How to Make a Conversation Not Awkward

You Dont Compliment Enough (and Dont Accept Compliments Well)

Assuming you’ve been on the receiving end of a compliment at some point on your life, you know that when someone makes you feel good it tends to make you enjoy the conversation a lot more. It’s a deceptively simple tactic to improving conversation and one that can be employed in pretty much any social situation.

The basic idea here is to compliment the other party and make them feel good about themselves. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion author Dr Robert Cialdini offers two pieces of advice for doing this:

  1. Give Honest Compliments. It may not be easy, especially if the person has been distancing themselves from you for a while. But if you’re objective, they probably have some qualities you admire. If you take a positive action and compliment them, it may well break the ice and make them re-evaluate their perceptions of you.
  2. Ask for Their Advice. Cialdini notes this strategy — which involves asking for their professional advice, book suggestions, etc. — comes from Founding Father Ben Franklin, a master of politics and relationship building. “Now you’ve engaged the rule of commitment and consistency,” says Cialdini, in which they look at their actions (giving you advice or a book) and draw a conclusion from it (they must actually like you), a surprisingly common phenomenon in psychology.

The best part? According to a study published in the Journal of Marketing Research, you don’t even have to offer sincere compliments. When most people receive a compliment, even an insincere one, they immediately feel better about themselves and the conversation as a whole. So, break the ice by complimenting a tie, admire a well-thought-out argument, or praise an idea.

Of course, when someone actually offers you a compliment, it can be hard to accept it without being awkward. In that case, The Art of Manliness has you covered:

The first step in quitting the faux modesty of the compliment deflection routine is to realise that fully accepting compliments does not make you conceited. You didn’t come up with the praise yourself, someone else did! You’re just confirming another person’s assessment, and again, it’s more polite to accept and appreciate their judgment rather than to contradict it.

Second, it’s ok to let yourself feel proud of something you did well. A little pride need not involve an inflated sense of your accomplishments or worthy qualities — just an honest assessment of what you did. It’s quite possible to be modest, while still being grateful and gracious. So what’s the best response to a compliment? Get ready for it”¦”Thank you.” That’s it. There’s never a situation where a simple, unadorned thank you won’t work.

That’s it. Just politely say “thanks” and move along. It’s a lot easier than many of us make it out to be!

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2. Celebrate Their Wins

When someone shares great news with you, instead of dismissing it, sharing good news of your own, or even bashing their good news — celebrate their win by being genuinely excited for them.

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14. Focus On The Bright Side Of Things

Negativity is contagious and can spread quickly; refuse to be that person who transmits negativity through your family, friends, and coworkers by complaining all the time. Instead, be that person who can look at the bright side of a difficult situation and keep tough times in perspective. This doesn’t mean to be unrealistic and overly-positive, it means to be that person who can look adversity in the face and focus on what you can control.

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You met someone recently and you have chatted a few times, maybe hung out in person with other friends. You like them and you sent them a text to hang out together. But they replied saying they are with someone else.

It is an awkward situation because you didn’t openly ask them out, but they assumed that’s what you were trying to do and they very clearly stated that “hey, by the way, if this was your intention, just to let you know, I am seeing someone”. It is an embarrassing moment even via text and now you want to clear it up without sounding rude or defensive.

The best thing you can do in this situation is to say something like: “Thank you for being upfront and honest with me. I like hanging out and talking with you. And I also like your honesty.”

At this point do not try to change the direction of the conversation and make them feel embarrassed by saying something like: “What made you think I wanted to date you? I only asked to see a movie together.” That would be a bad move and very obvious that you are trying to cover your embarrassment by making the other person feel guilty for assuming too much.

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Happens to the best of us: Were all a bit socially awkward sometimes

You’re in a room full of strangers. Your cheeks are turning red, your knees are week (palms are sweaty, mum’s spaghetti…) and you just can’t get the words out in the right order.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone! It’s not unusual to get awkward in social situations, even the people who appear to have their sh*t together are usually just more practised at pretending…

Tips for Starting Conversations in Different Situations

1. How to Start a Conversation With a Coworker

When you’re talking to coworkers, it’s important to be on the same page. Find out if they are looking for conversation or just want to get their job done. If the conversation is what they are looking for, then you can ask them any of the following open-ended questions: – What did you do this weekend? – What did you think of that movie? – What are your thoughts on the new project? – How do you think this will turn out in the long run?

These are all great conversation starters because they don’t pressure your coworker into answering with an immediate response. They can take their time and give thoughtful answers, which ensures a better conversation flow.

2. Talking to Friends Without Much in Common

When you want to catch up with friends but don’t have much in common, it can be hard to find the perfect conversation topic. Here are some tips for starting conversations when you’re no longer interested in the same things:

🤓 Suggested read: 70 Conversation Starters for Couples

  • Find out if they’ve been traveling recently and ask them about their experience.
  • Ask if they’re watching any interesting shows lately and what they think of it.
  • If you know each other very well, talk about your life aspirations and how you want to achieve those. This will give you a good idea of which areas might need improvement!
  • When you don’t have much in common, it might help to ask the other person about the things they like. You’ll definitely find a topic or two that interests both of you!

3. Talking to Neighbors

Talking to neighbors can be especially awkward since there is a small chance that you’re going to see them again anytime soon.

  • Ask them if they need any help with something. This is a great opportunity to help your neighbor and also break the ice for future conversations. Make sure you’re not forcing this though – it should be genuine, not forced!
  • Find out if they’ve been traveling lately. If your neighbor is always gone, then you can ask about their plans for the upcoming weekend or holiday. This will give you an insight into what they do on a daily basis and how often they come home.
  • Make plans with them. Maybe you should invite them over for dinner or watch TV together.

4. How to talk to New Friends

Conversations with new friends can be scary because there is a chance that they don’t like you and don’t want to talk to you at all. However, if you’re interested in this person and think they’d like to talk to you, here are some good ways to start a conversation:

Suggested read: Things to talk about | 1000+ Great ideas for a conversation

  • Ask them about their favorites. Find out what they like. This is a great question for new friends because it gives the two of you something in common right away! By finding out what your friend likes, you’ll both be able to relate and build
  • Talk about dreams. Talking about dreams is always a great way to bond! Maybe you even share your dreams?
  • Make new plans with them. What could be nicer than having a drink or going to the cinema together?

Why it happens

There are many reasons this problem happens! Personality matters a bit – but even introverts can learn great social skills.

Cultural differences come into play as well. Maybe you don’t know how much you should share, or why exactly is that person trying to talk to you… Well, small talk is a very common part of American culture, that’s all!

Or maybe you’re just not confident enough in your own English level. Good news! That’s something that we can work on, and you’ll only improve.

Don’t worry – whatever the reasons, there are some tools and tips to help you improve your small talk in English!

Second, you should give longer answers

The studies say it makes you look friendlier: by sharing more details, you’re investing yourself in the conversation. It’s easier for the other person to find a common interest, too.

Try not to speak much more than you listen, though!

Plan into practice

When it comes to overcoming your social awkwardness, practice makes perfect. The more you chat, the less awkward AF moments you’ll have. If you want to flex your banter muscles a little before your next hang out, why not try logging on to a forum or chatting online while gaming?

What to do if you’re really struggling Putting these tips into action takes practice, and it might take some time to feel comfortable in social situations.

If you’re having a really hard time and you often feel intense anxiety in social situations, there might be something else going on and you should chat to your GP or a mental health professional about it. They can help you figure out what the issue is and work with you to figure out a plan of action. You can get more info about how getting professional help works here.

You Dominate the Conversation

Everyone hates when one person dominates a conversation, but it’s incredibly hard to realise when you’re doing it in the moment. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a conversationalist, you might end up dominating a conversation just because you’re nervous or excited about a topic.

You want to check yourself mid-conversation so you don’t end up talking the whole time. An article by the Wall Street Journal has two suggestions for keeping yourself from dominating the conversation:

  • Avoid your favourite topic — whether it’s opera or you Shih Tzu — or else you’ll probably talk too much.
  • With the dialogue chugging along, you can be expansive. But be careful. If the other person is talking too much, offer information about yourself. If you pause and the other person changes the subject, you were dominating.

It might sound counterintuitive to avoid your favourite topic, but it’s helpful at the beginning of a relationship so you don’t accidently dominate that conversation. Once you know someone well enough, you can dig into those topics together, but avoid them at the outset.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a little awkward in conversation or you’re the person who always has something to say. We all stand to improve our conversation habits. The above fundamentals are a good stepping stone to doing just that.

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