Conversation Skills – Learn to Rescue a Dying Conversation


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Have you ever been in a conversation that just runs out of steam and goes nowhere? Instead of happy chatter between two people enjoying a conversation, there’s just awkward silence? No matter what you say, it just sounds stilted.

How do you feel when a conversation starts to bog down and go nowhere? As the silence mounts and the words lessen, does your mind go blank? Do you start to panic? Do you put yourself down for not being a smooth talker?

Most of us feel quite uncomfortable when a conversation runs out of steam and silence takes the place of words. People who are socially confident can usually get this kind of conversation going again, but it does take some skill and some practice.

You can learn to rescue even floundering conversations and get them going again. Not always, but most of the time.

First, when a conversation starts to run out of steam, ask yourself if maybe it was time to end the conversation anyway. Perhaps you have talked enough. Maybe it really is time to go. Say “Goodnight, Gracie”.

It’s not always a bad thing when a conversation dies down. After all, if two close friends are together and the conversation stalls, it’s not the end of the world. Between two people who know each other well, the silences can be comfortable and warm. They don’t need to fill up every second with words.

Things feel a lot worse when you’re in a conversation with a stranger, and neither of you can think up things to say. What can you do to start the conversation going?

First, don’t blame yourself. If the conversation has died down, remember that you only have 50 % of the responsibility for the conversation. The other person must also do their part.

When a conversation starts to lose steam, don’t panic. Instead, treat the entire situation as a chance to work on your conversation skills. You may have to try several various strategies.

For example, try to remember some remarks the other person has made earlier about some interest of theirs that you haven’t discussed yet. It might be from a conversation that the two of you had several minutes ago, or several weeks ago, but it’s a lead-in to something that they are interested in. With any luck, you might be able to get a conversation going about that topic.

For example, you might say, “You were telling me last week that you have always wanted to go to the Himalayas. What makes you interested in going there?” It’s quite likely that the other person may jump on the chance to talk about something that really interests them.

As well, they will be grateful that you noticed one of their most important interests and that you want to talk about it. You can lead the conversation away from the boring, predictable small talk interests and move towards topics that are truly interesting to both of you.

If you practice this conversation skill often enough, you may even find that you welcome conversations that start to get boring and flat. After all, now you get a chance to improve a valuable social skill that can help you become a better conversationalist in the future.

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