How To Have Things To Say To Someone You're Dating Or Good Friends With
In another article I give some advice on how to generally think of things to say. For most people, if they struggle to make chit chat, it's when they're first talking to someone they've recently met. However, some of us worry about not having anything to talk about with people we've known for a while, usually good friends or someone we're dating. We wonder what we'll have to say to them once we've gone through the usual topics. This article will quickly cover how to deal with this issue, with a bit more emphasis on finding things to say in romantic relationships.
The better you know someone, and the more often you talk to them, the more detail you can go into about what's going on in your life
It could seem if you talked to someone often you'd run out of things to say. Actually, the more you speak to them the more specific and detailed you can get. When you haven't spoken to someone in a while, even if they're a good friend, your conversation tends to be very general at first, as you try to summarize a large amount of updates - "So what have I been up to? Uh...well... I got promoted to Regional Manager and Natasha is pregnant with our second child."
When you talk to someone often they're already familiar with the nitty gritty details of your life, so you can fill them in on small future developments as they come up. For example, a guy who lives with his girlfriend may get home from work and spend ten minutes getting her caught up on the status of an important project he's working on. There are always going to be new things happening to you in one way or another, so you'll always have fresh material to talk about.
The principle doesn't just apply to life news. A woman could tell her friend about what she thought of the latest episode of a show they both follow, or share her views on a story she heard on a the radio, or give a report on a conflict that's happening between her relatives. When you talk to someone really, really often, perhaps by texting back and forth with them all day, the conversation can approach you keeping them in the loop on what's happening to you, or what you're thinking about, in real time.
All this comes into play when it's their turn to speak (you're not expected to carry the whole conversation after all). They'll have a lot of drilled-down topics of their own they can go into. If they start updating you on something you can listen attentively. If you've spoken for a bit, and would like to switch roles, you can ask them some questions about their week to get them going (e.g., "So what happened at the lab today with that problem that came up last Wednesday?").
Troubleshooting the idea of sharing more details about your life
Here are my thoughts on some obstacles to putting that concept into practice.
If you're close to someone, they're interested in hearing most of what you have to say
Some people think the things they have to speak about are trivial or boring. It's okay to share more fine-grained information with a good friend or partner because, since they're close to you, they're generally open in hearing about it. They want a window into your head and to be included in your world. Maybe the same material would be tedious if it was coming from a stranger, but it's coming from you, their good buddy/significant other, so they find it interesting. If someone is close to you they want to know what's going on in your life, and how you're feeling about it. They want to know what makes you tick, and what you think about various things. They've already decided they think your worldview and opinions are worthwhile, otherwise they wouldn't have wanted to get to know you as well as they did.
Naturally there are limits to this. Everyone has subjects they'll never be particularly fascinated by, even if on another level they think it's endearing someone is passionate about them. For example, a guy's girlfriend may think it's cute when he gets animated and tells her about the books he's been reading, but glazes over when he talks for more than a few minutes about basketball. Over time in each of your relationships you'll tend to figure out which topics are best to avoid going on about too much.
You've got more to say about your day to day life than you may realize
When they hear that they can find things to say by elaborating on the details of their life, or the little things going on in their head, some people reply with, "I don't feel like I have anything worth mentioning." They think their job is uneventful and boring, or that their thoughts and opinions aren't interesting. I just covered how the people close to you do value your views on these things.
As for believing your life is too bland to talk about it, I think it's all about how you look at it. For example, in the broadest sense your job may be dull. However, if you start breaking it down, there may be more about it to talk about than you think:
- How do you feel about your position and career overall?
- Where would you like to be in five years?
- Are there little known aspects of your profession an Average Joe might be intrigued to hear about?
- What specific tasks do you do each day? How do you feel about them?
- What ongoing projects are you involved with?
- How's the company doing?
- Do you like your workplace? Why or why not?
- Does the job have a healthy or warped work culture?
- Who are your co-workers? What are your relationships to them? Any intrigue going on between them?
- Are there any colorful characters? Any zany stories about things they did at the Christmas party?
- Any stories about odd or annyoing customers or clients?
Yeah, when you answer all these questions, your career may still not make for scintillating dinner party discussion, but I hope I've shown that if you dig a little there are things about it to speak about, especially if you're talking to someone who's open to hearing about it. You could apply a similar approach to other aspects of your life that don't initially seem full of stuff worth mentioning, like school, or your social circle. If you're still having trouble finding ways to talk about your life, one approach that might help is to imagine you have to write a story about it. It could be a drama or a comedy, but either way you've got to wring some entertainment out of your day to day routine. Taking on this perspective can force you to hone in on the interesting material.
If someone wants to know about what's going on in your head, it's not that they're trying to interrogate you
This one mainly applies to dating relationships. Sometimes one side of the couple won't be as talkative as the other, or great at sharing the details of their lives. Their partner may get a little frustrated and nag them to open up, or start peppering them with questions to try to get them to share more information. If your partner does this it's not that they're trying to grill you and put you on the spot. Like I mentioned before, they're in a relationship with you. They want to know what's going on in your life and what you're feeling. They feel closer to you when you have these kinds of talks. They don't want to feel like they're superficially spending time with a distant, impenetrable figure. If you have trouble opening up to your partner, it's something you can practice. You may need to apply one of the points above (i.e., you're worried that they'll reject your "boring" or "weird" thoughts, or you don't know how to identify all the shareable details in your life).
Another thing to consider is that you may have been treating your thoughts and life developments as things to share on a need-to-know basis. You may think, "Well I've got some papers to write for school, but they're not that important, so I won't tell her" or, "I'm having some trouble with my sister, but I think I've got it covered, so he doesn't need to know." Again, your partner wants this information so they can connect with you and know what's going on in your world. It's not something they only require if it has some practical use to them.
One more idea: Everyone tends to be better at showing affection and creating closeness in relationships in certain ways. Maybe you're good at being physically cuddly, or doing thoughtful things for your partner. Try to channel that energy into showing affection in the "Spending time together talking and catching up" way.
Talk about more personal and intimate topics
Aside from going into more detail about your life, the second big way you can have things to talk about with your partner or good friend is to gradually start exposing more of your true self to them. When you start sharing the kinds of vulnerabilities you don't tell just anyone it introduces a whole new set of conversation topics. Bringing up more personal information can be scary at first, but the upside is that it may make the relationship a lot more substantial and fulfilling.
If you're mildly uncomfortable revealing yourself to others, you can probably get over that fear by getting used to it. Start by sharing something small with someone you really trust. You'll probably see firsthand that letting them know about it is not that bad. You can slowly spread outwards, sharing more with a particular person as they show themselves to be trustworthy, or by opening up to more types of people. Of course, you're not obligated to spill your all deepest secrets to everyone, but try expanding your comfort zone. If you have a stronger aversion to opening up, perhaps because you had a rough childhood where being secretive felt like a matter of survival, then it could help to work through that with a counselor.
Generate new things to talk about with each other
When you're close to someone it's not as if the two of you get locked in a room together for the rest of your lives. You'll do loads of things together that will spawn new conversation topics. If you go to an art gallery you can talk about the exhibits you're looking at the entire time, and then afterward as you grab a bite to eat. If you join a rec sports league together you'll have an ongoing supply of conversation fodder - how well the team is doing, other teams you've played, your teammates, strategies to try in the next game, etc.
Learn more about each other
The central belief is it can be hard to have things to say to someone after you've known them a while, because you'll have exhausted most conversation threads. That's not usually true though. Maybe if you've known someone for decades it's different, but I find there's almost always more to discover about the people you're close to. Do you really know how they feel about every last topic? Do you know all of their interests? Have they shared every funny story or defining life event from their past? As you talk about other subjects these things tend to randomly come up.
If you've known someone a while, and you still struggle to make conversation after trying your best, you may just not be that compatible
If you generally have a hard time talking to people I'd wager you tend to put all the blame on yourself, but if you've known someone for a fairly long time, and you still feel like you don't have much to say to each other, or that you're not interested in a lot of what they speak about, it could just be that you don't have enough common ground. That isn't anyone's fault.