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advice on talking to people in social situations

December 16th, 2009 at 01:42 am

When we bought our house earlier this year, on settlement date the real estate office that handled the sale gave us a bag of goodies. In it was some camembert cheese, champagne, crackers, chocolate, a newspaper subscription, key rings and a book written by a local hinterland author, Allan Pease, about interacting with people, how to be a great conversationalist, how to talk to men/women etc etc. So it turns out that Allan Pease is actually well known in the motivational/public speaking sector, and out of coincidence I heard him on the radio a few days at work, too.

Having never read the book the real estate so kindly gave us, I decided to have a flick through yesterday, and found it to be really good.

I am terrible in social situations. Before I even *arrive* at a party or event my stomach is in knots from anxiety and I feel physically sick. ( I know, Big Grin it's awesome to be me.) I have no idea how to talk to people I don't know so my conversation is stunted and awkward. My mind goes completely blank for any interesting topics of conversation, and any usual questions you would ask someone, even with people I know but don't see a lot.
This book was really interesting and I got a couple of things out of it:

First of all, people don't want to hear about you, they want to talk about themselves. Which sounds kind of harsh but kind of makes sense. So when you're trying to talk to someone you just met, don't sit there waiting for a gap in conversation so you can talk about yourself, keep the focus on the person you're trying to talk to. Eventually conversation will flow freely and they will ask you the same things.

Secondly it talks about the open-ended questions (which we all know is commonsense) but then also talks of using 'bridges' in conversations to keep it flowing, (which is my major downfall) if you are talking to someone who gives short answers. (Bridges are 'such as' 'which means' 'for example' 'how did you...' 'what type of...' etc - they encourage the other person to keep talking and explain their previous answer in more detail).

So anyway, I was wondering what other tips anyone on here has for being the life of the party. Or atleast, tips on not being the poor girl sitting in the corner looking sullen and waiting to go home. Smile How do YOU talk to people? What are interesting conversation starters you use? What types of questions do you ask someone you just met?

6 Responses to “advice on talking to people in social situations”

  1. wowitsawonderfullife Says:

    A tip I read about Prince Charles. He asks people "so what is keeping you busy these days?" How good is that?

  2. whitestripe Says:

    i like that!

  3. baselle Says:

    I used to be like you - I hated events like that. As I got older, I loosened up a bit. The first thing is to have an entrance strategy - mine's pretty direct. Walk up to somebody, smile, hold out your hand, introduce yourself, and figure that they are just as nervous as you are. In non-profit party space, people are usually dressed up a bit or have something striking about them. I go for the compliment - if they are wearing the jewelry admire that, blah blah. The line above is great - I'll have to steal that.

    The other twist that a lot of people don't think about is to have an exit strategy. If I'm using "bridges" too much, or if notice that the person who I'm talking to is fidgeting, etc, its a sign to move on. You move on especially if a third person comes up. There's always food, drink, your fiance, the host, etc.

    Then you meet the next person. Entrance, exit, entrance, exit, etc.

  4. lizajane Says:

    I think it gets easier as you get older. I find it MUCH easier to talk to strangers now than I did in my 20's. I think the best tip is to realize you aren't the only one that is nervous or feels awkward or whatever. Think about it like you're trying to make the other person feel comfortable, instead of wondering what they think of you.

  5. frugaltexan75 Says:

    Good tips! I think I could use a book such as that one. I don't get so nervous I feel sick, but I do have a bad tendency to be in a large group and see everyone having conversations and not feel right about joining in one - like I'm butting in where I may not be wanted ... then end up not talking to anyone (unless someone talks to me first). That doesn't always happen, but it is the case more often than not.

  6. Nika Says:

    I love talking to new people. It is quite easy at parties because it is what you are expected to do.

    But even sitting in a concierge lounge in a hotel it is not hard to get people who sit alone to get involved in a common conversation. Most of them like to talk and are just looking for an opening.

    I think this ease comes with traveling. When you travel for extended period of time, you are away from regular friends and family, and could also learn a lot from local people or other travelers.

    You meet all sorts of people. A person having a drink at a bar can be an expat architect, a journalist, chem. engineer, a consul, a girl who teaches English or a student who came to the country to improve Chinese. You never know, that what makes it interesting. After you have enough of these rewarding encounters meeting new people becomes exciting - and I think other people can sense that.

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