Having good conversations with people you just met is crucial to building friendships. But you only need to have “good” conversations; you don’t need to obsess over having a great first impression.
You don’t need to impress or blow the mind of anyone; you just need to build new ties with people. In this article, I want to share with you the right strategies for having conversations that lead to new friendships.
Avoid Being Too Serious, Too Soon
People unconsciously need to know if they’re going to be able to have fun, relax and shoot the breeze with you. The way you prove this is to avoid being too serious, too early. Try to find the humor in every situation and take things lightly in conversation. When you become friends with the person, you can show a more serious part of yourself.
The essence of small talk is to go from subject to subject to subject, without going too deep in any of these subjects. When you find that you have a pretty rare common interest, and that it’s worth discussing more in depth, that’s the exception that allows you to stay there for a while.
Practice Small Talk Anywhere
Small talk is your winning ticket as you’re meeting new people; if you don’t know how to do it already, then practice!
Fortunately, it’s easy to practice. You should just realize that you can do it anywhere you are; you have permission. You can do it with salespeople, bartenders, cab drivers, people in line, etc.
They like it when people are nice and talk to them a little more than necessary, so it’s a win-win.
The rule of thumb here is to talk 5% more than usual.
Try and put a few more words, one or two sentences more than usual. Your “usual” will grow with time; your mind will be more and more comfortable talking to people you just met. It gets better as you practice.
Small talk isn’t logical, it doesn’t have an outcome behind it. We use it to relate to people, to find things in common, to prove that we’re similar, and we’re comfortable with each other.
As I said, if you think you need practice, don’t hesitate to start ASAP. At the same time, even if this is not a priority for you, it’s still cool to be nice and cheer up the people that meet day-to-day.
Avoid Filtering Yourself
When you meet new people, it’s easy to think that you’re only allowed to talk about interesting things. This usually happens if you have doubts about whether you’ll be judged or criticized for what you say. It also comes from that myth of the “first impression.”
Friendship, is not like dating; it’s also not like selling, and definitely not like applying for a job.
It’s way, way lower pressure than that. Mostly, people want to have someone who they can relate to, who they can feel relaxed around, and who can listen as well as talk.
There is no place for trying to impress people. When you meet people who are socially skilled, they’ll actually tolerate that “I’m perfect” talk, for a while, but that’s just to figure out who you really are. It’s just creates a delay, and makes the friendship take more time to start.
People can’t be friends with you if you’re not ready to lower your guard.
This “pressure” to only talk about cool, impressive, interesting, extremely relevant, important, or funny subjects stifles you. 99% of what you could talk about is not that amazing; so if you censor yourself, it’s easy to end up with nothing to talk about.
I suggest you lower your standards and widen your filters of what you can talk about. Give yourself more freedom and slack; that’s what friendship is for, goofing around, making mistakes, and being yourself.
If you’re less socially skilled than the people you’re with; they’ll still tolerate you if you’re not arrogant and can at least give your two cents on most of the subjects that come up.
And if you practice talking about whatever comes to your mind, you’ll polish your conversation skills so quickly, you’ll learn a lot before you even notice.
Understand that people need to know that you’re “there,” that you can speak your mind. This helps them trust you; people who never speak their mind come across as if they’re hiding something.