Keeping a Conversation Going – No More Awkward Silences.
It happens to us all. You’re in a conversation and all of a sudden… Silence.
Your brain freezes. You don’t know where to look or what to do, let alone what to say. Conversation topics have completely dried up and you’ve got no idea how to keep the conversation going. And it’s a first date!
Just the thought of not being able to keep a conversation going is sometimes enough to hold you back. Stifle you. Stop you dating. And that’s the last thing you need if you want to start a new relationship or meet new people socially.
Knowing how to start a conversation, and in particular, knowing what to say during the conversation is a social skill that is often underestimated. It makes keeping a conversation going with a guy or a girl on a date so much easier (and enjoyable!).
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‘Confident conversation’ skills are things you can learn. They’re not complicated. There are some simple techniques you can use that really can help. You can put them into practice straightaway. Awkward silences are the last thing you (or your boyfriend or girlfriend) need on a first date.
The most common mistake people make?
They think the onus is on them to do all the talking. Try to switch your thinking on this. In fact the key to keeping a conversation going is not talking but listening.
Think about it … If you listen and take on board what your partner is saying, you’ve got topics to keep the conversation going landing in your lap the whole time.
Shift your thinking
Whereas normally you may be in active mode (thinking of what you’re going to say next), on your next date, try to be more in passive mode (reflecting on what the other person is saying).
Listening does come more naturally to some people than others. Passive people tend to be better listeners than active people. Our Communication Style questionnaire will help you to work out where you stand here. It will give you a feel whether you are instinctively an active or passive person.
Tips for starting a conversation and keeping it going
Having some conversation topics prepared beforehand is essential. They give you a fall back plan if there’s a silence. Try asking thoughtful questions rather than questions that require “Yes” or “No” answers. Most potential partners will like talking about themselves and their interests.
Look for clues about the person and comment on them. For example, if the person’s carrying a book, ask what they’re reading. If they show an interest in a painting or the decor of the restaurant, explore that … they may have an interest in art or interior decoration.
If you’re still struggling for something to say, questions like “What do you enjoy doing outside work?”, “What makes you laugh?”, “What’s your favourite kind of holiday?” are all great conversation starters. They’re all open questions that invite discussion. Ideally they’ll lead naturally on to other subjects.
Don’t assume that you know what the other person is thinking or feeling. Instead, turn your perceptions into questions too. That way, you can make sure there’s no risk of misunderstandings, you show you’re interested in what the person is saying and … you keep the conversation going.
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Stop checking yourself
It’s natural to think about what you’re going to say before you say it. That’s exactly what you should do. You’re less likely to say the wrong thing or embarrass yourself.
Don’t ‘over-check’ though. You’ve probably heard of the saying “Analysis, paralysis” … If you think too hard about what you’re going to say, you’ll end up literally talking yourself out of it. And you’ll make it very difficult for yourself to take in what your boyfriend or girlfriend is saying because you’re concentrating on yourself so much.
Do some research
If it’s a first date, or you’re still getting to know each other, do some research so that you’ve got some background on the person. You might not have to use it but it might well come in handy in terms of what you’ve got in common.
For example if you’ve discovered on social media that one of the person’s hobbies is skiing, then you might well be able to ’manufacture’ an opportunity to raise the subject … then hopefully the person will show an interest and the conversation starts to flow. Even better if you like skiing too.
Use positive body language
Good eye contact is the key to conveying interest, concern, warmth and credibility in a relationship. Bad eye contact does exactly the opposite and can be hard to retrieve. Make a conscious effort to engage your partner while they’re talking. It’s natural to look away on occasions while you’re talking. People expect this while you’re thinking.
Smiling also helps. A simple smile is a powerful cue that transmits friendliness, warmth, and approachability. Smiling is contagious too; it helps to make the other person feel relaxed with you.
Use gestures such as head nods to show the person you’re listening. Leaning forward can help too; this tells the person you’re genuinely interested. Be very conscious not to distract them by fidgeting or making sudden movements. This might make you look nervous or uncomfortable.
Be conscious of your posture too; don’t cross your arms. Try to relax your shoulders. If you look tense, your partner is more likely to feel tense too.
Sit or stand facing the person as you’re talking. Looking at the person sideways-on may send negative messages or may convey you’re not particularly interested. Always try to use confident body language.
Try all these practical tips for keeping a conversation going on your next date. I wish you luck and hope a new relationship blossoms.
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