Updated: Oct 31, 2019
I know we have all been there. The awkward conversation… You know what I mean. The one where we have nothing to say because we can’t seem to connect with other individuals and we are just standing there wondering how and when to jump in. Or the one in which we have acted as the awkward contributor by rambling or clamming up. Firstly, if you have been in either one of these scenarios, don’t sweat it. It happens to the best of us. Really though, take it from a guy who has more awkward conversations under his belt than most. In fact, the tips I am about to share with you were learned from the conversation fails.
Be Positive and Energetic
The key to personal magnetism is energy and enthusiasm. I am always reminding my clients to “present what you want your audience to feel.” If you want to stand out in a conversation, enter it with just enough energy (not too much) to get noticed and as you maintain that energy, you will see it begin to cascade throughout the conversation.
For example, if you enter a conversation and someone says, “Hey, how are you?” As opposed to saying the canned response of, “I’m good,” say “outstanding,” or “phenomenal” (notice I didn’t use an exclamation point there) with just enough energy for them to notice that you are different. You don’t want to say it with so much gusto that it makes you look like a crazy person
So what should you do as the conversation progresses? The key is to maintain just enough energy to be unique. When you are telling a story, tell it using expansive gestures and open body language. Take note of those times when someone at a social gathering laughs out loud. 9 times out of 10 they are laughing at someone cracking a joke while acting like the person or character the joke is referencing.
It’s also very important to listen with enthusiasm as well to the others to create a two-way street. As they are talking use “energetic” affirmation words such as, “Dude! That’s amazing!” or “Are you kidding me? That’s unreal!” or even, “I cannot believe you went through that. It must have been so hard.” Using your run-of-the-meal affirmation words such as, “No kidding,” or “Uh-huh” or even, “Really?” will not make you stand out as much.
Why So Serious?
We all have that one friend who is constantly giving people a hard time. I’ll be honest and say that there have been times where these types of conversationalists get on my nerves because they are always trying to find something about other people to poke fun at. It’s totally okay to mess with people because it helps you stand out in a conversation, just as long as it’s done in moderation and in a way that's not putting the other person down. That just makes you look like the village jerk and others will not enjoy being around you.
So what does this look like? Imagine someone pays you a compliment in a group setting, you could respond with something like, “Thanks for that! I’ll be sure to pay you later.” Another scenario is when someone asks you for advice, share the advice, and then say, “That’ll be 35.00. Cash or card?” The point is not to be a total jerk, but to infuse a little bit of humor into your responses to again, make the conversation feel unique and charismatic.
Express your Individuality
This conversation technique is one of my favorites. If you want to connect with anybody in a conversation, don’t be afraid to simply be yourself. Don’t be afraid to infuse your values into the conversation because those are the most unique things about you and because they make up who you are as an individual. This includes your values, background, hobbies, job, ethnicity, religion, etc. Share them early on to begin building common ground and ultimately friendships.
What does this look like in a conversation?
Someone asks what you enjoy doing. Instead of just saying, “I like art.” Say something along the lines of, “I love art. It is something I have always enjoyed since the time I was a young boy. In fact, one of my favorite pieces of art is the Mona Lisa. Do you enjoy art?” At that point, you just shared something unique about your character and threw the ball back in the other person’s court to begin building common ground. Let’s do another one.
Someone asks where you are from. Instead of just saying, “I’m from Durham, North Carolina.” You could say something along the lines of, “I’m from Durham, North Carolina and before you ask, let me just say that I am a Duke Blue Devil through and through. Do you enjoy college basketball?” Boom! Same thing. You expressed something unique about yourself and then threw the ball back into their court (pun intended).
So the next time you are at a social event, work, or a party, take a stab at applying these conversation techniques. As you begin to apply them, pay particular attention to the dynamics of the group and conversation. You will notice more laughter, connections, ease, and ultimately relationships.