It’s tough, sometimes, when you’re in a conversation and it just doesn’t want to go anywhere, and it seems to stutter and stall no matter the best efforts of you and your conversation partner. It often feels in conversations like these that you’re quicksand, the more you struggle to get out, the deeper you sink.
Thanks to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on flow and some conversation skills to keep talking with any guy or girl, you can keep a conversation going. Here are a few tips on making any conversation flow smoothly from beginning to end.
DON’T PRESSURE YOURSELF
The worst thing you can do in a conversation that seems to be faltering is to put pressure on yourself to keep it going. All this does is force you slip, makes your brain freeze and halts the conversation in its tracks. If you begin to feel this pressure, try to relax, take a moment to clear your head, take a deep breath and remind yourself that a carefree attitude is the best way grease the skids of any conversation.
Try to know beforehand who you’ll be conversing with and a general idea of the topics you think might be discussed. Practice in the mirror, if you can, make notes and brainstorm on ideas you think would help extend a conversation in particular circumstances. Try to work on wording and phrasing in your head beforehand, as this will help you seem quick-witted in actual conversation.
Know your surroundings and always be prepared to mention some aspect of the environment when you sense trouble ahead in a given conversation. Make these fallback comments as seamless as possible by continually keeping one mental eye trained at all times on the best and most cogent things to discuss.
WHEN IN DOUBT, ASK A QUESTION
A well-timed and insightful question can keep a conversation going smoothly and help you to regroup mentally at the same time, by putting the onus of conversational momentum on your conversation partner for a little while, while you attempt to think up something else to say. But be alert, and pay attention to your partner’s reply.
KEEP THINGS POSITIVE
Try not to discuss negative things, and keep negative comments to a minimum, especially when talking with people you do not know very well. Negativity has a peculiar psychological effect in that it makes people put up their mental and emotional defenses, which will shut down a good conversation in a heartbeat.