Networking with other professionals is one of the best ways to get information about goings-on in your industry and even to find out about new job openings. But, just showing up and introducing yourself to everyone you meet isn't quite good enough; you really need to engage with them and spend some time getting to know who they are.
So, what do you do when you are more of an introvert and feel uncomfortable keeping a conversation going? The first thing is, don't panic. Almost everyone feels anxious when meeting new people. Most of us weren't born great conversationalist, it is a learned skill.
Most of the time, conversations with new people can take a little bit of work to keep the exchange interesting. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the conversation can stall. The trick is to learn some ways to keep the conversation going in order to get through the awkwardness.
Here are 5 ways to keep a conversation going:
- Make a list of your favorite topics – Everyone has special interests, hobbies and ideas. Sharing them with others can be great conversation starters and they can often provide some common ground. If you have trouble knowing what to talk about when you are “on-the-spot”, make a list of the things you really enjoy talking about. Memorize this list and when you find yourself in a conversation that isn't getting anywhere, find a graceful way to turn the conversation to one of those topics.
- Try to ask open ended questions whenever possible – People love to talk. And, what is their favorite subject? Themselves. It's true, everyone loves to talk about themselves, so ask them questions that allow them to do just that. Open ended questions are ones that can't be answered with a simple yes or no, and they give you a chance to really get to know the person you are talking to. Once you get them talking, be sure to ask follow-up questions.
- Don't be afraid of silences – Silences in a conversation can make most people feel very uncomfortable. As a result, when they happen, it can be tempting to try to fill it by saying the first thing that comes to mind. Use this to your advantage and allow the other person to end the silence and pick up the conversation.
- Practice all the time – If you have trouble starting and keeping conversations going, practice every chance you get. Turn it into a game and challenge yourself to find out at least 3 things about every person you meet each day. Once you start looking around for new conversational opportunities, you will probably find that there are people you see almost every day; who you know nothing about. If you take the game seriously, not only will it push you to get out of your comfort zone and practice your skills, but it will also help you get to know the people you interact with everyday.
Being a great conversationalist takes practice. Even though it can be intimidating to strike up a conversation with strangers, once you get past that, you'll find that almost everyone has something interesting to say.
What do you think are the best ways to become a better conversationalist? Let me know in the comments.
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By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer for CommunicationsJobBlog. Along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.