Why We Struggle With Impromptu Conversation (And How To Fix It!)

Scenario: You’re standing in line at Starbucks and a stranger strikes up a conversation with you. Do you respond naturally and crush the conversation or do you wither away and start to pour out sweat as your brain responds to danger?

The Problem

If you are anything like me, the latter is the more accurate portrayal of that situation. You immediately begin looking for an exit strategy and thinking of possible situations that are better than this (i.e., someone slips on spilt coffee, a family member calls with an emergency, meteor hits the earth, etc.). When you talk with your friends it is easy, even talking to someone you anticipated talking to is fine, but these spontaneous conversations are just way too much for you. Just like many things in our technology-ridden world, it is not your fault!four people using smartphones behind glass wall
We live in a time where the face-to-face conversation is dying, despite the fact that it is necessary, powerful and extremely effective. It’s not that we don’t have the potential to be good at it, we simply use other means of conversation that we are more accustomed to. Here in 2018, some of the primary means of communication are text message and email. How many texts do you send each day versus how many phone calls? How many emails do you send versus seeing someone face-to-face?  You may struggle with in-person conversation, but I can almost guarantee that you can write the hell out of that email or text message!With our primary method of communication being in the form of typing, we are able to proofread what we say. With the exception of the anger-filled text message that we send too quickly, we have the option to delete what we originally put down, to switch things around, and to read it over to make sure that our message is delivered effectively the way we want it to be. When speaking with someone in person, we have to say what we mean on the first time or run the risk of causing an unpleasant situation. Its no wonder why text and email have become so popular, they are the safe play!

As stated earlier, having the skillset to handle an impromptu, in-person conversation can be an extremely advantageous skill to have. This is the person that makes the sale, gets the job, gets the girl, and essentially gets you what you want. If someone dominates a conversation while the other is just trying to figure out how to get away, who do you think is coming out on top? The good news, for those of you who struggle, is that no matter how bad you are at conversing, you can get better. Just like anything else it life, it will take time, dedication, and plenty of practice.

man wearing black polo shirt and gray pants sitting on white chair

Fixing the Problem

When you are out in public, anticipate someone striking up a conversation with you, and look forward to it! Start playing out scenarios in your head and picture yourself responding calm, cool, and collectively. One of the biggest challenges you may face is that the conversation tends to speed up. Your adrenaline kicks in and you feel like you have to give an instant answer. Don’t be afraid to slow down! Before you respond, take a deep breath and think about your response. It may seem like forever, but it is actually just a quick second and no one will think of it as a weird pause. In fact, it will make you seem more confident! To buy yourself even more time, make a face that says “I’m thinking about my answer,.” The long, awkward pauses are very often only long in your head and only turn awkward when you fail to come up with a response.

This leads me to my next point, stay focused on the conversation rather than the exit strategy. When you are thinking about how to get away or how to end the conversation in the least awkward way possible, you will not be able to come up with quality input to the conversation. If you shift those thoughts to the conversation and trust that the conversation will end naturally (and if it doesn’t, who cares?), you will have more brain power to contribute to the discussion. Respond as if you are speaking to your best friend. Relax, put a smile on your face, and trust that you are someone that people want to talk to!

men s white button up dress shirt

We, as humans, are social beings. We have thrived and survived because of our ability to socialize and communicate with others. It is the reason why we are the most dominant and developed species on the planet. The last twenty-five years or so has caused a significant change in the methods of communication, but the principles remain the same. The text message and email-reliant modern man simply needs to make a conscious decision to get out and practice in-person conversation. This was not something that our ancestors had to do when living in caves and hunting dinosaurs. But, that’s life. We need to evolve and change or risk falling inferior. Although your email and texting skills don’t go unnoticed and will be advantageous, the inability to follow through on those skills in a one-on-one situation will limit your successes.

What helps you have rock solid conversations? We want to hear! Leave your comments below!

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