It’s been an eventful couple of years! And while it’s still too early to say if things will be going “back to normal” any time soon, it’s never a bad idea to brush up on your public etiquette.
Truthfully, the pandemic has left everyone feeling a little scattered, socially. After two years’ worth of interactions taking place almost entirely online, we’ve all done the best we could with the cards we’re dealt. It’s okay to feel a little rusty! We’ve got you covered.
Here are four super simple tips to help you become a master conversationalist in no time. These hacks can be used anywhere from the back seat of a taxi, the order window of a long drive-through, or in the classroom (even the virtual one).
#1: Search for Common Ground
Oftentimes, the hardest part of a conversation is the beginning. To help move through the initial first phase as painlessly as possible, try to find points of intersection between your life and theirs! Ask your conversation partner if they saw the bird that flew into the lobby this morning; or if they heard about the new store coming to the mall next month. It helps to use your surroundings (your location, the weather, current events, etc.) to your advantage. Never be afraid to ask questions, as this will always be the easiest way to learn more about a person!
#2: Be Enthusiastic
You remember Bill Nye, right? Exactly! Half the reason he’s been such a big influence to so many generations is the contagious enthusiasm he has for science. Oftentimes the most fun people to listen to are the ones that have fun talking. Don’t be afraid to get invested in the conversation, that’s the idea!
#3: Be A Comedian
Now we don’t mean you need to become the funniest person in the room–though if you already are, all the power to you! Usually when stand-up comedians perform on stage, their pieces follow the format of “so yesterday/last week/last night, I…”
Realistically speaking, these stories could’ve taken place years ago and we’d have no idea. That’s the beauty of stand-up! The value of the story isn’t in the accuracy, but in the speaker’s ability to keep the audience engaged. Sometimes during conversations with people we really want to get to know, there comes a bit of a pause between conversation topics which is completely normal! If you have a story from the past you think might interest your conversation partner, put it out there! This type of storytelling not only makes the conversation flow nicely, it also gives the impression that you’re an open, insightful conversationalist.
#4: Appreciate the Pauses
Lulls in speech are just as important in a conversation as the talking parts.
Opposite our last point, it’s good to allow for healthy gaps in conversation. Once the conversation is well established and you’ve found a certain level of comfort with your convo partner, feel free to loosen up the reins a little. Silence (or a lack thereof) is a great way to gauge how both partners are feeling about the interaction. Do you feel comfortable in the silence? Are you trying to push for more conversation, or maybe the two of you haven’t run out of things to talk about since you first said hello! Either way, you’re well on your way to being a master conversationalist!
It’s going to take some time to get used to being in social situations again, but hopefully with these four tips at your disposal, you’ll be a pro in no time.
Written by: Kait Holloway
MSA Student Communications Assistant