Are you a bit shy? Do you often wonder what to say to strangers? Or relatives?
Maybe you’re at a big birthday party and don’t know many people. This could be a fun opportunity to get to know more people. You know how it can go. “Oh, you’re THAT Lara….”
Ok, maybe you don’t want to put it quite like that. But it can be fun to put a face to the stories you’ve heard.
In today’s blog, I’ll talk about talking to someone in a large group setting. However it’s also good to remember that these skills can be used when talking one to one.
What Is Networking
Networking has gotten a bit of a negative reputation. It’s just talking to a bunch of people in a group setting.
And it could be meeting someone to learn something from them. Often, we set up informational meetings to find out more information.
How Can Talking to People Help Me?
We humans are social creatures. Even the most introverted among us craves feeling like there’s a connection.
Good conversations help us achieve that. We can connect socially with new people and makes being in a new situation easier. We also have the possibility to meet new best friends or learn something new.
So it’s important to build up that talking muscle by having regular conversations. As an added bonus, it will help you in every day chatting as well as the tough conversations with loved ones.
How to Start A Conversation
Have a simple question you can always use in any circumstance. Often, the best way to open a conversation is by something rather light and not business related.
If you’re at a party or wedding reception, you can ask how they know the hosts.
Or you can ask about their favorite holiday location, or cuisine that they like. If you’re all local to an area, you can ask for recommendations for restaurants.
Try to find a few areas where you are in agreement as it will build up their opinion of you as well as their trust.
If you’re at a large conference or other event, it can get pretty overwhelming. Try to find someone who seems familiar and ask them for advice like “Hi, this is my first time and you look like you’ve been here before. Any tips on what to expect? What’s your favorite session?”
The Art of Conversation
Often people in conversations are thinking about their response instead of focusing on what the other person is actually saying. The key to a good conversation is to actively listen.
What Is Active Listening
There are a few different ways to actively listen. You’ll want to mix them up in a conversation.
The first is where you give some acknowledgement that you’ve heard. You can nod your head or say “Tell me more.” These are simple signals that are cues for the other person to expand on what they’ve said.
The next is reflecting feelings back. These can be positive and negative feelings. It depends upon the conversation.
“You were disappointed that you didn’t get the promotion.”
“Wow, you were so excited to win that grand prize.”
Then finally, there’s paraphrasing. This is a great way to remove any hot words from a situation. “So you’re concerned about the way it was handled.” This helps diffuse and calm down a situation if it’s tense.
If it’s not, then it’s a great way to show that you were listening to the story. “So, you rescued the squirrel from the attic after thinking you had a ghost for two whole days!”
How to Exit A Conversation
There are a few reasons why you should exit the conversation. Perhaps you’ve reached the end of what you can talk to, or perhaps there’s an awkward silence.
Often when we’re at a networking meeting or social function, we find someone so fun to talk to that we don’t want to end the chat. And that’s when we have to.
Remember your main purpose is to meet people so you’ll want to limit the amount of time you spend with one person. Or if you’re trapped by a relative who keeps asking awkward questions, you need an exit strategy.
Have An Ally
One of the easiest ways is to have a partner. You can gently keep an eye on one another, and if they give a signal, you can go rescue them or they can rescue you. One of my favorites is putting my glasses on top of my head.
You can also do a hand signal or a series of coughs.
So how do you rescue the person? You can rush up, grab them by the arm and pull them away. Or you can apologize to the other person and then look at your ally and say “I need to tell you this incredible news.”
Introduce Someone Else
Always say you’ve enjoyed the conversation even if you hadn’t. Then you can ask “Have you met So-and-So? I think they’d be really interested in hearing about XYZ.” Then you can make the introduction.
An alternative is to ask them if they could introduce you to someone else that they know who is interested in what you are.
You can apologize and then excuse yourself to use the restrooms or get another drink. You can offer to bring something back, but usually it’s declined.
If they do say yes, get someone to walk with you. Then you can pass off the drink, smile, and continue with your conversation with the new person.
Some people carry two drinks. Then when the time is right, they can excuse themselves saying they have to deliver the other drink.
You Really Want to Talk More
Let the other person know you’ve enjoyed the conversation and see if they can set an appointment for later in the week where you can meet for coffee and talk further.
Make sure you get their card and contact information.
Go Full Circle
You can wrap up a conversation by bringing it back around to what started it. For example, if you asked someone for some advice, thank them for the tip and summarize what you learned from them.
This could be a business tip or a cookbook recommendation.
Sometimes the easiest way is to thank them and say “I don’t want to monopolize your time,” or “I’m sure you want to talk to other people as well.”
Quick Tips for Tricky Times
Some conversations are messy, and we’re often left at a loss for words. Tuck these away for when you need them.
Death, Divorce, or Loss
The best thing you can say is “I’m sorry.” If you wish to continue the conversation, you can ask the person if they want to talk about it.
Try to avoid saying things like “It’s for the best” or “They’re in a better place.” Often we’ll say these things hoping to cheer the other person up, but it backfires.
Let them be the one to say it. Stick with active listening.
Weddings and Babies
The best thing you can say here is “Congratulations.” Even if it’s a mistake or a train wreck in the making. Then you can either continue the conversation with open-ended questions or you can gently excuse yourself.
My Final Thoughts
Don’t think of this as something that’s all or nothing. Conversation is a skill that gets built up over time with practice.
Some good resources are Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzer, and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R Covey.
Keith teaches how to do one to one connections which are just as important as large gatherings. And he teaches how to add value while gaining in return.
Crucial Conversations teaches you how to really have a conversation where you start with the heart. It helps to think of the other person as a real person who has the same little quirks that we all do.
And the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has a great section on active listening. Perhaps you’ve heard the habit “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”
So keep trying new things and practicing talking. When you have a connection, and it’s appropriate, you can recommend products from Inner Origin.
It’s often easier than you think. If someone comes up and says “Wow, you have a lot of energy,” you can explain about the supplements you take and how happy they made you feel.
So go out there and meet someone new today.