I used to sit like a mute while people around me had conversation as if I weren’t even there. I felt like a fly on the wall. I wanted to disappear into the wall. I may as well not have been present.
That was before I learned the art of communication. There are no big secrets to being a great conversationalist, but there are a few small tips that will help you overcome shyness, and jump into the conversation.
The first thing you have to do is realize that you are no less important than anyone else at the table. You have valuable things to contribute to the conversation. You have thoughts and ideas that no one else has. This may be the first point where you freeze up.
If you feel like everything you say is dumb, or beat yourself up mentally after you speak, you are not alone. A lot of people are socially shy because they lack confidence in themselves. The reality is that what you have to say is just as important as anything others have to say. Your self-doubt is a huge hindrance in your ability to communicate.
Here are a few tips to help you become a great conversationalist:
If you read no further, you have just read the first and greatest tip to becoming a great conversationalist. Ask lots of questions. People love to talk about themselves and the possibility of questions is deep and wide. You can ask where they are from, then follow up with questions about their hometown. Ask about their job, or what they are studying in school. Ask what brought them to the social function you are attending. Find out how they are related to the host or hostess.
If you ask questions, and really listen to the answers you will not run out of things to discuss. By asking questions, you will find out what you have in common with others, and conversation will naturally grow out of commonalities.
When the conversation lags, ask about something else. If you walk away from a conversation having shown interest in the other person, they will think you are great conversationalist. The reason: they got to talk about themselves, their favorite subject.
Read Newspapers and Magazines
You may not have the time or interest to read a newspaper or magazine cover to cover, but stay informed about local events, national and world news. Have your Internet homepage set to feed national and world news headlines to your homepage.
Read magazines that provide fodder for small talk about celebrities and television shows. If you don’t have time for that, catch a quick entertainment show first thing in the morning, or before you go to bed. If you don’t go to the movies very often, at least stay apprised of what is showing. Talk to people about which movies are worth seeing. Ask them if they have seen a particular movie. Find out their opinion of a movie or actor.
Another great thing about reading is that you may find yourself armed with information that no one else knows. Then, you can come out of your frozen tongue mode and share what you learned in your reading. Tell them where you read it. Your input will help push the conversation along, and may lead to new openings in the conversation. When someone brings up a subject you are not familiar with, fall back to rule number one: ask questions. Don’t be afraid to say, “I didn’t hear about that, what happened?”
Listen to Talk Radio
This may make you cringe, especially if you are a music lover. If you are a music lover, learn to talk about music genres, bands, cd’s, and concerts. Then you can skip this step. Otherwise, bite the bullet and turn the radio over to a talk station.
Listen to hosts who have like views, so you have a way to defend your opinions and ideas. Also, listen to alternative viewpoints. You will learn all kinds of new things. You will hear funny anecdotes to share, and be able to discuss current events with intelligence. A great station with lots of variety is National Public Radio, NPR.
Determine what you listen to based on the type of people you hang around. If you are spending time in a business crowd, listen to hosts who discuss financial planning, stocks, bonds, or job related issues. If you are around an artsy crowd, find information on art, poetry readings, art shows.
Make an effort to educate yourself in a broad range of subjects, and soon you will find that you never run out of things to say.
Don’t Over Evaluate Your Comments
Once you find yourself in conversation. Tell yourself to relax. Take a couple of deep breathes. What you say in the course of one conversation is not going to make or break the rest of your life. You will, however, feel better about yourself for participating in the conversation.
Arm yourself with information and ask lots of questions. Remember, people are just people. No one is evaluating your conversation as critically as you are. The last and biggest step is to jump into the conversation. You don’t have to be the center, but add to the discussion and you will no longer trudge home feeling like a wallflower.