by Brandon Reiter
Whether it’s a business setting, meeting new friends, or going on a date, holding conversations is an important part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Being a good conversationalist can dramatically improve your life in many ways, and it doesn’t take as much skill as you might think. In this article I will share a few easy tips, that have dramatically improved the way I navigate conversations with new people.
Growing up, I was a shy kid. I didn’t like to share much to people I didn’t know too well, but as I grew older and entered the business world, I was forced out of my comfort zone, and had to talk to many strangers. I was once a retail banker in the middle of NYC and would greet people as they entered the branch, and assisted them with various banking needs, like opening up accounts. It became routine for me to create conversations out of thin air with people I had never met before. This experience is what pushed my shyness into the past and allowed me to be more comfortable with myself, especially when it became time to start selling my own services. Along the way, I discovered three tips that really helped me warm up a conversation, make a someone feel heard, and come across as a friendly and trustworthy person.
1. Repeat Their Name Back to Them
I am terrible with names. When I ask somebody’s name, it’s like my brain decides to take a break. Not remembering someone’s name can come across as egotistical, especially if you have met them more than once, or have been talking with them for a long conversation. To keep my mind present, and to stop it from taking time off when somebody would tell me their name I would repeat it back to them. “Hi James, it’s nice to meet you.” Not only does this help you remember it, but it also immediately signals to the person that you are listening and paying attention.
2. Make Eye Contact
Naturally when we are talking to people, we tend to look away from them, especially if it is an uncomfortable setting or conversation. Our brains sometimes think that by looking at someone’s eyes while you are talking you are somehow letting them look into your soul. I can assure you that’s not the case. When someone is talking, and you make eye contact with them, you are both helping your brain focus on them, while also making them feel like you are paying attention to them. This is also important if you are speaking to a group of people. Instead of just staring at nobody, a good practice is to keep shifting your eye contact around the group. Obviously, not for an awkward amount of time or they could feel like you are singling them out, but as you shift around the talking circle, you give everyone a chance to feel like you are speaking to them as opposed to the abyss.
3. It’s Okay To Relate, But Let Them Finish
This is perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of conversations: knowing when to butt in. Relating to people is obviously a good tool to use when trying to get to know someone but there is a fine line between relating to someone, and just talking over them and making things about yourself. Let’s say you’re meeting a new client and they tell you about their kids, you don’t want to interrupt them and start talking their ear off about your boring kids. Instead, ask them more questions about thier kids. This, again, will make them feel heard, that you care (whether you do or not is a different story) and that you are interested. Eventually they will most likely return the question, “Do you have any kids of your own?” Now the conevrsation is flowing more naturally and you can relate to them with your own anecdotes, but by asking them questions they will feel more comfortable than if you just dominate the conversation.