Improving conversational skills

Postby Ivan_J » Mon Sep 03, 2018 5:03 pm

Hi guys, I have a background of social anxiety and have done a lot to face up to my fears of meeting more people. However this has been through work where I greet and help a lot of people but do not have many conversations with them. I have also done public speaking classes and attended some Meetup groups. So I realize my conversational ability is limited and needs to be worked on. This includes initiating conversations without feeling awkward or a burden, and having things to say.

Anyway, I went for a drink with a woman who gave me her number a few days ago, and it didn't go too well. I missed a lot of conversational leads she gave, and for some reason the conversation never got personal or deep. It seemed like small talk about tourism as she was travelling. There was lots of smiling and she was friendly but no rapport ever developed. Also there were two or three awkward silences. So she seemed to want to go her own way after an hour, and that was that.

Has anyone here improved this skill by going out to have conversations with strangers? I always feel awkward starting conversations and have a thing about doing so at work as I mostly deal with guests who might not want to talk. There are loads of books but they have mixed reviews. I live on my own but would like to find a way to have meaningful conversations everyday so I can improve and learn. It is very frustrating to feel awkward and not be able to take a conversation to a more meaningful level.
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Postby laureat » Mon Sep 03, 2018 6:32 pm

first of all you need to accept who you are

if you have memory problems and cant speak your mind good enough, accept yourself as you are, dont see that as a weakness, dont bully oneself about it

when you free oneself from the pressure you start to do what you love to do, you start to do what you can do, and that is exactly what you need to do, not what you are told
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Postby Ivan_J » Mon Sep 03, 2018 6:57 pm

Hi Laureat. I have tried to take time away from really pressuring myself for a few years by focusing on work and studying, but the way I see it the lack of conversational ability I experience is a weakness that I need to work on.

Self acceptance to me would be accepting that I am working on these skills but I think my judgement of my own lack of social skills is accurate. I have experienced the same reaction from people in the past. A lack of small talk or conversation can make other people uncomfortable - that just seems to be an objective reality.
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Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue Sep 04, 2018 1:01 am

It sounds like you have an expectation that in an hour of conversation deep rapport be developed. Given this expectation you attempt to force it. You then struggle to understand why the conversation consisted of awkward silence and lack of meaning.

Building rapport is not something that can be forced. It is a product of experiencing a genuine connection between what another person has to offer and your interests.

If for example a person is only interested in video games, then they will struggle to develop rapport. If another person discusses flowers or tourism or art or philosophy, it results in silence and a feeling of no connection. Only a conversation about video games will result in rapport. Good luck, but this is what many individuals face if they have a very narrow range of interests.

Therefore, developing rapport is a matter of asking questions and then feeding off the interests of the other person. They will offer up their interest, e.g. travel and tourism and then it is your job to respond. If you have no interest in travel/tourism, then you offer up an area of interest, e.g. the topic of hypnosis. If she has no interest, she will then offer up another topic. The idea is that rapport is built around topics of mutual interest.

In many cases people simply fail to connect because there is no commonality or shared interest. It is small talk followed by each going their own way.

An easy way to build rapport with almost anyone is by getting them to talk about themselves and then just build from whatever they offer. You like to travel? Really, where was the favorite place you traveled, how long did you stay, what did you do, where will you go next?
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Postby Ivan_J » Tue Sep 04, 2018 7:21 am

Thanks for the reply. So I met the lady on Saturday, but yesterday evening I was going back through the conversation questioning what I could have said. She mentioned some music she likes. The trouble is I was not that familiar with the genre she mentioned so felt I could not use it as a conversational lead. I was actually into a similar style of music in the past and that was a possible thing we had in common. I was watching Youtube videos and it suddenly hit me that she was almost talking about her emotion / fascination with that music but I just didn't get that at the time. Again, on an emotional level I experienced the same thing in my late teens and early twenties.

So there are two things that strike me about this. One is that a more skilled conversationalist would have asked about music, and possibly got to her feeling about the topic even if they didn't have that in common. I think I avoided talking about that because I didn't want to sound ignorant or too narrow in my interests. My ego stopped me being interested out of fear.

The second thing is that I think my interests became narrow and I stopped listening to new styles of music / being curious because of depression in the past. This is the first time I have really gone into detail and realized how it effects my interactions with people and makes me seem boring and not interested. I suppose similar things have happened socially in the past, but thinking about this last night was an eye opener. It kind of burns to miss out on talking about something emotional that we might have had in common but I guess that's why it will be etched on my memory. It's part of the learning process.
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