My 11 year old son said to me this morning, “Mum, I’m not good at starting conversations”.
(That was hard for me to hear, considering he had spent 12 months in my confidence drama class that included helping you find your voice, being confident in using it and how to talk with others! Oh well. Try another angle, Lisa.)
“Congratulations! You finally found something that you good at!”
He looked at me perplexed. “Mum were you listening to me? I said, I’m not good at starting conversations.”
“Or, you are good at not being able to start conversations!”
He cracked up laughing.
His school principal has been at him to work out what he’s good at and my son can never find his skill set. He is so busy comparing himself to everyone else rather than seeing what his strengths and preferences are. We run our own race.
“You have to find something to tell your Principal and today we found it! Congratulations, you’re good at not starting conversations!”
This fully cracked him up.
He is actually very good at starting conversations, particularly around topics he’s interested with people of like minds and with people he knows well.
So there lies the problem. If we not hanging around the people that have similar interests to us of course it’s going to be difficult to converse with. You have to learn to converse with people who are different to you.
I reminded him that “maybe it’s a good thing that you’re not good at starting conversations? How about taking the approach of ‘hello, my name is Oliver. If you don’t like talking, I’m the friend for you! Join me where I will not start a conversation and you’re free to have your own thoughts in your own mind and be my friend.”
This got him into stitches of laughter.
Not everybody wants to talk all the time, not everybody has to talk all the time. There are some people in the world who are quite happy to to have quiet conversations. There are some people are world who talk too much and really need that friend who is good at listening.
People are great at starting conversations about stuff they know, with the people they feel comfortable with. Chances are, if you’re feeling like you can’t start a conversation with somebody it’s because they are new to you or very different to yourself.
Here are 3 SIMPLE tips to starting a conversation when you are feeling uncomfortable (teach these to your kids.)
#1: Ask them what they have been up to today (or on the weekend).
Most people like talking about themselves, so what better way to start a conversation with a question that is all about them!
#2: Find common ground.
When people discuss the weather or how they know a party host they are trying to develop rapport with each other and a spot where they can agree. This is the ‘common ground’, the place we can agree and keep moving along with the conversation. (A mismatcher will disagree and you’ll find flow in the conversation difficult.) You could start your conversations with a safe topics like sports, the seasons, the environment you are in at the time. Questions like ‘what brought you here tonight?”
#3: Listen more than you talk.
We often think that we have to fill the gaps in conversations with words that can get you in a pickle and say things that are embarrassing! Avoid these moments by listening carefully to what the other person is talking about and ask quality questions that will keep the conversation running and that shows that you’re actually interested in what they have to say!
If you’re not interested in what they have to say and the conversation isn’t interesting, don’t waste your time or someone else’s. Be polite. Wait for a natural end to a topic and thank them for the chat. “Great chatting to you today. Hope you have a lovely day” and excuse yourself. If you were finding it awkward, chances are they were too!
Starting conversations can be really uncomfortable and awkward and you can have the fear that someone will judge you or dismiss you. These problems belong to them and are not yours. If the conversation feels uncomfortable, don’t worry about it, excuse yourself and move on. There will be plenty more times here to embarrass yourself (and to meet someone new and interesting)!
Have a great day. x
After 20 years Performing Arts Specialist and Educator i have taken my skills in Peak Performance and relationships to a new level. Trained in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) as a trainer and practitioner from the internally renown, ‘The Coaching Institute’ I am excited to let the change work begin! With a tool box full of techniques and processes from my career and education (Bachelor of Education and Graduate Diploma Special Education) I am thrilled to integrate with the wonders of NLP to give you the power to create your compelling future. Are you up for the journey to begin!?
Facebook Group: The Speaker Within Club