“My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversations; that is what I call good company.”- Jane Austen
Have you ever been in a situation with friends and family that felt like a repeat of yesterday’s conversations? You know the ones where you’ve already gotten the latest updates; but you aren’t sure how to start a new conversation that will allow you to continue bonding and learning new things about them. This difficult situation can make you feel a little uncomfortable or maybe even ready to head for the door; but wait.
We’ve all been in situations like these. You want to build meaningful relationships with your friends and family through stimulating, insightful conversations. However, sometimes you may be at a loss as to how to get the ball rolling, without feeling silly or dumb for asking a question or attempting to start a conversation.
Starting a meaningful conversation with someone may be one of the hardest parts of communicating with others. You want others to like and appreciate you; but if you are shy or are an introvert you maynot feel as adept as others, when trying to start conversations. However, communication skills are quite easy to build and enhance.
The solution to having better conversations, regardless of what is holding you back, is to learn to listen and ask questions that get a response. These tricks along with others, such as using creative thinking skills, help you develop your skills to start interesting and informative conversations with friends and family.
Conversations with friends will be different from the conversations you have with your family, in some ways. Each conversation focuses on connecting by introducing topics or questions that relate to your current audience. Some topics are easier with friends and some are easier with family members, depending on each person’s comfort level or boundaries.
Sometimes your conversations can become stagnant or difficult. Having better conversations helps you keep your friendships and family relationships interesting and on stable footing.
In this guide there will be tips on how to have better conversations with your friends, with family, conversation starters and what to do to keep your conversations growing.
Better Conversations with Friends
“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.” – William Hazlitt
We all want to have friends. Some of us have close relationships with a few people, while others see everyone as their friend. However, what we want most is to be accepted and liked for who we are and how we are. Having conversations with friends helps us open up and become closer to the people we want to spend time with.
As friends, you may discover that you often have the same conversations over and over. This can get dull and cause your friendship to become stagnant. You probably have the same general conversations about the opposite sex, dating, food, work, and family issues. However, the more the meaningful and in-depth conversations are, the more intimidating they can be. When the topics are more personal or hit closer to your vulnerabilities and your boundaries, you may feel uncomfortable discussing things.
Put these tips to good use and have conversations that develop deep friendship bonds.
Make the person feel like you care about what they have to say. And that their opinion matters to you. Focus on them, maintaining eye contact, while giving them personal space. Nod intently to show you are listening.
Make them feel like their thoughts are important. Ask more questions about the subject instead of talking about something you want to talk about. You’ll get your turn later.
Ask questions but don’t interrogate them. Don’t make friends feel as if they are going through a police interview. Rapidly firing questions at them, without giving feedback and really talking, can put them on the defense, make them feel uncomfortable, and ensures that your friendship will suffer from the experience.
Make sure you share your thoughts, feelings, concerns, and needs with your friends, as well, instead of just asking about how they are.
Have conversations that include talking about each person’s desires and dreams. Sharing information and finding common ground helps to build strong bonds. To do this, ask “what if” types of questions.
Ask “How can I be more supportive of you?” instead of giving your opinions right away. Your friends don’t want you take over and “fix” things. They want you to help them by sharing your experiences and talking through available options.
Ask open-ended questions that require an explanation or more details than a simple, short answer. “How does that change things for you?” allows them to elaborate. Asking, ‘Are you feeling upset?’ is a short answer that won’t give you much insight into the situation.
Learn to ask meaningful questions. Try focusing on topic ideas, rather than on gossip or small talk. Just be careful about bringing up issue that might cause conflict, such as politics. Instead try talking about books that inspire you, movies that encourage you, sports, interesting art, or interests that aren’t usually part of your normal discussions.
Be a good listener. Keep your phone turned off during conversations with friends. It’s rude to constantly be checking your phone while talking to someone. And it makes the other person feel like you’re not really listening and don’t care what they have to say.
Nurturing your friendships and helping them stay fresh is a big part of the goal for having better conversations. Everyone wants to avoid having relationships that get boring and stale. Use the tips in this guide to help you initiate and have conversations that are fresh, thought provoking, or even lifesaving.
Better Family Conversations
“For people to be able to sit down together and have a conversation, that’s the power of love.” – Jada Pinkett Smith
Participating in family conversations may be uncomfortable at times because of the higher level of intimacy involved. This is especially common, if you don’t know what topics are too personal in a group situation. Sometimes family get togethers can be places of silence. But talking to family doesn’t have to be that way.
When you get to know more about your family members, it makes it easier to have more enlightening and relevant conversation with them. As you learn more about family members’ likes, dislikes, preferences, and interests, you build lasting relationships
Here are some tips to help you strengthen family relationships through communication.
- Discuss what is going on in family members’ lives. Don’t know what’s going on? Ask questions to clarify statements. Listen as they share their memories and current stories. For example, ask about the new concrete slab your uncle poured that you remember he’d been working on. This can lead to even more discussions about other topics going on in his life, as well as your own.
- Talk about what is currently going on around you. If you’re not ready to get into the personal things going on in a family members life, talk about what you are doing at the moment. For example, talk about how you’re barbecuing everything for your meal, including the dessert. Ask about the recipe, the method or their favorite style of barbecue.
- Discuss things your family members are passionate about. Maybe your grandfather is passionate about playing the saxophone. Ask about how he got started, where he’s played or who he’s played with. People love talking about what gets them excited.
- Share what’s going on in your life. They are your family and care about what’s going on with you. It’s only fair to expect them to want to know what you’ve been up to since you’ve listened to their current live events. Sharing what’s happening in each other’s lives helps you get to know about each other and grow closer.
- Don’t just share dry facts about what’s going on. It’s important to express the associated feelings, concerns, and opinions. For example, ask your sister how she and the kids liked their Disney cruise compared to their cruise to Alaska. Share your hopes and passion about your latest passion. Sharing your feelings about what’s going on builds connections with your family.
Having a deeper conversation with your family shows them that you care. Many people feel like they have nothing to gain by actively participating in conversations with their family. This is the wrong way to build connections with family, since avoiding informative conversations makes your relationship become stilted and strained. Show family members feel important and worthy by genuinely listening and enjoying the process of catching up on what’s happened recently and getting to know each person better.
Finally, you should look at your family as the safe place to practice having better conversation skills. Hopefully you feel more comfortable talking with your family than a total stranger. Try practicing your conversation skills with them. The added benefit, you get to build deeper connections with your family.
Interesting conversation can lead to everyone putting down their phones and actually communicating!