How to Talk to Anyone
By mishfishh13 on March 02, 2013
Has anyone ever said to you: "Oh my god, we're like the same person!"? That level of connection that happens on rare occasions and leave you SO happy?
Well, currently, I'm the "same person" as about 10 people, all of whom are different from each other. Considering how I'm not one of those people who are friends with everyone, I consider this an achievement (although I do sometimes question whether that just makes me generic).
While that doesn't happen to everyone I meet, people generally like me. Part of achieving that is cultivating the ability to talk to anyone.
Unlike what I've said before about being unique, this is an instance where you don't have as much pressure to be that. All you have to do is reassure them you're not a freak. Not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with that. People are generally very accepting of weird behavior as long as they know you have the capability of acting normal.
This is purely in a non-dating situation—dates should be totally different than what I'm about to say.
First of all, people love talking about themselves and they love validation that they are high-larious. It's almost too easy! All you have to do is prod them along on whatever topic they choose, insert some funny comment here or there (basically to show how engaged you are) and let them do all the work!
Of course, you have to understand that interactions are also important. If you're just sitting there and listening to them, they'll think you have absolutely no thoughts of your own. When you've gone too long without saying anything substantial, the easiest thing to do is find something related to whatever was said before and then tell a funny story/opinion you have about the related topic.
This usually works with everyone. Those that are used to talking are perfectly fine with this type of conversation and they love you for being able to listen to them so well. Those that are not very social or are of the quieter type find it awesome that there's someone out there that actually listens and thinks they're interesting (I've been there/am still there, so I'm not knocking on your personality).
The majority of my humor comes from snarky comments or ridiculous proposals. My belief is that less is more. Once you cross over into being the main talker, you might get into boring land or say something that really comes out wrong. By talking less, you're putting more value into the little that you do say and man, say right things at the right moments.
Another rule is to embrace tangents. While the other person is sharing their story—and while you laugh and comment to show your interest—keep track of all the possible related tangents you could go on. Tangents are the key to long, sustainable conversations. These are more for those random, quick-paced conversations rather than a slow, lengthy, intellectual discussion. After they've finished talking, make a few more remarks on their story, and then dive into the tangent.
Depending on the person, they may or may not like tangents, so you have to test to see how dramatic the tangent they are comfortable with. Say you're talking about your love of cheese and suddenly you remember the one time you were high and downed a gallon of cheese. That's a smaller tangent. If you had said that, in addition to cheese, you love this one band that has a song about cheese and then transition into a music discussion—that might be a larger tangent and some people will not follow you there.
The most important thing is to be able to connect and talk to anyone. Unless you guys are on totally opposite spectrums with everything you've experience in life, there will be at least some traits in common.
I'll give you some examples.
For one of my best friends, it's our sense of humor, outlook on marriage&kids, and occasional severe mood swings. For a roommate that I just met this year, it's our love of pop culture and feminist beliefs. For a friend's high school friend that I've befriended, it's our taste in music&boys, love of overeating, and our shamelessness in social situations.
See? All these things are radically different, but from these few important commonalities, hugely rewarding friendships can be built.
But, of course, some of these take time. Especially your first one. As you get better at interacting and talking to people, it will come easier and soon you'll be talking to someone you met at a bar for hours.
Being able to deliver more good conversations than bad conversations are what convinces people that you are a pretty cool person. You don't have to be perfect all the time because, c'mon, you have a life of your own and mood swings that you have to deal with. There are two ways to offset this ratio: delivering awesome, funny conversations at least 70% of the time or the few awesome, funny conversations you have are outstanding.
Don't be afraid to be a little weird, too! Sometimes that loosens people up.
So, here you go. The key is to practice. During the summer, I would freak out a lot because I'd go for days without talking to someone other than one of my best friends, which doesn't really count because me and any of my best friends are basically the "same person." So practice! If you're on a really long flight, strike up a conversation—but don't overstay your welcome.
Remember: everyone is worth talking to! Talk to anyone and everyone!
Are you able to talk to anyone? Why or why not? What's the weirdest/best conversation you've ever had?
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