Delving in to what conversation flow is can help you understand how to keep a conversation going. With a few simple steps, you can boost your conversation skills and focus on truly enjoying connecting with the individual you are speaking to.
How to Keep a Conversation Going
Sometimes it can feel tricky to keep a conversation going. You may feel nervous, you may be speaking with someone who doesn't really interest you, or you may just not click well with whoever you are conversing with.
Release Nervous Energy
If you tend to get nervous before speaking with someone new, or just in having conversations in general, you may find your nervous energy blocks you from thinking as clearly as you'd like. Any time an intense emotion makes an appearance, it is totally normal to feel less mentally sharp than usual. To decrease your nervous energy so you can focus on the conversation:
- Understand where your nervousness regarding conversations stems from (this may require some introspective thinking and/or journaling).
- Take some deep breaths and visualize yourself having a successful conversation (try to do this exercise everyday if possible for a few minutes).
- Close your eyes and connect deeply with your nervous energy, allow yourself to feel it, and then imagine yourself taking the nervousness out of your body and allowing it to float away.
- Create a mantra for yourself (It's okay to feel nervous, or I'm going to do the best I can and will continue improving my conversation skills).
- Try progressive muscle relaxation minutes before your conversation (begin at your toes and work your way up your body slowly tightening each muscle group and holding for 10 seconds).
When nervousness is decreased, it opens up the opportunity for better conversation flow and connection.
Express Openness With Body Language
One way to trick your mind into feeling more relaxed and also invite a more open conversation is to become aware of your body language. Body language tends to reflect our internal process, so if you feel closed off and nervous, your body language will reflect that. To promote openness with your body language:
- Orient your body towards the person you are speaking with.
- Maintain good eye contact.
- If your arms or legs are crossed, uncross them.
- Try to relax your hands and arms.
- Point your feet towards whoever you are speaking with.
- Mirror your body language after the person you are speaking with (this unconsciously implies connection).
When your body is relaxed, it can allow your mind to follow suit, making the conversation feel more comfortable for you. Your open body language also unconsciously signals to whoever you are speaking with, that they can feel relaxed and open up as well.
Create Room for Balance
In a conversation that flows well, both individuals take turns speaking and listening about evenly. This means that not one person is dominating the conversation, and both parties are able to share and ask questions thoughtfully. When speaking with someone, it's important to have an awareness of this balance.
- If you are speaking too much, take a look at the person you are speaking with and notice if they seem engaged and interested or glazed over.
- If they look bored or uninterested, sway the conversation back towards them.
- You can also joke about how much you talk and redirect the conversation back towards them.
Shift Your Perspective
Keep in mind that you can't expect to have great conversation flow with everyone and that there are some people you just won't click with. If you get into the mindset that every less-than-great conversation is reflective of you, you may block yourself from having truly meaningful conversations with people out of fear.
- Remind yourself that you most likely won't click with every single person you ever encounter, and that's okay.
- Reflect on why the conversation felt awkward or just didn't flow.
- Note at what point you felt uncomfortable during the conversation and why.
- Keep in mind that being a solid conversationalist takes practice.
- Awkward encounters can sometimes make for funny stories to share with others in a different conversation (For the sarcastic person: "I just had the best chat with [insert person's name]. We basically just stared at each other until I backed away slowly- so things are going well.")
Don't Fear the Pause
While a pause may seem like the opposite of a well flowing conversation, keep in mind that everyone processes information at their own unique speed. If you haven't spoken with this person before, be mindful of how long they tend to pause and don't panic if it feels longer than your typical pausing cadence.
- If the pause seems super long, ask a follow up question or make a statement that's related to your conversation like, "I'd love to know more of your thoughts on (insert topic)." You can also say an opinion or statement related to the conversation followed by a question to reignite your chat, such as, "I've always wanted to try gelato." "What did you think of it and what flavors have you tried?"
- If you're looking to exit the conversation, you can say, "I'm so glad we got to chat for a bit, but I have to head out."
- If you don't know the person and want to exit the conversation, you can say, "It was so great meeting you. I've got to head back home, but I hope you good rest of your day."
What Can I Ask to Keep a Conversation Going?
The best types of questions to ask are typically open ended. These invite longer responses filled with more details. Listening carefully to these details can help you ask follow-up questions or respond appropriately. Finding similarities in experiences is also a great way to connect with someone you are speaking with, so don't hold back when it comes to sharing a similar experience story with them. Examples of open-ended questions include:
- What was (insert experience) like for you?
- How difficult was it to do (insert experience)?
- What's the most exciting aspect of (insert experience, career, or hobby)?
- What led you to that decision?
- I had a similar experience back in (insert date)! What did you like the most about (insert topic)?
How to Keep a Conversation Going Examples
Examples of phrases and questions that help keep the conversation going:
- Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
- Help me understand what you mean by (insert phrase or subject)?
- Wow, that's so interesting! How did you get into that originally?
- What sparked your interest in (insert subject)?
- I'd love to hear about that a bit more.
- What's the most difficult aspect of (insert subject) for you?
- I can't believe you did that... I've done (insert experience) too!
- I love it there; I was there in (insert date) to (insert reason).
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How Do You Keep a Conversation Flowing?
Keeping a conversation flowing can take some practice, but with time, your ability to read the conversation and adjust appropriately to certain cues is sure to improve.