This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "How to Talk to Anyone" by Leil Lowndes. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Do you find it difficult to keep a conversation going? Do you often run out out of interesting things to say?
If you often find yourself in a situation where you’ve run out of things to say, you’re not alone. Interesting conversations don’t always flow organically. Sometimes, you’ve got to put some effort into it and research interesting things to say in advance.
Here’s how to have interesting conversations every time.
How to Keep Things Interesting
When you meet a new person, you probably talk about where you’re from and what you do. But there’s only so much you can say about yourself. To keep things interesting, you’ll need other topics to lure people into conversations and keep them engaged. In her book How to Talk to Anyone, communications expert Leil Lowndes gives a few tips on how to have interesting conversations with anyone:
1) Find out who will be there: Before you accept an invitation, find out what type of people will be there—will it include people from a single profession or interest group? Knowing what types of conversations you’ll be expected to engage in will help you prepare for them.
(Shortform note: Van Edwards (Cues) expands on Lowndes’s advice to prepare yourself before an event. She suggests that you set yourself a specific intention that details why you’re attending the event. This will give you a clear idea about what type of person you want to meet and what you want to get out of the interaction. As a result, you’ll feel more motivated to approach others. Effective intentions can be as simple as, “I want to find 10 new clients,” or, “I want to have a fun conversation with someone I wouldn’t normally talk to.”)
2) Listen to the news: This will keep you up to date on current affairs and will provide common topics to discuss.
(Shortform note: While Lowndes’s advice to listen to the news will give you common topics to discuss, doing so may not be good for your mental health. Constant exposure to the news increases feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression—these feelings will exacerbate any social discomfort you feel. Stay informed about what’s going on without getting stressed by limiting how much news you consume to less than 30 minutes a day.)
3) Continually try new activities: Restricting yourself to specific activities limits your ability to engage with people who have other interests. The more you try out or read about different activities, the easier you’ll find it to communicate with a wider range of people.
4) Broaden your vocabulary: In addition to researching things to say, think about how you say them. Make yourself sound more interesting by replacing your most common words with alternatives. Look through a thesaurus to find words that suit your personality and reflect how you want to come across to others.
(Shortform note: While trying new activities or changing your vocabulary might improve your communication skills, these methods may actually undermine your self-confidence and self-esteem. According to Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics), methods like these encourage you to pretend to be someone else so that you can get the reaction you want—for example, interest or attraction. The more you engage in these false behaviors, the more difficult it becomes for you to accept and express who you really are because you’re never sure if people like you for who you are or who you’re pretending to be.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full How to Talk to Anyone summary :
- Practical techniques to help you overcome social discomfort
- How to confidently develop new connections
- How to appear more likable without saying a word