By: Jack Wang, LPC-A Social anxiety can make a simple conversation with a stranger feel stressful, and the fear of judgment can make us freeze in social situations.
Here are some reliable tips to help you keep a conversation when you feel lost.
1. “That Reminds me of”
a. Take what the person said and talk about something it reminded you of. It can be a past story, or something about the environment. Be careful because you may be one-upping someone else’s story.
b. This tip can open more conversation topics and allow you to relate to their experience.
2. Active Listening
a. If you are feeling anxious, then it can be difficult to be present in the moment. Try focusing on the words the person is saying and paraphrase or repeat some of the last things he or she said. This will usually prompt the person to talk more about the topic and will tell them that you are listening to them.
b. Repeating something they said can help you clarify something you didn’t understand.
3. Ask Open Questions
a. Asking a yes or no question like, “Did you go to the library?” does not help continue the conversation as much as an open question like, “How was going to the library?”
4. Find Common Interests
a. This is common advice, but a good one. Talking about something both of you are interested in creates engagement and enjoyable conversation.
b. Ask questions to search for common ground. Be careful not to overdo it, though, as too many questions one after the other can make the other person feel like they are being interrogated.
5. Get Comfortable with Silence
a. People often want to fill up the silence. If you are comfortable with a long pause, you can often encourage the other person to start making conversation just by waiting.
b. A conversation is a two-person activity, after all!
6. Conversation Starters
a. “Have anything fun coming up this week?”
b. “How do you know each other?”
c. “What’s your story?”
d. “What do you do for fun?”
e. “Where did you grow up?”
Making conversation is a skill. Like other skills, they need to be learned and practiced. These are just some of the skills that we practice in our Adulting Program here at The Conative Group. Sometimes, that means you may have a bad conversation from time to time. It does not mean you were not meant for socializing. It just means you are like a lot of other folks who can also get better at making conversation. Good luck!
Jack Wang is a Licensed Professional Counselor - Associate and practices under the supervision of Stefanie C. Barthmare, LPC-S.