Many people would consider studying for a test to be a prudent move. Yet they would never consider "study" for conversations. The people who struggle with conversation struggle because they don't do anything before conversations for more enjoyment.
This preparation is only one-half of the coin to social skills. You can't become a great conversationalist with just prep work alone.
To truly excel at conversation, you also need communication skills. However, even people with good communication skills do not do this prep work.
Measure twice, and cut once; do this prep once, and you're set for life. By using this prep work, you will be able to sharpen your conversations and get more out of them.
1. Know what you like, know who you are
Even though this is very much common sense, too many still neglect to do this. Many people will dive into conversations not having a strong grasp on what they enjoy. When you know what you like, conversations flow much more naturally.
First off, why does this help? Why does it help you with somebody else to know more about yourself?
When we talk, we don't want to put in all the effort. When we do, it feels as if the other person isn't all that interested. Of course, if they're asking you to go deeper, that's an exception.
In general, though, we can feel when the other person isn't contributing as much and it's quite off-putting.
By knowing yourself and what you like, you're more able to contribute to the conversation with threads from your own life. Adding these threads allows the other person to pick the ones that interest them and the conversation deepens from there.
When talking with others, you should aim to keep the topic of discussion to only things that you both want to talk about. There's no easier way to do this than by adding threads to what's already been said.
When talking with others, we naturally want to talk about what we enjoy, but you can't do that if you don't know yourself enough.
2. Discover what you get nerdy over
Yes, this point is very similar to the last one. Yes, you could technically treat them as one. Despite this, it's still worth mentioning here. Everybody likes things, but there is always one thing in particular that they get nerdy over. Discover that thing that you get nerdy over.
While the last point is more about having a wider array of topics to draw from, this point is more to do with having one or two topics you're really passionate about. Having both make conversations flow more easily.
When you know what you are passionate about you can more easily create deep conversations by diving into it with someone else. Just as it's endearing to watch somebody else glow up when talking about a certain topic, the same goes for them listening to you.
So, what exactly should you pick for your nerd topic? The answer: anything.
It could be fitness, it could be music, it could be birds, or it could be french cuisine. Whatever it is, make sure you're passionate about it.
For me, my nerd topic is human behavior and psychology. I love it because I find it fascinating to understand the true logic behind what motivates people.
That being said, you don't want to overwhelm them with what you say. Let them ask questions so they can digest what you're saying. And if they don't, blab away!
The big reason behind having a nerd topic is it acts as a sort of foundation for everything else about you.
Pay close enough attention, and you'll notice that people tend to revolve things around what they're passionate about.
Religion, politics, sports, business, or video games; whatever they pick becomes the center of who they are.
This doesn't mean they don't have other interests. This simply means that their passion acts as their strongest anchor.
By having a nerd topic, you create a strong anchor for yourself. When this happens, it becomes much easier for you to express who you are.
3. Get out of your damn head
The number one reason why anybody would struggle with conversation is simply that they can't get out of their heads. They get stuck in that place where they're surrounded by comfort. They don't want to risk sounding silly or stupid, and so they clam up, literally, into their own heads.
I remember when this used to be me. I'd overthink so much that it seemed like I wanted to be elsewhere. Those were dark times.
The greatest skill you'll ever learn when it comes to becoming a better conversationalist is getting out of your head. 90% of the struggle comes from being stuck inside.
When you can't get out of your head, you are effectively living in the past. Thinking about a moment that has already passed or is about to pass.
People can tell when you are stuck in your head. They can tell from how absent you are at the moment. This kind of vibe is very off-putting.
The benefit of being out of your head is you can fully be in the moment. You can fully listen to what they're saying, fully engage in the conversation, and fully enjoy the connection being built.
The whole worry of not knowing what to say? That comes from being stuck in your head.
If you want to easily come up with things to say in conversation, first get out of your head; it'll take care of 90% of the work.
It takes two to tango
I've said this before and I'll say it again. It takes two for a conversation to work. There are at least always two people in a conversation.
If you're putting in your best effort and they aren't, don't sweat it. You haven't done anything wrong, they just don't want to talk.
This will happen. You will encounter those who don't want to talk with you. When this happens, move on and find somebody who does want to talk.