It happens to the best of us (even those of us, like me, who can chew ears off talking ourselves into oblivion): a conversation stalls. Maybe you're talking with someone new or maybe you're chatting with a colleague with whom you've worked before, but, either way, there's a lull in the conversation. The silence is awkward, and you're not sure how to keep the ball rolling.
While, in the grand scheme of things, these moments don't mean much of anything (and your conversation partner probably feels just as awkward as you do, if they even care at all), no one wants to have dull conversations. After all, being an effective communicator who can keep the energy going is a valuable skill to have as a professional.
Fortunately, there are simple conversation techniques you can use to keep the other person engaged, interested and wanting to talk. All it takes is building rapport, gaining comfortability and keeping confident.
Here's how to keep the conversation going (and why you should want to at least try).
How do you continue a conversation that's on its way to dwindling out completely? Here are seven tips.
Studies suggest that keeping open body language makes you a better conversationalist; after all, a huge chunk of our communication is nonverbal. In fact, UCLA research has shown that only seven percent of communication is based on the actual words we say. Meanwhile, 38 percent comes from our tone of voice and the remaining 55 percent comes from body language.
People will feel more comfortable around you if you know how to make yourself appear open and receptive to hearing what they have to say.
You might also want to mirror your conversation partner's body language.
"Mirroring body language is something we do unconsciously when we feel a bond with the other person; it’s a sign that the conversation is going well and that the other party is receptive to your message," according to Talent Smart.
Ultimately, body language and other nonverbal communication styles are just as important as verbal language when having a conversation.
This is simple advice, but it's easy to take. Ask questions of the person with whom you're speaking — particularly, open-ended questions. This compels them to open up and talk with you — and research shows that people love talking about themselves, anyway. Just be sure that you don't ask anything too personal or private right away, and stay away from inappropriate topics such as politics and religion when you're first meeting someone especially. Stick to general questions about their work and interests instead.
Once you get to know the person a little more, especially as you begin asking them questions, chances are that you'll learn of a common interest. Say, for example, you're both into traveling. You can ask them more about their travels, letting them know that you're a big traveler, too, and opening up about some of your own travel stories. You might even find that you've done some of the same travels and have even more to chat about than you thought.
If you're talking in an environment that contains some element worth noting, you can acknowledge it and talk about it. If, for example, there's a song playing in the background that brings back a memory for you, maybe you want to mention it and ask them about that time period in their lives or their favorite kind of music.