It might surprise you to know that making conversation is less about talking and more about engagement. Unless you have an extraordinary story to tell, no random person is likely to be interested in you talking about your life. Therefore, we can break down the art of building a conversation into two simple parts: Absorbing and Leading.
Your personality is nothing more than a reflection of the way you think, which in turn is shaped by the quality and the nature of the content you consume. Therefore, to make good conversations, you first need to absorb the world around you. Some ways in which you can do that are as follows:
Now and then, take some time out to distance yourself from the daily happenings around you and just watch. Choose your muse (it could be a corporate employee in a crowded metro or the rotating wheel of a car ahead of yours - literally anything) and observe it with no specific objectives in mind.
While this exercise may bore the hell out of you initially, you might eventually realise that just looking at things can reveal a lot about them. Let your natural thoughts take over, but make sure that the thoughts in your head still revolve around your object of interest. You'll be surprised to see the depth of thought your mind can reach over a simple observation.
Consume Pop-Culture Content
The biggest factor in uniting people over the globe has been stories. When different people start narrating the same stories, start believing in the same stories, there arises a sense of cultural relatability, which results in a greater level of cooperation and fraternity.
Therefore, the best way to relate with people is to indulge yourself in things that are trending. Watch the shows that are being talked about, listen to the songs you hear over those Instagram reels, read the books that everyone in your circle are discussing. Open yourself up to accepting new ideas.
Know the People That You Want to Associate with and the Common Interests They Share
This is simply an extension of the previous point. While consuming pop culture is always a good idea, the scope is vast and it is not humanly possible for you to consume all of culture. So you cherry-pick the content you consume based on the interests of the people you want to associate with.
For instance, it is your first day in a new school. Study the interests of the students in that school beforehand. Visit their social media confession pages. Read the memes the students of that school share. Research interesting ideas that are popularly discussed within the scholarly community of that school.
Know the sports that are dominant in the school. In short, do your homework.
Learn to listen
This is perhaps the most important aspect of building a conversation. Be genuinely interested in the people that you converse with. Take interest in their stories, their experiences, and their outlook on life. Not only does it enhance your understanding of the world and people, but it also ensures that you are paying attention.
Nothing is more off-putting to a person than them telling you their stories while you scroll through your mobile notifications and look around cluelessly. Look at the person, hear them out, make eye contact (you do not have to forcefully stare at them and make them uncomfortable), and win the day.
Once you've done your homework, it is time to execute the conversation in the second stage i.e., leading a conversation.
Armed with everything you need to know, you can confidently walk up to people and lead the conversation. As you walk up to them, make sure to remind yourself of the fact that everyone in the room is just human, and even if you botch this up, nothing about your life is going to change for the worse. However, even as you keep this in mind, breaking the ice can still seem like a challenge.
A few good ways to overcome this barrier include:
Ask Open-Ended Questions
A lot of people make the mistake of asking questions that can often be answered with a simple yes or no. You need to realise that these questions will not drive the conversation forward very often.
Therefore, instead of asking questions like “Have you always been fond of Hozier?” you can ask something like “What is it about the songs of Hozier that appeals to you?”. Make them speak their hearts out. Understand their belief systems and ideas.
Build On Your Mutual Interests
Identify their interests, see if there are any mutual points of conversion with your interests and discuss your likes and dislikes around those themes. This can help you connect with people at an emotional level within a very short span of time.
Make Others Help You Out.
Ask people for suggestions, reviews, directions, and help on a particular subject matter, or whatever. Not only does this serve as a genuine way to start the conversation, but it also tends to make people look forward to hearing from you again.
This might sound counterintuitive, but when others help you out, they subconsciously believe that they have a moral high ground over you and expect to be treated nicely in return. In this hope, they look forward to having more interactions with you, thus building a strong connection over a few interactions.
Whatever you do, make sure to refrain from using lame conversation openers taken from the internet to start a conversation. They might even work for some people, but that’s not how you want to build conversations. Deal in raw thoughts, emotions, and ideas. Make them see you for who you are.
There is no set formula to building good conversations. The key is to understand people, identify their areas of interest, and connect with them at a personal level so that they find a relatability factor with you and build a stronger connection - both personally and at a professional level.
If you wish to understand the mechanics of conversation building in-depth, you can explore our effective Spoken English Classes Online and learn how to make conversation with just about anyone.