How to Have Better Conversations
An unofficial guide to improving your social skills through the art of speaking
Suddenly earns the reward: ‘Plays Well With Others’
We know that hosting or simply attending a party means thinking about so many things. What to wear, who to invite, what gift or food item to bring…the list goes on. But ultimately, what is one of the most important aspects of a social outing? We’ve polled the globe (just kidding - this is an opinion piece, but we have backed it up with the likes of Wall Street Journal, Dale Carnegie, and top thinkers and writers on social skills—see reading list below) and have concluded a major determinant success in social interactions: The quality of conversation.
People will remember how you made them feel. How we make them feel happens in conversation. Below are our top tips for having better conversations.
1. Share something personal
While this can depend on the circle you find yourself in, or the particular person you are speaking with, it is true across the board that people feel more connected when we share from our personal lives. Of course, which category of your personal life you choose to share from depends on whom you’re speaking with. Consider the times that you have felt connected with someone after a conversation:there was likely a common interest or a similar experience that bonded you. While in conversation, think about what bits of your life would offer an opportunity to open up - which in turn invites the other person to share about their life as well. Suddenly you’re both asking: “Did we just become best friends?!”
2. Ask questions that you would actually want to answer
You know the ones. The times you’re caught in conversation and the other party nicely asks you what you do for work. Or even better - comments on the weather. Now, it’s not a wrong question, and if you’re one of the lucky ones, you truly do enjoy your work, so talking about it is fun (like us here at Partytrick, obviously. Ahem, boss, are you reading this?) But when you’re first meeting someone new, or seeing someone you haven’t caught up with in a while, you can bet that people would far prefer to talk about something that excites or interests them outside of their paycheck.
Here are a few starters we love to kick off enticing conversations:
- “What are you looking forward to lately?”
- “What’s been a favorite moment of yours this past month?”
- “What do you like to do on a free Saturday?”
- “Any top [traditions, vacations, trips] you like to do this time of year?”
Do your best not to overthink which question to begin with. Remember that generally people are grateful to have someone show interest in speaking with them, so even simply the initial sentiment of you asking will be appreciated.
3. Open-ended questions go a long way
So it’s great to start asking questions and all—we love the effort there. But if you notice you keep hitting dead ends, think about what sort of questions you’re asking. A major way to take your conversation even further is to ask open-ended questions. These are helpful because they give the other party the opportunity to elaborate on their response. This creates more of a dynamic exchange, as they can now share more about themselves, which also provides you more content to interact with.
Ideas to open questions up:
- “I’d love to hear more about that!”
- “What was that like?”
- “Can you explain more of that?”
Which leads us to our next point...
4. Read the room: know your audience
It’s important to keep in mind how the other person (or people) in the conversation are experiencing it. If you can tell that they are thoroughly enjoying sharing about their life - wonderful. You get a gold star, and you’ll likely be the reason they loved the party.
However, recognize if the way you are asking questions is putting anyone off. There is a difference between being interested and seeming nosy or prying. While it may not be your intention to pry, some people may be put off by too many questions. It’s really a simple ‘read the room’ tactic. Notice their body language - are they leaning in or away from you? Do they look relaxed, calm or excitable, or like they’re ready to get the heck outta dodge? This is a minor point to make, but a helpful one, since not everyone particularly wants to answer questions at certain points in their life.
In this case, you can always ask a more simple question like: “How are you taking time to relax lately?” (or “How would you want to?”) You may just find your next favorite bubble bath routine.
5. Two-way street: Create space for reciprocating convo
The best conversations are those when both parties are actively participating. If this was a post about monologuing, then that would be the space for one person to go on and on about their life. However, as we are conversing about well, conversing (my my, where have our manners gone? We realize we’re doing most of the talking here) it’s important to remember the value of making space for both individuals or all, if in a group, to contribute. If you’re in a group, a good way to include Emma who hasn’t had a chance to speak up yet, would be to kindly invite her in.
“Emma, what’s your experience been like with this?”
Or, if you have no idea what the experience of a conversation hog is like, maybe take a moment. Could it be you? This is not us calling anyone out. Simply a helpful reminder that as individuals in conversation, it’s always more enjoyable when we feel included and heard. So next time you’re practicing these new skills, make space to pause and invite others in. You’ll be surprised by the neat things you learn when you intentionally listen.
To see some of our very favorite conversation starters, check these out:
- Convers(ate) - kickstarting convos worldwide (but really)
- Holstee - it's the patterns on these cards for us
- We’re Not Really Strangers - they took over IG and are taking our hearts too
- Hella Awkward - but it's literally the opposite
- Topix - featuring endless options: 424 to be exact
- Salsa - it's like Mad Libs, the spicy edition
- Block Party - Jenga with a twist
- Jenga Customized - make this game what you want; get to know each other, dare, tell a secret, you name it | Order Jenga
Our top reading list for better social skills:
- How to Win Friends & Influence People
- Never Eat Alone
- Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
- Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
- Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential
You’ve got this! A party is a great place to practice these social skills. Plus, practicing these in any setting will no doubt splay into other areas of your life - whether personal or professional. For more tips on throwing your best party yet, join the party!
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