Some people seem to be naturals at making conversation. It’s as though they were born that way – but of course they weren’t. They gurgled their way through the first year or two of their life, just like the rest of us.
Making conversation is a skill you can learn.
Comment on a general topic
Here in the UK, that’s usually the weather. It’s too hot or too cold or too dry or too wet. Always!
Which makes the weather a predictable topic to start a conversation but that doesn’t matter.
It’s only an ice breaker, something to start the conversation with. Because you’ll almost certainly find that once a conversation starts, it flows fairly well of its own accord.
Use open questions
Open questions are ones that it’s near enough impossible to answer with a simple yes or no or other simple answer.
The usual “how are you today” can be open or closed. But is usually closed – most people will answer “not bad” or “I’m OK” or something similar.
Instead, you need to spend a bit of time working out a few open questions that you can use depending on where you are when you need to ask them.
A fallback one is “What do you do?” It’s not the world’s best open question but it’s still an order of magnitude better than hiding somewhere and hoping no-one will talk to you!
There are plenty of better questions to ask – a simple web search will give you some ideas relevant to your situation.
Learn to listen
This many sound as though it’s at odds with making conversation.
But – odd as it may sound to you – a lot of people like to talk.
And they like to think that other people are listening to what they say.
So if you can learn to actively listen then you’ll find people gravitating towards you and they’ll start the conversation without much effort on your part.
Active listening takes some effort but you can practice it watching a talk show on television or listening to talk radio.
Instead of concentrating on what you’re going to say next, concentrate on what the other person is saying.
I find it best to repeat the words they’re using in my head.
Then when you reply, use the words and phrases they’ve used. That shows them that you’ve listened and they’ll happily start talking again.
Done properly, you’ll probably find that by using active listening you’ll probably only do about a quarter of the talking.
Learn to kickstart a conversation occasionally
Conversations can stall. It happens all the time.
If the conversation freezes for whatever reason, I’ve often used the phrase “well, that killed the conversation, didn’t it?”
That could be treated as an open or a closed question,
But what usually happens is that everyone in the conversation laughs, shrugs it off and uses it as an excuse to start a new topic of conversation.
And if it doesn’t, that’s OK. Keep practicing.
You’ll get better over time so long as you take part in at least some conversations.