Some people seem to have a natural gift when engaging in a conversation. They can talk easily with anyone and keep the conversation going.
Unfortunately, for the rest of us, it can be a little more difficult.
Looking to keep a conversation going but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. According to experts, there are plenty of ways to keep a conversation flowing.
Here are their insights:
ColleenWenner-Foy, MA. LCMHC-S, LPC, MCAP
Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor | Founder and Clinical Director,New Heights Counseling and Consulting LLC
Show genuine curiosity
Ask questions relevant to the person you’re talking with but not so personal as invasive or embarrassing. And when answered, engage completely with your verbal and non-verbal cues as the person talks.
Follow-up questions are acceptable if they continue the thread of the conversation.
For example, “So what do you think about that?” If the answer is something like “I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it yet,” then ask for more information. Or “What would be the best way to handle this situation?”
Make eye contact and smile. It shows interest in what the other person has to say.
Don’t just listen to what people tell you; listen to how they say it.
Please pay attention to:
- Their tone of voice
- Their body language
- Their facial expressions
- Their gestures
Related: Why is Body Language Important?
This will help you understand them better and make sure you understand them correctly. You can also use these clues to gauge whether they want to talk further.
You’ll learn more about the person’s feelings and motivations by asking questions like “How did you feel when you found out?” or “Why did you decide to come here today?”
You show respect in listening by being attentive and interested and taking steps to build rapport.
Ask open-ended questions
Open-ended questions allow a person to elaborate on their answers, giving you greater insight into their thoughts and opinions. Asking good open-ended questions requires practice.
Try asking questions such as “Tell me more about why…” or “Could you give an example of when….” Open-ended questions encourage thoughtful responses, helping you get the most accurate information possible.
Find mutual interests and similarities
Conversations are like journeys—they start full of excitement and energy and end up feeling flat and dull. Finding ways to bring some life into the conversation is essential to avoid this fate.
One way to do this is to look for commonalities and shared interests. When you discover things you have in common, you feel more like continuing the conversations.
Ask the person to elaborate
Asking someone to elaborate on what they say is another surefire way to get them to divulge more information. Make the other person feel comfortable and encourage them to share more about themselves.
For example, ask questions like:
- “Tell me more about yourself.”
- “What do you think?”
- “How did you come to work here?”
People feel relaxed and comfortable enough to talk about things they might not otherwise reveal.
Use humor sparingly and strategically
Humor is an excellent icebreaker because it breaks down barriers between two people. But remember: Be careful not to overdo it. Too much humor can backfire and turn off people instead of getting them to open up.
Instead, use humor sparingly and strategically throughout the conversation. For example, you could start a conversation with a joke or something funny that recently occurred that the two of you can relate to.
Draw from your own experiences
When you’re trying to get people to open up, it helps to draw upon your own experience and knowledge. People tend to trust those who have been through similar situations before. So, try sharing stories about past events related to the topic.
Also, consider telling stories about friends or family members who’ve had similar experiences. These stories can help put the current situation in perspective and provide empathy.
There are generally accepted socially acceptable scripts that you can use. For example, you could ask them what they think of the weather, how well they are friends with the host, or even what they do to have fun.
However, once you’ve started an exchange and you’ve established a rapport, how do you keep it going?
Here are five tricks and tips that can keep a conversation going:
Be sure to look interested
There is nothing that kills a conversation more than a smile that declares, “I’m waiting for the conversation to be over to go elsewhere.” Be sure to keep your eyes open and engaged.
Do not look around the room; instead, look over your partner’s shoulder. Try to keep a certain level of eye contact.
Don’t discount small talk
Small talk is a subject that has a bad image. However, it can keep conversations moving and result in bigger issues. Therefore, go ahead and discuss the current events and what you’re planning for your weekend, and also the things you do to have amusement.
We must gain the right to engage in deep conversations. You may be tempted to interrupt the short conversation and provide something more personal, hoping to convince the person you are talking to feel more comfortable being more intimate with you, as well.
The better listener you are, the better speaker you become. With listening, you get awareness about different topics, and then you can freely talk about anything the other person wants to speak about.
You must be attentive to what you’re hearing from the other person instead of waiting to be the next person to speak. What are they likely to like? Would they like to discuss this?
Instead of having an agenda, take a moment to pay attention to what someone else is passionately talking about and ask questions about the topic.
Related: 50+ Reasons Why Listening Is Important
Ask interesting questions
Asking questions means you are interested in what they are talking about. Also, asking questions keep the conversation flowing. Do not fall for being caught in the trap of asking the same series of questions that are either yes or no.
This can make it easy for conversations to slow down, and it is too simple for your friend to feel as if you’re asking them questions. Instead, you should focus on questions that are open-ended.
Stay calm and consistent. Don’t be anxious; as with everything else, becoming a proficient conversationalist takes time to practice. So, go out and have a chat.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Founder,LifeSpring Counseling Services
Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients struggling with social conversations, oftentimes due to their anxiety.
Here are tips I suggest for keeping a conversation going:
Ask open-ended questions rather than using closed questions
Example: Ask, “So how did you and (insert name) meet?” as opposed to, “So, did you and Mary meet at college?”
The first question is an open-ended question that will result in a longer, more detailed, and informative response. In the end, one will likely get a short yes or no answer. If you want to keep the conversation going, practice using open-ended questions.
Be curious about other people
You’ve probably heard people say that people love to talk about themselves.
Rather than wait for people to ask you questions, get curious about the people you’re talking to and ask them questions. This allows you to take charge of a conversation.
It can help you make really good connections with others, and it can help you learn many interesting things that you wouldn’t otherwise learn about. So, put on your curiosity hat and ask questions (preferably open-ended ones).
Find points of connection or commonality
Some people say that there are 6 degrees of separation which means that you and the person you are talking to may have connections to some of the same people or organizations.
While making conversation, pay attention to mutual connections:
- Relationships with people
- Other affiliations
Pay attention to interests you may have in common, as these shared interests and connections can help conversation flow naturally.
You know how it is. You’re in the middle of a great conversation and don’t want it to end. Maybe it’s a new friend you are making or a potential romantic partner, but whatever the reason, you really want to keep this good conversation going.
If you are looking for how to keep a conversation going, you can try the following:
Ask open-ended questions
If you ask yes and no questions, you will get yes and no answers.
Instead of asking, “Do you have your BA?” you can ask, “What school did you get your BA at?” Even if the person didn’t get their BA, that gives them enough information to elaborate on their school or work history.
Be a good listener; show that you are interested in what they have to say
If you seem disinterested or distracted, the other person might be inclined to just stop talking. Why should they keep talking if it’s like speaking to a brick wall?
While they are speaking, watch their face and nod your head. Ask simple questions (if you can do so without interrupting them or being rude). This will show them that you are following along with the story they are telling you.
Find something you share in common
People enjoy talking about things they love.
I am an avid Disney fanatic, and if anyone starts a conversation with me that is about Disney in any way, shape, or form, I’m all ears. I can go on and on (and on) about all things Disney.
Try to find something that the other person is interested in to talk about. It’s best if that thing is something that interests you, as well. You can talk about your similar experiences or ask questions about what to do.
Ask for more details
A conversation can last longer if elaboration is needed. If the person you are speaking with said something which piqued your interest, ask them for more details.
“I recently went to France,” they might tell you. You can ask them follow-up questions such as:
- “What was that like?”
- “Did you visit the Eiffel Tower?”
- “Do you know how to speak French?”
Be open to continuing the conversation at a later date or time
Maybe you are engrossed in your conversation, but you or the person you are speaking with have to go. Just because you can’t keep the conversation going now doesn’t mean you can’t keep the conversation going.
You can always suggest that you pick up the conversation at a later date or time.
Just remember that though you might be fascinated with the conversation, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the other person feels the same way.
Pay attention to any verbal or non-verbal cues the other person might be giving. They might be indicating that they do not want to continue the conversation.
Related: How to Stop Yourself from Talking Too Much, According to 13 Experts
But, hopefully, they are just as interested in speaking with you again as you are excited to speak to them, and you can keep that awesome conversation going.
Steve Carleton, LCSW, CACIII
Executive Clinical Director,Gallus Detox
Conversations are essential for maintaining social connections and supporting overall well-being. People with strong social ties tend to have better mental health, and some research suggests people live longer when they have meaningful social interactions.
This is because people with strong social connections tend to have better health behaviors, cope better with stress, and have a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life.
One way to support and strengthen those connections is by keeping conversations going.
Here are some tips for sustaining a conversation:
Don’t ask static questions; open-ended questions can support communication
Static questions like “How was your day?” can often lead to one-word answers. Instead, try asking something like, “What was the highlight of your day?” These questions require more than a yes or no response, which can help keep the conversation flowing.
For families, especially with children, open-ended questions can support communication and bonding.
Parents can ask their kids, “What was the best part of your day at school?” instead of a more generic “How was school?” This will encourage the child to reflect and share their experiences.
Be an active listener; show genuine interest in what the other person is saying
This can be done by making eye contact, nodding, and offering comments. Ask for clarification or further explanation if needed. This helps show that you care about what they have to say and encourages them to continue talking.
For example, if someone mentions that they just went on a vacation, instead of simply saying, “That’s nice,” ask follow-up questions such as “Where did you go?” or “How was it?”
Silence can also be used as a tool for active listening, allowing the other person space to fully explain themselves before offering a response. But of course, this will depend on the context of the conversation and if it’s a more casual or formal setting.
Share personal stories or experiences related to the topic at hand
This helps draw out similar experiences from the person you are speaking with, creating a shared bond and keeping the conversation going. This way, there’s a back-and-forth exchange of ideas and information instead of the conversation becoming one-sided.
However, note that not all people can or feel comfortable sharing personal stories, so be sure to ask for permission before doing so.
Also, be mindful of how much you share and leave room for the other person to contribute. Conversations are meant to be a two-way exchange.
Melanie R. Jordan, NBC-HWC, ACE CPT
Nationally Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Weight Loss With Coach Melanie
Find a common bond; establish a connection that makes an engaging conversation easy
If you know who you will be speaking with ahead of time, look them up on more networking-oriented social media such as LinkedIn or simply Google them.
Note key facts such as their occupation, where they went to college, where they may originally be from, and any social/charitable activities.
You can then sprinkle these into your conversation as either an icebreaker to establish a connection that makes an engaging conversation easy or pull them out of your pocket if there are lulls.
For example, “Suzy, I saw on LinkedIn that you went to the University of Ohio. What were your favorite things about being a student there?”
If you are having an impromptu conversation either in-person or on a video call, you can note if the person is wearing anything that can lead them to talk about something they are interested in.
For instance, the other day, I was on a video call with someone I was meeting for the first time and noticed a World Series logo on his polo shirt.
I then commented on it, saying, “Looks like you’re all ready for the World Series to start.” In return, he shared that it was actually an old shirt from 2003 when he saw The Marlins play because he was from Southeast Florida. Bingo! Lots to talk about now.
Ask open-ended questions
In coaching, a fundamental skill is being able to ask open-ended questions–those that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no answer (a closed-ended question). It’s the same skill that will help you keep a conversation going.
For example, consider the difference between asking someone, “Did you like the food at the reception” versus “What did you think of the food at the reception?”
The first question would likely elicit a yes or no response, while the second one cannot be answered in that fashion. The open-ended question is also likely to include content that will prompt you to ask another question, and the conversation can take off from there.
Real Estate Professional | Investment Advisor | CEO,Cash For Houses
Starting a conversation is not a problem, but keeping it going is. In the business world, conversations matter a lot. The end of it can signify the end of a wonderful opportunity. Therefore, you must develop strategies to keep conversations going.
Knowing how to keep conversations going will ease the pressure of socializing with people.
Below are surefire ways to keep your conversation from dying:
Listening is more than giving ears to the speaker—it’s about picking the message from the conversation. However, you want the speaker to know that you are not absent-minded.
How do you do that? By nodding at certain points being raised. While doing this, you can summarize the main points and keep them in mind until your chance to speak arrives.
If you show you are listening, it encourages the other person to keep talking because they feel respected and understood.
Indicate interest; use body language
The other person will keep the conversation going if they notice how interested you are.
How do you show interest in a conversation? Using body language. This includes nodding, smiling, and maintaining a reasonable level of eye contact.
If the topic of discussion is the least relevant, you can guide it to the topic that interests you the most by picking up a subject in the conversation to create a new conversation.
Example: Your friend may be talking about his vacation, but when he mentions how he felt about resuming work, you can use the opportunity to ask him about the nature of his job and what it is like to work at his company.
Ask open-ended questions
Asking open-ended questions is one of the best ways to keep a conversation from dying. Open-ended questions don’t require a yes or no answer—they encourage the speaker to share more and elaborate on the topic.
For example, open-minded questions like, “What do you like best about your occupation?” or “What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in your workplace since you started?” will kickstart a conversation that will give you invaluable information.
However, questions like, “When did you finish the project?” will only attract a simple yes or no answer, which can’t keep the conversation going.
While asking questions will keep the conversation going, you should avoid asking too many questions. It will feel more like an interview than a conversation with the person you are conversing with.
Ask follow-up questions
Asking follow-up questions shows you are interested in what the other person is saying, which will encourage them to open up more.
When you notice the conversation slowing down or you have no clue what to say next, you can ask follow-up questions like, “You mentioned before you declined the job interview. Why?”
Another example of a follow-up question is, “When you say you were planning your next move, what do you mean?”
Use the IFR Method
When conversing with others, you must know when to ask and share questions. Timing is crucial in this case.
A method I recommend is the IFR method, which stands for Inquire, Follow-up, and Relate. Inquire means asking a sincere question related to the conversation. Follow-up means asking another question, while Relate means sharing personal information that’s related to the conversation.
For example, If the conversation centers around qualifications and expertise. This is how to use the IFR method:
- Inquire. “Where did you earn your degree?”
- Follow-up. “Did you also obtain a Master’s there?”
- Relate. “I obtained my Bachelor’s and Masters from the same institution. Surprising, right?”
Ask for recommendations
When the conversation is approaching its end, you can leverage the opportunity to ask them for advice on the topic they just shared with you. Their advice could help you achieve your professional goals.
For example: “I know you are proficient in the energy sector, but I was wondering if it would be best to invest in green energy now.”
These methods will keep a conversation going, irrespective of the gathering.
Business Coach and Leadership Mentor | Founder, Lattice & Co
Conversations with people can often get dry and boring. Knowing what interests a person and constantly keeping them engaged isn’t an easy task.
Here are some ways to keep a conversation going:
Avoid close-ended questions
To keep a conversation going, you must ask open-ended questions. Such types of questions require long answers.
Close-ended questions which only have a “yes” or “no” answer should be avoided.
For example: If you ask someone how their day at work was (close-ended question), they will reply with a simple one-liner answer. If you ask what they did at work (open-ended question), they will be able to give you a more detailed answer.
Show that you actually care
In order to keep a conversation going, you must follow up with further questions. This will show that you actually care about the person as well as the conversation at hand.
For example: When you ask someone what they did at work, follow up with a question about what part they liked the most.
A balance should be maintained in a conversation
In order to keep a conversation interesting, there should be more than just one person talking. One-sided conversations can become very dull. Hence, the other person should be given an equal opportunity to be part of the conversation.
Related: How to Come up With Interesting Facts About Yourself
Avoid asking too many questions
The conversation shouldn’t sound like an interview. You should also share things about yourself instead of continuously asking the other person questions.
Maintain eye contact
Maintaining eye contact is important because it lets you know if the other person is still paying attention.
Find mutual interests
Talk about things that both parties are interested in, as opposed to something that the other person has no interest in.
Show genuine interest
You should show that you are genuinely interested in indulging in a conversation. If you do so, the other person will be much more motivated to keep up a conversation with you.
Owner and Founder, Homestead Brands
Ask open-ended questions
If you want to keep the conversation going, ask questions. A great way to do this is by asking open-ended questions:
- “What do you think?”
- “How do you feel about that?”
- “What are your thoughts on that?”
Don’t ask yes-no questions because they will force the other person to make a decision. You can also use your body language to help you out. For instance, if the other person’s face turns red, that means that person is uncomfortable with the topic.
If you’re sitting comfortably and listening to what the other person has to say, then that shows the other person that you are comfortable with what they have to say.
You must be willing to change topics
A conversation is a delicate balance between maintaining a flow of information while also remaining open and honest about what is going on.
Most conversations start with an agenda and end with a conclusion. To keep a conversation going, try to keep an agenda that can change based on what is happening in the present moment.
You must remain flexible and willing to change topics to keep the conversation flowing. This flexibility gives your conversations a natural flow that builds rapport.
You could have a great discussion and keep talking for hours without having to say anything.
Some people can’t keep the conversation going at all, but to get good at conversations, you need to work on how to keep the conversation going, and you need to practice.
Practice makes perfect. So, let’s say you and your friends are hanging out, and you’re all talking about the latest football game. Before you know it, you’ve been chatting for three hours. You don’t have to say much. All you have to do is keep the conversation going.
You can talk about anything. You could be talking about the game or your family, or politics. The point is you just need to keep the conversation going.
Always look for common ground
To become a good conversationalist, you have to learn how to keep the conversation going. You don’t have to talk a whole lot. If you have an idea, you can just let it flow.
You can be a silent listener. You don’t have to make any big statements. Sometimes you don’t even need to speak.
If you want to keep the conversation going, here are some tips for you:
- Be aware of your breathing. Make sure you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Slow down and relax. Take a few deep breaths.
- Use humor.
- Watch the body language. If someone is speaking too quickly, it’s a sign that they want to dominate the conversation.
- Listen. People are more likely to talk if they feel listened to.
The key is to make sure that you’re always looking for common ground. The most successful conversations are those where everyone can contribute.
If you’re in a conversation with someone looking to have an exclusive discussion, don’t be afraid to interrupt them and talk about something you both care about. This way, the conversation doesn’t feel like a one-sided conversation.
Pick a critical aspect of someone’s daily life
It’s often difficult to keep a conversation going, especially with someone you don’t know well. However, there is usually that specific thing that you know about that person that you can use in your conversation.
For example, you heard that your colleague is currently arranging his new flat. You can always ask how the process is running and what his tips are for refreshing your kitchen.
Once you focus on a specific aspect of someone’s daily life that is currently important to them, you will find plenty of related topics to keep the conversation going.
The importance lies in listening to others and being able to pick this one thing that is currently on their priority list. Maybe your neighbor bought a new car, or her child started attending tennis lessons at the local club.
Show genuine interest in someone’s current projects and devote time to getting to know them better. You won’t even notice when your conversation keeps going, and there is no awkward silence that makes everyone uncomfortable.
In addition, you will learn more about people from your surroundings and have a chance to build meaningful relationships that will make you happier.
We’ve all been there. The conversation just dies down, and the dreaded, uninvited silence takes over. Then, of course, the more you stress or try to force it, the more of a blank you draw (in your mind).
But the past doesn’t have to define the future. Here are some easy methods to keep the conversion going (despite the odds) and make it fun, light, and organic.
Ask open-ended questions
As opposed to saying, “How long have you lived here?” Or “So…do you like LA?” — questions that inevitably end with a conversation-killing one-word answer — ask instead questions that naturally steer towards a longer answer.
So you might ask: “What made you move here?” or “Why do you enjoy living on the West Coast?”
Whenever you can make it into a “how-” or “why-” oriented question, the other person is invited to open up and elaborate on their reply, making them all engaged and committed to the conversation.
In addition, the more info they reveal, the more potential new topics emerge to keep the chat going.
Implement the IFR
What is IFR, you ask?
Well, it stands for:
- Inquire. Ask a sincere question.
- Follow-up. Ask a follow-up question.
- Relate. Share something about you related to the topic to mix it up and keep the conversation balanced.
- John: “What do you like to enjoy doing on weekends?”
- Thomas: “Well, I like to go to brunches, play squash and spend time with my niece.”
- John: “Oh, yeah? Well, what’s your favorite brunch spot?”
- Thomas: “Crepevine.”
- John: “I heard that’s a good one! I’ve got to try it. My favorite is Zazie’s. Their pancakes are simply amazing! You’ve got to try it.”
It’s not about sucking up or lip services, but nothing builds rapport faster than commonalities and shared interests. So try to find them early on and watch the conversations flourish once you find something you both enjoy (doing/talking about).
Try them for yourself and enjoy your newly discovered “superpower.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Can technology affect the way we converse with others?
Technology definitely has an impact on the way we converse with others. The advent of social media and texting has made it easier to stay connected with others, but it has also changed the nature of our conversations.
Online communication lacks many of the nuances that occur in face-to-face conversations, such as body language and tone of voice. This can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication.
In addition, technology can create a sense of distance or anonymity that makes it easier to say things we wouldn’t say in a face-to-face conversation. This can lead to online bullying, harassment, or hurtful comments. It’s important to remember that there is a real person on the other end of the conversation and to be mindful and respectful in our online interactions.
But technology can also be used to enhance our conversations. Video calls and online forums can facilitate meaningful connections with people from around the world. Social media can be a platform for sharing ideas and perspectives and can help us learn from others.
The key is to use technology to support, rather than hinder, our ability to connect and communicate with others.
What are common conversational pitfalls you should avoid?
Several conversational pitfalls can derail a conversation, such as interrupting, talking too much, and dismissing the other person’s opinion. Interrupting someone while they’re talking can be rude and disrespectful and make the other person feel undervalued. It’s important to let the other person finish their thought before responding.
Talking too much can also be a problem because it prevents the other person from contributing to the conversation. Ensure you give the other person a chance to speak and share their thoughts.
If you don’t take your conversation partner’s opinion seriously, it can derail the conversation and create a negative atmosphere. Even if you disagree with what the other person is saying, respecting and acknowledging their perspective is essential.
Remember that the goal of a conversation isn’t to win an argument but to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
How can I use storytelling in conversations?
Storytelling can be a powerful tool in conversations. It can help create a connection with the person you’re talking to and convey ideas and perspectives memorably and engagingly.
When using storytelling, it’s important to be authentic and genuine. Share personal experiences or anecdotes that are relevant to the conversation and convey your message.
Another way to use storytelling is to use them to illustrate a point or concept. Use metaphors or analogies to help the other person understand complex ideas or abstract concepts. This can help make the conversation more engaging and impactful.
Finally, keep your audience in mind when using storytelling. Tailor your stories to the situation, interests, and background of the person you’re talking to. Use language and cultural references that are familiar to them.
Using thoughtfully and intentionally storytelling can enrich your conversations and build stronger connections with others.
Can conversation skills be used in a professional setting?
Absolutely! Conversation skills are valuable in many professional situations, such as job interviews, networking events, or meetings with colleagues or clients. Good conversation skills help you build rapport and communicate your ideas and perspective effectively.
In a professional setting, it’s important that you express yourself clearly, concisely, and confidently. Practice active listening and ask thoughtful questions to show your interest in others’ perspectives.
Avoid overly casual language or slang and be aware of cultural differences in communication style.
You should also maintain a professional demeanor in casual conversations. Be aware of your body language and tone of voice, and avoid topics that may be controversial or offensive. By mastering conversation skills in a professional setting, you can make a positive impression and advance your career.
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