The Main Tasks For Developing Your Conversational Ability
Like the others, the site's section on making conversation covers a lot of ground. This article will provide a quick list of the main 'To Do' items that come out of it. It won't cover the 'how to' or principles behind each step, which the articles themselves go into. I'll just give an overview to clarify what you need to do in the real world. Of course, skip the items you already have handled, or which don't apply to you.
Different sections of the site lend themselves to their own type of task list. For the section on making friends it was simple and natural to come up with a bunch of sequential, concrete items to go through. The list of tasks for the conversation section is going to seem more short and general in comparison. Basically, the actions you need to do are to figure out what you want to work on, and then find ways to practice, practice, practice. Because so many aspects of social skills impact conversation, I'll also refer you to other sections of the site if you need them.
Identify the aspects of conversation you want to work on
It's okay if all you can think of at first is, "I dunno... uh... I just want to get better at talking to people". You can still go out and practice with a vaguer goal like that. You don't need to break things down into a thousand sub-objectives. However, it's also helpful if you have something specific you want to work on. Some examples may be:
- Making more natural small talk
- Approaching and talking to people you don't know at social events
- Talking to a certain type of person
- Doing better in specific types of conversation, such as big groups, or when people are joking around.
- Having more intimate, revealing conversations
Once you've come up with some goals, you may want to order them by how difficult they seem, and start with the easier ones. If that's not your style, you could begin with whichever one feels the most important to improve.
Figure out if any of your conversation trouble spots are due to anxiety or insecurities
Some issues with making conversation are more technical, maybe because someone has trouble thinking of relevant things to say, or isn't the best at applying certain listening skills. It's also common for people to be held back in this area by their fears and insecurities. For example, someone may want to strike up a conversation with a classmate, but be too nervous to do it.
If that's the case for you, you should check out the site's section devoted to those challenges. You can work on your conversation goals in tandem with tackling your worries and self-doubt around to talking to people.
It should be simple to figure out the areas where your fears and lack of confidence are the problem. Actually dealing with those issues will be more work.
Figure out if any of your conversation problems are influenced by negative social habits or attitudes you have, and then try to correct them
This is a second point that may send you off to another of the site's sections. Your interpersonal skills are largely demonstrated through your conversation. Any number of bad social habits or attitudes can have a negative impact on the way you speak with people (e.g., having a sense that everyone is dumber than you). The site's section on generally improving your social persona may help you here.
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
It's generally more difficult to identify your bad habits. Some are easy enough to guess, but others take longer to become aware of. This article has some advice on getting outside feedback.
Look into the site's writing on becoming a more well-rounded, interesting person
One more thing that affects your conversations is how much you've got going on as an individual. All else being held constant, someone with a boring life and few real interests is going to have less to offer in a conversation than someone who's experienced a lot. Again, the site's section on improving your social persona has articles that cover that.
It's worth it to improve yourself as a person even if it never helps your conversations. It is an ongoing process though.
Identify and follow up on opportunities to practice in the ways that will help you meet your conversation goals
With the preliminary points out of the way, this is going to be the main thing you're going to work on. It's all about piling up that real world experience. The more the better. This article suggests a bunch of situations you can put yourself in to get that practice you need.
- If your goals are around talking to anyone you don't know, and getting better at those first few minutes of chit chat, you'll want to find settings where you have to converse with a lot of new people (e.g., attending meet ups, a part-time job in customer service).
- If you more want to work on the later stages of conversation, you'll need to look for situations where you'll interact with the same people over and over (e.g., at a volunteer position with several co-workers).
- If you want to practice making conversation in a specific situation, obviously you have to seek it out (e.g., talking to other patrons in night clubs).
- Similarly, if you want to get better at interacting with a certain kind of person, you also have to find them (e.g., a guy who wants to get used talking to other guys could join an all-male softball team).
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
It will take a fair amount of time to develop your conversation skills, and you'll likely have a harder time learning parts of it than others. It will feel especially tricky at times if you also struggle with shyness or low self-confidence.
As you become more comfortable, practice conversation in higher-stakes situations
It's unfeasible to control your interactions completely, but as much as possible when you're starting out I'd suggest sticking to people you know are going to be friendly, supportive, and non-threatening, such as your nicer co-workers or store clerks who are paid to be cheerful. As you begin to feel more proficient and confident, start expanding your boundaries. Experiment with new ways of interacting with people, like revealing your sense of humor or somewhat controversial opinions. Move toward the areas you have more trouble with, such as self-disclosure. Experiment with talking to people who are more intimidating, in situations you find more awkward (e.g., approaching someone attractive at a party).
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Hopefully the experience you've already attained in the previous steps will make these tasks easier, but you'll obviously still have to push yourself.