Blog by Dr.Latika Vaishak Shanbhag
Only the most adept social butterfly doesn’t feel that twinge of anxiety before sitting down at a dinner party next to a stranger. For some, fear of filling the air with chatter can be almost paralyzing, particularly when you’re placed next to someone who seems reticent to chatter. Remember, everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t. Here are ways to make your conversations more meaningful:
1. Ask Why and How Questions
When you ask a “What” question, chances are you will get a simple answer, but when you put forth a “Why” question, you explore a person. For example, “Why did you think that happened?” yields a more thoughtful response than, “What happened?” Every question you ask has the potential to narrow or expand the dialogue. “What” questions encourage introspection and convey a genuine interest in the other person’s experience.
2. Go to events ready to talk about interesting things/topics
With the power of the internet, we all can find something interesting to talk about. For starters, it’s a good idea to find a topic or subject people can relate to. Therefore, knowing your audience is important. If you’re talking with a group of people who love sports, then you know to talk about the latest sports drama, popular players, or games. If you’re speaking to a travel enthusiast or coin collector, talk about their latest adventures or collections. If you don’t know anything about someone’s hobby or what their “spark” is, you can Google the topic. They’ll be impressed when you can engage with them on a topic they’re enthusiastic about. This strategy can make a conversation much smoother and less awkward. Being prepared goes a long way. This process will make learning how to do small talk much easier because you’ll have ideas or subject matter to extend or start a conversation instead of with no plan.
3. React to what a person says
React to the person with a spirit in which that comment was offered. If he makes a joke, even if it’s not very funny, try to laugh. If she offers some surprising information (“Did you know that the Harry Potter series have sold more than 450 million copies?”), react with surprise.
4. Ask for advice
We all admire the wisdom of those who come to us for advice. It is a great way to get a conversation going. For the most part, people love to talk about themselves and their experiences. Studies show that talking about oneself feels good—it activates the same areas of the brain that light up when eating good food or wearing your favorite clothes. Capitalize on this and use it as an opportunity to learn something.