1. Bring up subjects that you both have in common. Some people have an extremely bad habit of talking about things that are extremely uninteresting to the person that they’re talking with. It’s adorable for like a second, if they’re passionate about the subject, but then gets old. I have a friend with an annoying tendency of talking about video games and video games only. I personally despise video games. Although he probably enjoysgetting to talk about something that he loves, I never enjoy listening to him. A conversation needs to go both ways. So, bring up things that you know the other person will have something to say about. If you’re just meeting the person for the first time, focus on your surroundings or the occasion as the topic of conversation. For example, you’re meeting someone for the first time in a class, ask them about what they think of the subject material. If you’re meeting them at church, ask them what specifically brought them there.
2. No monologues. This goes for both you and the person that you’re conversing with. If you feel yourself talking too much, ask a question that either relates back to the other person or asks their opinion on the subject that you were going on about. For example, recently I was enjoying some time with friends, telling them about patterns of behavior I had noticed in my family. When I sensed that I might be talking too much, I asked the others in the group if they had noticed similar patterns in their families. Which leads to…
3. Questions, questions, questions. You probably already know this one. People love to talk about themselves. Asking questions is the best way to keep a conversation going. However, avoid questions with yes or no answers, as they tend to kill conversations. Some of my favorite (very personal) questions are: What really frustrates you? What are people surprised to find out about you? What were you like when you were younger? (Obviously, these are questions that need to be built up to.)
4. Cut the small talk as soon as possible. Small talk is fine, as a means of introducing oneself or reconnecting. However, don’t linger on it. It’s not memorable, and it’s usually just a precursor to more interesting talk. I personally dislike when someone asks me about work or school, not because I dislike work or school, but because I’ve already told the previous three people I’ve spoken with about my experiences there because they, too, have asked me.
5. Be present. I struggle with this a lot. If I’m in the middle of a conversation that’s not particularly interesting, instead of trying to make the conversation better, I’ll get distracted by my surroundings or by other thoughts. When I really focus on the other person, I find them both more interesting and easier to talk to, because I’m picking up on verbal and physical cues that I wouldn’t otherwise. It becomes much easier to keep a conversation flowing. Almost nothing is more flattering than a person who is devoting their entire attention to what you have to say.
Be the person that you would want to have talking to you.