Conversations are not hard to come across. They’re here, there and everywhere. You can also strike up a conversation anywhere and anytime you feel like it and it’s no big deal. But have you ever bothered to find out what makes for an interesting conversation? In today’s fast paced world, a truly engaging and engrossing conversation is really hard to come by. It is not merely the lack of ideas that can make conversations lacklustre and bland but has more to do with the short attention spans of most individuals.
We are living life on the fast track, and in our effort to multi-task, we end up trying to accomplish more tasks than it is humanly possible within a given timeframe. As an instance, just take a page out of your daily life and ponder over the activities that you try to complete on any given day.
For example, during lunch break at your office, you engage in a light and casual banter with your colleagues while taking your food and simultaneously trying to send an SMS on your smartphone. Under such a circumstance, your informal and laidback chitchat never graduates into a serious discussion or conversation, if you like it, but remains just what it is – a banter. To turn a routine gossip into an absorbing and enthralling conversation, you don’t need a very high level or creative subject. You can talk just about any topic or issue under the sun and make the conversation so arresting that everybody around you will have the compelling urge to join in.
At the least, to engage in a conversation, two individuals would be required to converse – one to speak up and speak out and another to listen. This is to imply that you should give others the chance to voice their ideas and opinions, instead of sabotaging the conversation. So, coming back to basics, what can you do on your part to prevent a conversation from sliding into the zone which has monotony and mediocrity written all over it?
Following are some riveting ideas to make a conversation interesting.
1. Breaking The Ice
Many a conversation fails to get started and get grounded even before they can take off simply because the interlocutors, who’ve never met before, expect the other person to break the ice, which never happens. You must have come across such situations where you’ve found yourself sitting or standing amidst a group of people who keep on staring at each other blankly for a period that seems to be an eternity.
When they get bored of looking at each other, their gaze turns to the surrounding walls or the floor. The lobby of a multinational company where job applicants are awaiting their turn for an interview or an elevator choc-a-bloc with people are perfect real life situations where many informal exchanges and pleasantries are aborted and nipped in the bud before they can develop into full-blown conversations.
It doesn’t take a Himalayan effort to be the first one to speak up. Just make your self appear accessible, put on a grin, and introduce yourself by offering your hand, and give enough room to the other person to reciprocate your gesture.
2. Think Twice Before You Shoot
It is quite natural that when you’re eager to start a conversation and just raring to go, you’d prefer talking about yourself after the preliminary round of introductions are over. Field questions that are more of an open-ended nature rather than posers that need one to reply back by letting out just a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. More often than not, such questions can be and tend to be off-putting as well.
Just sample these questions and decide for yourself which to ask and which to let go. ‘Do you prefer keeping to yourself most of the time?’ ‘Are you fond of reading books or magazines?’ ‘Am I coming in your way or interrupting?’ ‘Did you get a university education?’
‘What sort of people would you prefer interacting and socializing with?’ ‘Do your friends and acquaintances have common areas of interests and seem to agree on most of the current political, economic, and social issues?’ ‘What kind of books or magazines you prefer to read?’ ‘Who are your favourite authors?’ ‘In which academic stream did you major at the university?’ ‘What’s keeping you busy right now?’
3. Combine Generality With Specificity
Sometimes you may ask questions that are in fact, statements, and, therefore the individual, from whom you’re expecting a reply, is in a fix whether to respond or just keep quiet.
If you’re not sure about what to say or ask when you’re meeting an acquaintance after a long time or find yourself seated besides an attractive co-passenger in the bus or train, you end up asking awkward questions. Or make embarrassing statements that make him or her feel ill at ease.
Refrain from making statements like-‘Wow, that’s a gorgeously revealing dress you’ve put on’ or ‘you’ve made an appetizing plum cake but then you could have done it better’ that leaves the person groping for an answer. Better temper your statements by tagging an open question onto them. ‘What an astounding spread of buffet! Which dish do you intend to start with?’ or ‘Which amongst these is your preferred dish?’
4. Keep Up the Tempo or Momentum
If you have taken the initiative to break the ice by speaking out first, then it follows that the onus of carrying on with the conversation and sustaining the pace or tempo is on you. You may often find yourself in a situation where the person with whom you’re having a tête-à-tête, gets hooked and tries to turn the tide by fielding back questions at you.
You have many options to tackle such a situation. You can either take it as an opportunity to start speaking about self without overdoing it or draw away attention from self by making yourself sound vague. You can also up the ante by replying to questions with questions. ‘How come you managed to solve that tough mathematical problem?’ and you snap back by replying or rather asking ‘Well, first tell me, how you managed?’
There are many other aspects or attributes that you need to keep track of before you get going. If you keep on applying the ideas outlined above whenever you find yourself in the midst of a discussion, you’ll be on your way to becoming a master conversationalist some day. Just have confidence in yourself and speak clearly and freely without any inhibitions.