Conversation and small talk isn’t easy and natural for everyone, but it’s a skill that can be learned. The more you practice, obviously, the easier and more spontaneous it will become. A tip to start “training” yourself to be better at it, is to put yourself in a non threatening comfortable situation. This will mean different things for each of you as some of you might be a very comfortable parent chatting on the sidelines to other parents, while others may be very comfortable walking up to someone to help them in the grocery store. You can easily start by making small talk with the clerks where you shop and the waiters/waitresses when you are out for a meal or even your morning coffee. Oddly enough, this tip may be VERY helpful…..Practice with telephone solicitors! Why? Because it will challenge you to keep the conversation going with asking leading questions and the caller will stay on the line for obvious reasons!
Initiating a conversation with a stranger might not be easy, but we can’t let fear or our anxieties run our lives and keep us from growing. You only grow when you put yourself in challenge uncomfortable positions, and learn some lessons along the way. Additionally, you never know what kind of day the other person may be having, and just your friendly banter may brighten their day or even make them smile. Others may even be flattered! In general, we all love to be noticed and appreciated for our efforts.
So what do you say? It really doesn’t matter as long as you say something. Start be getting comfortable with opening the door for communication with a simple SMILE and a warm “Hi,” “Hello,” “How are you?” or “Good morning,” and see what happens! If you know the person’s name or something about them say, “Hi, Nancy. How are you doing?” or “Hey, how is potty training that new dog of yours?” the next step is VERY important, Listen and respond appropriately. Some people need that nudge to keep the fire of communicating going. You may need to drive the conversation a bit. Always pay attention to body language though. If someone is darting their eyes, pulling away from you, seems rushed, let the conversation close. You may find some of your conversations may be a bit out from left field while others open a whole new world of things in common and the conversation can go on and on. Additionally, some conversations you wish you never started and others might be the high point of your day. It’s all a lesson, and sometimes a risk we have to take on opening the lines of communication.
What you really want to get into the habit of doing is asking open-ended questions as opposed to yes/no questions. If the person can respond with either a yes or a no, that’s not a good question you should ask. Again people always like to be complimented or feel of value. Starting with a compliment or asking for their opinion even on something you may be an expert about, will open up for a back and forth dialogue. It gives other people the permission and opportunity to talk. You may need to memorize some cliche open-ended questions that can be used as ice breakers in different social settings. At a party you might ask how they know the people who are throwing the party. Or at the grocery store, you may ask for some help on picking out the best beef for your stew. You can even ask for directions or recommendations to some great local restaurants or shopping areas. (even if you know them all!)
One of the best tips to finding out someone’s name is to introduce yourself first or introduce someone else in your party so they can offer up their name to them. People always value the sound of their name, especially when someone else remembers it. So at the close of the conversation, if you have completely forgotten their name, don’t be ashamed in asking for it again. If it’s a name that warrants spelling, ask them how they spell it.
The only way you will get better at socializing and communicating is to get out there and do it! Follow me on Facebook for more free advice, tips, motivation and training! http://tinyurl.com/christinedwyer