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Reader Wisdom: On making conversation

Published: January 26, 2015 | Last Updated: January 26, 2015 By | 14 Replies Continue Reading

Making conversation when it doesn’t come naturally takes practice. A reader explains what helped her.

A reader named Grace comments on a post from a teen struggling with low self-confidence and recalls what helped her become more comfortable when conversing with others.

When I was a teenager, I was so painfully shy that I didn’t have the courage to make a call to the local pizza place to order pizza. Eventually my parents refused to do it for me, so I had to work up the nerve to do it myself. I do not know how ADHD may affect how you relate to others but here are some things that have helped me:

* Prepare a script beforehand. Yes, write stuff down and practice it. This helped me a lot, especially in the beginning. Who knows, I guess I was scared I was going to screw up “Large pepperoni for delivery, please.”

* Compliment people. Be genuine, but there must be something you can find good about others. Especially clerks in retail stores. “I love your earrings. Did you get them here?” Compliment a pretty, unusual braid style. Cool boots (I love boots, lol). Pretty ring. Sometimes you end up getting a really interesting back story about a piece of jewelry from a person. Even if not, you’ll make someone feel good about their fashion choices. I have a couple pair of earrings that people often compliment, and I am a sucker for it.

* Use the follow-up question “And you?” or “How about you?” after you’ve answered a question someone has asked you. I learned this while studying a foreign language and it practically doubled my conversational abilities in the language. Then I started to use it in English, too. It can help to keep a conversation going. It’s also a natural deterrent against people who like to ask intrusive or inappropriate questions, when they realize they’ll be expected to answer their own annoying questions.

Talking to others takes practice. Good luck.

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Category: How to make friends, MAKING FRIENDS

Comments (14)

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  1. Abidoye Bayo says:

    I used to be very shy and find it difficult to make friends. Please help in connecting me with any lady around 58-60 I am a Christian to the core. Thanks.

  2. GraceW says:

    It’s kind of embarrassing to see my pizza story here but yeah, that was a pretty sad day for me as a teenager when my parents refused to order the pizza, lol. I think for a shy person in the early stages of practicing conversation, preparedness is more important than spontaneity, because a shy person is sometimes so anxious that she can’t manage otherwise. Ordering pizza isn’t even a real conversation, but as a very shy kid, I was afraid I would forget my order, forget my own address, or forget to write down the cost to know how much money to have ready for the delivery guy. I was afraid my voice would crack or be too soft and they would ask me to repeat myself. So yeah, I had to prepare.

    Thanks, Lauren, for the book recommendation. There are still so many areas where I can improve, so I always enjoy learning more.

    • Irene says:

      Hi Grace,

      Hope you aren’t too embarrassed because many of us, including me, can relate to those feelings of being shy and embarrassed to speak.

      Best, Irene

    • Lauren says:

      You’re welcome, Grace. Thanks for starting up this topic. It is a very important and interesting one. So glad that you shared.

  3. holly says:

    Some lucky people seem born to make good conversation. For the rest of us we have to learn how. And we have to practice. I remember reading a story about a psychologist who was so shy that he set himself the task of learning how to overcome his shyness and become a good conversationalist. He lived in New York City and every day he’d go up to someone and start up a conversation, on the subway, at a bus stop, and so on. As you might imagine he got rejected a lot but he also desensitized himself and improved his skills. I read this story so long ago that I’ve forgotten the psychologist’s name but I remember the message.

  4. johan says:

    hi . i never found knowing what i want to say work for me , recently i found listening and responding spondtainiously work best for me . i noticed if i think about what i say im too insufferable and talk to much . but also i dont regularly get to stay around people yet because most people still stay there distance from me . even though im seeing im starting to make a few new aquaintances , do u have any ideas i might try ?

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Johan,

      Here are a few ideas that might work for you. When you talk to others, and you find that you are talking too much, remember the “and you” rule in conversations. Don’t forget to say something like one of these things: ” and you?/or what do you think about that?/or did you see that movie?/ etc etc.”
      This is good as it brings the other person(s) back into the conversation. Always, always remember to bounce the conversation back and forth (like tennis), and that way you don’t monopolize the conversation. Monopolizing the conversation is a swift and sure conversation ender.

      Another general rule of social conversation is to smile when you are talking.

      Yet another very good rule is the three minute rule. As a general rule, try not to speak for longer than three minutes. This allows for conversation to flow back and forth.

      Also, in addition to smiling appropriately, try to come across as relaxed and casual. Believe it or not, this puts people at ease.

      In addition, of course you must be careful, especially with newer friend and newer acquaintances not to touch on any controversial subject which might be taken as offensive by others. So keep the conversation light-hearted, general and pleasant.

      Good luck to you, Johan

  5. Darlene says:

    Hi Lauren,

    I really like your tip about complimenting people sincerely about something. That is such a great way to connect with a person! Paying attention to a person and asking questions about them is great too. Most people really enjoy it when others notice some basic things about them,.

    Great idea to prepare a script, anything that helps a person relax is a wonderful idea.

    Thanks for the great post!

  6. Lauren says:

    Thanks, Grace for sharing these points. All very good information and very helpful and practical. Yes, your parents did well in making you call up for the pizza yourself at that time, as practice really does make perfect. That was a really good start.

    Also, the tips you picked up from language training are very good. I like the way people say, ” Comment ca va?” and the answer can be “Ca va bien/ pas mal/, merci, et vous /et toi?” and that takes it back over to the other person. I like to use that conversational method also. I think it helps to keep the conversation flowing back and forth. This “and you” is very helpful throughout the conversation as well as at the beginning.

    I read a very good book on conversation called “The Fine Art of Conversation”, by Debra Fine. I read it on my e-reader, and it is also full of straightforward, very practical advice.

    Thanks for sharing all of your good tips and examples, Grace.

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