Whether you’re speed-dating, networking, or simply socializing, knowing how to start an engaging chat is a must.
But it’s not always easy. What if you and your conversation partner seem to have nothing in common? What if there’s an awkward pause? What if you accidentally insult the person?
To help you out, we reviewed the Quora thread “How can I get better at small talk?” and highlighted some of the most helpful responses.
Read on to impress new acquaintances with your masterful conversation skills.
1. Demonstrate interest in your conversation partner
Several Quora users noted that the best way to keep a conversation rolling is to show you care about what the other person has to say.
“If you don’t fundamentally care about the person you are speaking with, that will show, and that may be the primary reason why you are running out of things to discuss,” writes Kai Peter Chang.
That also means letting your conversation partner share information about himself or herself.
“Let the other person speak more,” writes Anam Gulraiz. “People LOVE talking about themselves.”
2. Ask open-ended questions
Instead of asking yes/no questions that lead to dead ends, encourage your conversation partner to share some more detail about his or her life.
“In general, open-ended questions lead to more conversational paths,” says Craig Welland.
For example, instead of asking a fellow party guest, “Are you here with your family?” you might ask, “How did you meet the host?”
3. Allow your conversation partner to teach you
“If there’s a subject you’re not familiar with, just be honest with that person and nine out of ten times they’ll teach you about it,” writes Michael Wong.
It goes back to that central idea of letting other people do most of the talking. Asking the other person to explain what they mean means they’ll be talking for at least another few minutes.
4. Read the news
In the days leading up to a social function, take time to peruse the news, “including the sections that don’t really interest you,” writes Mark Simchock.
That way, if a conversation should come to an abrupt halt, you can fill the silence with, “Hey, did you hear about …” or “Man, how about that … ?”