I am a champion of jibber-jabber. But I don’t like doing it. It’s easy to talk once you know how. But I would argue it’s more important to know how to let other people talk. Because there is nothing sweeter then the sound of your own voice.
The key to never running out of things to say is to focus on thoughts and feelings. The most important thing you should take away from this article is to ask deeper questions about what other people think and feel about life. Be an investigator. Try to get to the bottom of someone’s experience.
7. Deeper Questions About Thoughts and Feelings
A typical conversation might go down like this.
“What do you do? Do you work or to you study?”
You might answer: “I’m a psychologist”.
As a deeper, follow up question your friend might ask: ” What made you interested in psychology?”
You might answer: ” I grew up with a friend who used to think he was an alien.”
Another deeper question: “Well was he?” Or “How did that friend who thought he was an alien affect you?”
And so on…
Basically you can talk about the same topic infinitely. As long as you keep the conversation interesting, light and fun. Stay away from facts and arguments.
6. Lower Your Threshold for Speaking
Some people are perfectly happy to talk about anything. Talk about small unimportant things. Like the dress a girl is wearing or the color of shoes and what does it mean? Unlike important topics like what is the meaning of life or how to cure cancer, unimportant things are much easier to talk about. They are everywhere, they are accessible and you do not need a PHD to have an opinion. It could be a simple statement:
- “The weather is beautiful today”
- “You look beautiful”
- “I wonder how many bad decisions will be made due to the alcohol consumed at this bar tonight”
5. More Open-ended Questions
Open ended questions require elaborated answers. Questions that require thinking and long thought out answers such as:
- “What do you think about our current political climate?”
- “Why do you insist on asking open ended questions?”
- “How come some people are great dancers?”
- “Which of your parents is your favorite and why?”
4. Less Close-ended Questions
Close ended questions are questions that are easy to answer. They aren’t entirely bad but you need to know why you’re asking it. Or at least be willing to elaborate why you’re asking. This keeps the conversations going but if the person next to you answers “no” and offers no follow up such as asking “why did you ask me that?” Then that’s where the conversation ends.
- “Did you like vanilla or chocolate?”
- “Is it raining?”
- “How much do you weigh?”
3. More Mainstream Interests
I once was at a party talking with a history student who was doing his master’s thesis on transport. History is interesting and so can be history of transport, but only if you recognize that there are things that people care about and things that people do not care about. This history student did not filter what he told me. He just kept talking.
You need to put yourself in other people’s shoes and imagine what they might find interesting. Ideally you combine this with topics that you yourself care about. I personally read introductory textbooks into various disciplines or fields of study: history, biology, physics, biochemistry, psychology etc. I do this for myself but it’s useful occasionally in various conversations.
One summer I read an introductory textbook about environmental ecology. Environmental ecology is a branch of biology that studies interactions among organisms and their environments. I learned quite a bit there and this information later became useful when I was participating in an environmentally themed debate club.
Another time it was useful was when I hanging out with a group of sociologists. It just happened that the conversation steered into protecting the environment. A topic that I now had some very specific expertise in. Because of that I was able to casually slide in a joke and flex with some facts.
2. Play Along With Silly Ideas
This is known as the first rule of improvisation comedy. You always say “yes” to what your partner says. When you are in a group hanging out. And someone says we should become pirates! Then the best answer is “yes!”.
This makes the other person feel good and validated but you also do not stop the spontaneity. You could follow that up with “What should our flag look like?”
1. F.O.R.D. Method
F is for Family. Are you close to your family? How did your parents raising you influence the choices you’re making today? How’s it like being from a big family? Would you like to have more siblings? What does your brother or sister do?
O is for Occupation. What to you do for a living? Did you always dream of being an accountant? If you could choose any job, which would you choose? Do you have any crazy work stories?
R is for Recreation. What to you do in your free time? How did you stumble upon insect collecting? What is it about collecting bugs that fascinates you? What’s the most interesting thing about bugs? Which bug is your pride and glory?
D for Dreams. What’s your biggest dream? Why that dream? If you could do everything differently, what would you do? Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 or 30 years?
Wrapping it Up
You never run out of things to say if you validate others and ask deeper questions. Be an investigator. Get to the bottom of someone’s experience. Ask why? What do they feel and think about their experience?