How To Never Run Out Of Things To Say (Whilst Barely Saying Anything)

There’s a conversational magic trick that is amazing.

Anyone can do it.

In it, you say almost nothing.

The other person then leaves the conversation feeling that you are completely fascinating.

 

Avoiding awkwardness

In the last post, I told you how to take the pressure off yourself, when trying to come up with things to talk about. Sometimes, though, still nothing comes to mind.

Or nothing that isn’t SUPER-awkward.

“Well, here we are! Standing up. On our legs.
We both have two! Would you look at that”.

Happily, I can tell you that this, also, is Not A Problem.

Why not?
Because YOU don’t have to do the talking.

Who will?
The person to whom you can’t think of what to say.

 

Say What?

Exactly.

“What” is an excellent way to start a question.

 

When you’re chatting with someone unfamiliar and you ask them questions, magical things happen.

(1) You don’t have to do any of the talking   

As long as you ask open ended (ie not Yes/No-answerable) questions, that person will begin the meat of the conversation.

Once the pressure to eliminate the silence is off, you may well find you’ve relaxed enough to contribute.
(Especially if you bear in mind the important points we talked about in the last blog).

If that *doesn’t happen – no problem, just ask another question.

 

(2) You can find out a lot about someone

Both in the content of their answers, and their attitude.

Hopefully by now, you’re reframing networking as Making Interesting Friends (if you need a refresher on that, click here).

You don’t want to make friends with someone who you don’t gel with or like. When you get someone talking about herself or her opinions, it’ll give you a pretty good idea of whether you want to be friends with her.

 

(3) You can find out where that person might need help

When you’re networking(/MIFing), you want to give before you think about getting back.

People want to help people who have helped them.

If the person you’re asking questions discusses a problem you know how to solve, it’s a great opportunity to

  • help them out
  • have an instant reason to stay in touch.

Bear in mind: this doesn’t have to occur to you immediately.

He may mention something that you remember later on, when reading a certain article.
You can then send that to him, which will help forge that connection.

 

(4) You become a more interesting person 

First, two bits of direction:

  • (i) try your hardest to ask about things you’re genuinely interested in

With every answer that person gives, think about what she said that you can relate to.
Even if it’s on an asbstract or theoretical level.

Eg “Rock climbing! Wow, I’d be terrified. How did it feel the first time you ever went up a mountain?”.
(In this example, you don’t have to be a rock-climber in order to relate to someone who is).

  •  (ii) try and get them talking about things that they feel passionate about

 For example, by asking questions like,

 “What is it you like best about that?”
or
“Which part did you enjoy the most?”

 

Now that you get this, here’s the explanation to point number (4):

  • Showing a genuine interest in someone

and

  • Getting someone talking about things that light them up  

both make them feel GREAT about themselves.

This will make them feel great about YOU.

 

Trust me, I’ve had this happen a LOT. I’ve had conversations with people where I’ve barely spoken about myself, because I was mostly asking questions.
That person has then reported back to a mutual friend,

Marsha – what a FASCINATING woman”.

My telling you this isn’t arrogance – I genuinely wasn’t being fascinating.
I was just being inquisitive.

All that person remembered is how good they felt after the conversation, and they attributed that to my character.

 

(5) Being curious makes you happier.
This is a scientifically proven FACT! 

(click here to tweet that!)

According to one of the largest psychology experiments*, curiosity is one of five basic human strengths that are most highly associated with overall life fulfillment and happiness.

 

So, to recap:
  • ask open-ended questions
  • be genuinely curious
  • ask questions that’ll lead that person to talk about what lights them up
If you do this:

(1) you don’t have to do any of the substantial talking

(2) you can find out whether or not you want to be their friend

(3) you’ll discover where you can help them

(4) They will find you fascinating

(5) you’ll be happier in your life in general!

 

Over To You

Can you remember a time when someone talked and talked and didn’t ask you a single question about yourself?
Perhaps they were trying to impress you by talking solely about how great they are.
Did it have that effect?

Or what about someone who *did ask you about yourself – how did that make you feel?

Let me know in the comments below, or by clicking here!

Thanks for reading,

You rule,

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

 

PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:

*Peterson, Christopher; Seligman, Martin E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516701-5.
That’s right.

Photo credits: kennymatic, pennydogaccessories, The-E and Alex E. Proimos, all via Compfight cc.

13 Comments

  • Natasha

    Reply Reply July 19, 2013

    The Russian writer Chekhov was much visited by fans, many of them literature-loving ladies of leisure, who he could see had (w)racked their brains before coming to try to think up intellectual questions to ask him, and they were always the same questions from different guests….
    He was a polite person and understood that a writer has a responsibility to his readers, so suffered through those long afternoons with good grace…..
    ……until he suddenly thought one day: “I should find a subject that THEY know all about, and I’m ignorant of but would like to know more about!”
    With the next set of guests who came, he modestly interrupted the intellectual questions with one of his own: “We’ve got a terrible problem, there are termites eating away at the foundations of the house…. I don’t suppose any of you knows how to deal with termites?” He discovered, of course, that several of them had dealt very successfully with termites and were very flattered when he got out his notebook and jotted down all the advice they had to give him!
    With the subsequent week’s visitation he covered How to stop the jam going sugary, Where you could buy a special tool needed to unstick something that had jammed in the axle of the family wagon, Why the thatch wouldn’t stay on the roof, etc etc etc and he was never ever bored again by parties of visiting fans or intellectual questions.
    And all the fans would leave saying “What a charming man! Ad so modest, so approachable…..”
    An example to us all.
    PS Ants really, really hate cinnamon, and can be discouraged from even entering your kitchen by a good dose across the route they normally use, and it’s not poisonous to children or pets. Learned that from Chekhov, who learned it from a fan…..,,

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 19, 2013

      This whole comment should be an entire blog post of its own!
      AMAZING – thank you so much! I’m going to start quoting this in workshops!

  • Silvia Bianco

    Reply Reply July 19, 2013

    Marsha, Thank you so much for reminding us of this simple fact. I knew a guy once who was brilliant at asking questions. And I never stopped talking to him.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 19, 2013

      It’s very intoxicating, isn’t it, when someone is that interested in you! Especially if they seem like they’re *truly* listening.

  • Victoria

    Reply Reply July 19, 2013

    Yes! This is exactly what I needed to hear.
    To get people to engage, ask them about a topic they already know.

    The difference in responses to “What do you eat for breakfast that has high protein?” and some of my more ‘inspirational’ posts on my personal facebook is astounding. I had noticed it before, but had not defined it in the way you’re describing it here – so it wasn’t a tool I could pull out and use.

    I am totally taking this on for my next batch of blog posts. Thanks, Marsha.

  • Aimelie Ronquillo

    Reply Reply July 19, 2013

    Thanks for sharing this!! I’m really enjoying your articles. As an introvert, I’m always a bit socially awkward. I’m looking forward to trying out your tips next time I’m out and about!!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 19, 2013

      Thanks Aimelie!
      I spent YEARS being socially awkward (you can read about some of them here and here), but having a few tricks like this up my sleeve meant I started to relax… then a few years of pretending I was confident and comfortable, led to me *actually* being confident and comfortable.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 19, 2013

      Ps I’m going to talk about this pretending-leading-to-actual-confidence next week!

  • Dwayne R

    Reply Reply July 21, 2013

    Marsha
    Just another great article! I read the book “you should have asked” by Stuart Knight. An excellent resource for learning to ask interesting questions. His stuff really works, ask and then listen then ask another question based on the persons answer not some unrelated topic. In 4 or 5 questions you will know something very interesting and personal about the person. Want to try? Why did you come to Canada?

  • spacealien

    Reply Reply December 22, 2016

    What if I try to ask open-ended questions, but honestly I really don’t care about the other person at all, hence I can’t show a genuine interest in them during the conversation, so I end up feeling awkward the whole time (and I can’t really tell if the other person don’t feel the same). The only reason I try to converse with them is because the situation calls for it, or because they suddenly call out to me and somehow start the conversation but they’re not very active during the conversation themselves (usually, it’s more like they just need some company, but they’re not exactly the chatty type themselves).
    Sometimes I understand they they are really bored and lonely and really could use some company, but still, even though I can really sympathize with their situation, I’m just not up for a conversation. Heck, I think I’ve never been up for it in most of the conversations I’ve ever had in my life. There are only a few conversations I’ve had in my life that I feel effortless and actually enjoy. Most of the time I’m really just trying to come up with something to say, and that is tiring.

    anyway, I just found your website today. I guess this site is just what I need to help me improve myself. Thanks for making this site~ ♥

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply December 27, 2017

      Hi Spacealien!

      Sorry for the delay in reply!

      Also, sorry that you’re struggling with this.

      My feeling is one of two things is happening. Either you’re just not very interested in other people – which is fine! If someone’s trying to talk to you, you can always say, “You know, I’m not feeling very chatty right now. Is it ok if we just sit quietly?” or make some other excuse and leave.
      The other is that you feel shy, and have convinced yourself you’re not interested in them. I suggest this, because *I have done this in the past. But, what I found is that, when I ask questions about that person that I’m interested in – eg something about their life or job that I don’t know about, where I could maybe learn something – I actually find that most people have the capacity to be interesting to me.

      One way I do this is to imagine that I have, Freaky Friday-style, body-swapped with them, and now I have to do their job or hobby. What would I find easy about it? What would I find hard? What would and wouldn’t I know how to do?

      Try that tack, and see how you get on!

      xxyyMarsha

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