. It makes you seem approachable.
- Smiling is also an effective way to indicate support. If one of your co-workers stops by your desk to tell you a story, smiling at her indicates that you are interested in what she is saying.
Make eye contact.While you are speaking to someone, it is important to look them in the eye. This demonstrates that you are engaged in the conversation. It also indicates that you are listening and respectful of what is being said.
- Eye contact also helps you gauge the other person's reactions. Eyes reflect people's emotions, such as boredom, anger, or affection.
- Don't stare at people. It is not necessary to focus entirely on your friend's eyes. You can let your gaze naturally take in your surroundings, too.
Nod your head.A simple head nod is one of the most effective non-verbal cues you can use. Nodding your head can indicate multiple things. It tells someone that you understand what they are saying, for example.
- Nodding your head also demonstrates that you agree. It is also a way to show support for what is being said.
- Avoid being a bobble-head. Do not nod continuously, as that will negate the genuineness of the gesture.
Build your confidence.Your body language often reflects nerves or anxiety. It can be intimidating to talk to people, especially if you are shy. One of the best ways to increase your conversation confidence is to be prepared for multiple scenarios. For instance, if you know you are going to see meet new people at a party, have some topics of conversation ready to talk about.
- If you're going to a birthday party that involves bowling, be ready to tell a funny anecdote about the time you joined a couples bowling league.
- Practice your skills. Challenge yourself to talk to someone new each day. It can be someone on the street or someone at school. Practice starting and continuing conversations.
- Confidence is key when approaching a romantic interest. Once you've found an opening line that works for you, try it out on the person you like.
- For example, you could say, "The music during spin class always makes me feel like dancing. Do you know anywhere good around here to listen to live music?" Say this with a smile and eye contact.
Part 3 Quiz
What is the best way to make eye contact during a conversation?
QuestionHow do I talk to someone new without being awkward?
M.A, Clinical Mental Health CounselingM.A, Clinical Mental Health CounselingExpert AnswerIt depends on what you consider awkward, but I’d practice not fidgeting, sitting or standing with confidence, regulating your breathing and speech rate, keeping a pleasant facial expression and maintaining eye contact. It helps to practice these things with another person as well.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if you want to engage in conversation with a new person, but your small talk starter slipped your mind and you don't know what to say?
M.A, Clinical Mental Health CounselingM.A, Clinical Mental Health CounselingExpert AnswerKeep a few small topic ideas and conversation starters in your phone. If you get stuck, take a quick look at your notes. It might also be helpful to practice the conversation starters with someone to get comfortable with the questions and to help you remember them.Thanks!
QuestionI'm always trying to start a conversation with my tortoise, but not he's responding. How can I get him to respond?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWith the exception of some species of bird, pets cannot speak to you as they cannot talk. That said, some will pay attention or at least show interest when you speak to them. Tortoises however, are not known to do this and generally prefer to do their own thing.Thanks!
QuestionAny advice if I have a problem with not speaking? My parents and friends complain that I am much too quiet.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGet involved in something you love, as it will be force you to be more talkative. Get around people with similar interests that you feel comfortable talking about.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I talk to someone new without it being awkward?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThanks!
QuestionWhat do I ask people in a conversation?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAsk open-ended questions, such as: What classes do you have? What are your hobbies? Do you play any sports? What did you do over the weekend? If you have anything in common with them, then tell them, and the conversation will flow from there. If you know what their interests are, ask questions about these; that's a sure-fire way for them to open up to you.Thanks!
QuestionHow I can change my body language?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry not to worry too much about it, as fake body language can make you look more awkward. You can, however, try to leave your arms uncrossed while talking to others; this will make you appear more open.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I talk to people without freezing up? (On the inside.)wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTell the people you are talking to. Mostly being honest about how you feel can make others feel more comfortable around you because they often feel the same way.Thanks!
QuestionIs there a way to know if I am being annoying or a conversation killer even when I am with someone I know well?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPay attention to their responses and expressions. Usually you can tell fairly easily if someone is annoyed. They may seem impatient, disinterested in you or the conversation, or irritated. If they don't seem to be enjoying the conversation and aren't very engaged in it (i.e., give short/mindless responses and don't make much of an effort to keep the conversation going), they are likely either annoyed or bored.Thanks!
QuestionHow do you talk to someone after you haven't talked to him/her for a long time on purpose?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerStart by saying how you have been busy, and say sorry for not keeping in touch.Thanks!
- Keep a mental list of handy conversation starters.
- Don't be afraid of new situations. Trying something new will help you meet new people and practice your conversations skills.
Sources and Citations
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