How to have a great conversation

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Being able to converse goes far beyond opening your mouth and letting words come out. Good conversation can smooth any social situation, and can even open great doors for you. And the fact is, that once you’re comfortable with conversing with anyone, social situations become much more fun.

That party you were worried about going to because you didn’t know anyone suddenly becomes an opportunity to meet loads of new and interesting people. Same goes for those times when you decide it’s to get back into the dating scene, or when you find yourself having to network at a business event.

Many of us fall back onto talking about ourselves when we meet new people, which is ok for a little while, but after a time starts to sound very ego-centric. Some of us just clam up and rely on the other person to carry the conversation. If any of this is sounding familiar, don’t worry. We’ve got five tips here, based around the scenario of a first date (but that you could apply to lots of other situations), to help you master the art of great conversation.

1.    Do your homework before the date
There are two parts to this – firstly, think about what’s currently interesting. Maybe it’s a news event, or something funny you saw on the internet the other day. Don’t look really hard for something, otherwise you’ll risk coming up with something to talk about that isn’t interesting to you – never mind your date. Have these things in the back of your mind for if the conversations lulls.

Secondly, think about questions and topics related specifically to your date. If you’ve met them before, great start, you can ask for updates on anything you talked about last time – maybe they were going for a new job, or maybe they had a tricky situation with a friend. If you haven’t met them before, think about everything you’ve talked about so far, over the phone or by email. If you met them online, check their profile for things you can ask about, such as their hobbies, or their family. If it truly is a blind date, at least ask the friend who set you up for a bit of background info.

This will all show you’re interested in the other person, in their life, and their thoughts on the world around them – which is all very flattering.

2.    Ask good questions
A question is not just a question. Some questions in conversation are dead ends. For example you might ask as yes/no question such as ‘Do you like Japanese food?’. But a much better question to ask would be ‘Do you know anywhere that does great sashimi?’, opening up a discussion, and showing you’re really interested in what they’ve got to say.

At the same time, don’t ask completely open ended questions like ‘What have you been up to recently?’ Your date will have to search hard for a suitable answer – where to start? Instead, ask about specifics such as ‘Have you been to the cinema recently?’ or ‘Eaten at any good restaurants since the last time I saw you?’

Don’t put yourself under pressure to ask lots of questions, or you’ll end up making your date feel like they’re at a job interview. Instead, allow the conversation to flow from each question naturally.

3.    Listen and respond well
Ask all the great questions you like, but if you stare around the room looking bored you’ve failed your task. Lean towards your date, smile, and make sure you respond in the right places – whether that’s a nod or an ‘mmhmm’. Don’t be distracted by other people in the bar and certainly don’t get out your phone and start replying to a text message.

This isn’t just an act either; you really need to be engaging with your date. If you listen to what they’re saying you’ll be able to start to build a picture of the kind of person they are, and you’ll be able to refer back to the things they’ve said later on in conversation letting them know that you really were listening.

4.    Get sharing
OK, so earlier we told you not to make the conversation all about you, but don’t let your date do all the hard work either. Just because your date seems to be in flow, when they ask you a question don’t give a one word answer – use it as an opportunity to give your date some more colour about yourself, and to give them a break. Remember that they’re there to  find out about you too.

5.    Relax
Once you’ve done your homework and prepared these points, it’s time to try and relax. The more pressure you heap on yourself about the date, the more it’ll show. Don’t feel that silence is a bad thing – it’s ok for you both to take a drink at the same time – and don’t over-react to your date either. Laughing to loudly, or ‘awwww’-ing for too long will just sound fake.

Overall, enjoy yourself. You should be having fun on your date, but with these tips you should be able to raise an average conversation to a great one, and get to know your date far better.


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