It seems like conversing with others is becoming more of a rarity these days, thanks in no small part to smartphones and a never-ending surplus of time-consuming apps. The problem is that folks who might suffer from a bit of social awkwardness aren’t having any favors done for them in terms of overcoming their shortcomings. Thankfully, we’ve got a few tips for rekindling the lost art of conversation and overcoming some of that social awkwardness.
When it comes to engaging with others—especially strangers—on a social level, it really boils down to conversation, and conversation starts with small talk. A surefire way to get a bit of small talk going is to simply ask a question. Consider the environment you and the other person are in and you’ve instantly got something in common, as well as a good place to start in terms of questions. “So, what made you pick this class?” Complimenting someone is another great way to break the ice. When all else fails, you can simply introduce yourself to the other person and see what happens.
If you’ve managed to get a little small talk going, the next challenge is to keep the momentum up. Try to avoid asking simple, “yes” or “no” questions. That makes it too easy for the conversation to dead-end. Stick with open-ended questions (How? What? Why?).
One of the best things you can do to start a productive conversation is to put in a little work ahead of time and think of a few good questions that could start and sustain a meaningful conversation. This definitely applies to something like a first date or a business meeting with new colleagues.
Don’t underestimate the power of your body language. How you sit or stand while talking to others can convey any number of personality characteristics, from honesty and security to anxiety and threatening. Make sure you’re facing the person you’re talking to and make eye contact. Don’t cross your arms or legs and try to lean in while someone else is talking to convey your general interest in what they’re saying.
Finally, one of the biggest things you can do while trying to defeat your social awkwardness is to focus on how the other person is feeling, as opposed to your personal feelings. Assume that the other person feels just as awkward as you do and think about what you can do or say to make them feel more comfortable.