“I want to do more in my career and life, but I’m not that good at talking to people. How can I improve my conversation skills?”
Starting conversations is an area that so many people get nervous about. They shrink from talking people they don’t know well (or at all).
Much of this anxiety is comes from the fear of being embarrassed, being awkward, making mistakes, feeling like you’re not interesting enough, or simply not knowing what to say.
When you’re wrapped up in fear, it’s difficult to remember the benefits of conversations. They’re not just a way to kill time. You’re building relationships, sharing ideas, and creating opportunities.
Most people don’t think about it in those terms. Most opportunities don’t lie exclusively inside ourselves; they’re the result of interacting with others.
Having conversations are easier than most people think. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind that will help ease your anxiety:
- People generally like to talk about themselves. Once you get started, the other will help the conversation along a lot.
- People will forgive social mistakes and a lot of other missteps as long as you come to the conversation with sincerity and authenticity.
- People you’re talking to may also have anxiety over conversations. The fact that you asked a question helps to put them at ease and gets the ball rolling.
Many people have anxiety because they don’t know how to get a conversation going. A simple remedy is to memorize some very basic questions you can ask anyone at any time:
- Where do you work? How long have you been in that job? How did you get interested in that field? What’s the thing you like the most about your job?
- Where did you go to school? How did you chose that one? What did you like about it?
- Where do you live? What brought you there? Do you like that neighborhood? How long have you been there?
The most important part of the conversation is listening. The person you’re talking to will almost always give you a cue to the next questions you could ask.
For example, if you ask, “Where do you work?” The person might say, “I just started a job at ABC Company.”
There are lots of questions you could ask next. The easiest one is, “Where did you work before that?” You can also ask, “How do you like your new job so far?” You can even start comparing the jobs: “What do you like about this job that you didn’t about the other?”
The person is likely to ask you the same or similar questions. Before you know it, you’re building a relationship, establishing some level of comfort, and maybe even creating trust.
As you talk, you may discover common ground – maybe you lived in the same cities, enjoy the same music, or have similar ideas. When that happens, it becomes much easier for people to work together and create opportunities for each other.
Get the Nerve™ to take that first step and you’ll be surprised by the new contacts you make and the opportunities that present themselves.
What are some of the best conversation starters you’ve heard?