Four Easy Tricks to Make Conversations flow

social skills Feb 15, 2023
Four Easy Tricks to Make Conversations flow

Do you want to keep having those moments where the conversation just stops out of nowhere? Me neither. But hey, it happens to the best of us. Luckily, there are easy tricks you can use to make conversations flow.

From a young age, we are told by our parents not to talk to strangers. While this is taught with good intentions, like many things we're taught as kids, it doesn't serve us well in adulthood. Coupled with the fact that the brain doesn't like change unless there's a reason behind it, it can be hard to rewire your brain for sociability. 

One of the best ways to achieve this rewiring is by getting results that prove the old wiring wrong. This is what the four easy tricks focus on.

Without further delay, here are the four easy tricks to make conversations flow.

1. The Rule of Three

Go back to a time when you had a conversation that just stopped out of nowhere and really concentrate on it. What do you notice about it? Chances are that whatever you were talking about had nothing to do with you, them or the two of you. Now contrast that with times when you had a flowing conversation. Chances are you were talking about something that had to do with you, them, or the two of you.

The rule of three is a neat trick that allows the conversation to stay interesting without too much effort. Put simply, you limit the scope of the conversation to three people:

  1. Me (you)
  2. You (them)
  3. Us (the two of you together)

This works so well for one simple reason: people's favorite conversation topic is themselves. When you talk about someone else, they will talk for hours.

At the same time, by chipping in your experience or perspective on each topic you forge a connection with the person. When you contribute to topics they care about, it shows them that you care.

2. Free Associations

Of course, even when you do use the rule of three you'll still end up with scenarios where the conversation stalls. What do you do then? One thing you can do is use Free Associations.

A free association is when you take a word, come up with words in your mind that are associated with it, then pick back up the conversation with that.

For example, let's say that they say, "I love playing tennis! I play at least twice a week." A few words that associate with this sentence could be exercise, professional tennis, athletic, sports with family, and competition.

Pick one of those phrases and roll with it.

Let's say you use the word exercise. You could say something along the lines of, "By the look of you, it must be quite the workout."

If you struggle to come up with words based on what you've been given so far, then ask them to elaborate on their point.

If they say they love playing tennis, ask them why. If they say they want to become a professional race car driver, ask them if they value their safety and why.

To practice free associations, use a piece of paper and write down a word. Then, come up with 3 - 5 words that associate with it. Take the last word in that chain of 3 - 5 and use it as the next word to make associations with.

Whatever the topic, free associations are meant to give you more hooks to latch onto in conversation.

3. Ask flexible open-ended questions


The most common advice for starting conversations I've seen is to ask open-ended questions. While this advice isn't terrible, it isn't great either. Open-ended questions are great, but they can sometimes be restrictive depending on the scope placed around them. If you want to ask open-ended questions, ask ones that are also flexible.

What exactly does this mean? Ultimately, it comes down to making it easier on them.

A flexible open-ended question gives them the freedom to choose more freely rather than having to be more exact with their answer. This happens because people in general want to answer honestly, but if your question is too rigid then their honest answer will be something along the lines of "I don't know."

As an example, instead of asking somebody what their favorite band of all time is, ask them if any band has caught their attention recently. The flexibility of this question makes it easier for both of you.

Another example: instead of asking somebody what their dream vacation spot is, ask them about a vacation spot they've always wanted to go to but haven't gone to yet. 

It makes it easier on them to give you an answer because they don't need to think as hard, and it makes it easier on you to carry the conversation forward because they can more easily give an answer.

Of course, never hesitate to ask somebody to elaborate on their answers. As long as you don't ask in an annoying way, they will be happy to answer you.

4. Tease and poke fun at each other

One of the greatest conversational tools at your disposal is teasing. This is a great way to lower tensions while using humor. Everybody loves a good laugh, so it would benefit you greatly to learn how to tease people.

Teasing itself is very easy to do. Simply say something with some level of absurdity mixed in.

As an example, let's say that a girl is complaining about having trouble finding love. You can tease her by saying something like, "Not surprising since your standards reach into outer space."

Going back to the tennis example, you could say something like, "So you're telling me you like hitting balls really hard? Remind me not to get on your bad side."

Whether you call it teasing, sarcasm, or flirting, it's a very powerful tool to use in conversations to add some spice.

Teasing has a few main components to it:

  1. Absurdity
  2. Humor
  3. Plausible deniability

When you combine these things together, you get conversations that should offend somebody but instead disarms them and makes them laugh.

Relax and have fun!

Conversations are not supposed to be stressful. We make them stressful ourselves because of pre-conceived notions we carry in our minds.

All those worries you carry in your head are 90% of the time false. Don't worry about looking silly because looking silly can actually make the conversation better.

Above all else, stop being so hard on yourself. Aim to have fun when talking to others, and you can't have fun if you're constantly worried about what you're going to say.

- Karl