Do you often run out of things to say and feel awkward in conversations? Most people will just blame their introversion and act like it’s their God-given lot.
But it doesn’t have to be like this — you can learn how to be more talkative. If you desire so, you can become the life of the party.
Read about the importance of speaking up, how to use multi-threading, and why you should record your interactions and analyze them.
- 1. Have a Few Go-to Topics
- 2. Avoid One-Word Answers
- 3. Ask Open-Ended Questions
- 4. Use the Question-Statement-Question Structure
- 5. Use Cold Reads
- 6. Cater to Their Vanity
- 7. Use Multi-Threading
- 8. Use Hooks
- 9. Improve Your Body Language
- 10. Speak Up
- 11. Don’t Fear To Be Judged
- 12. Show Vulnerability
- 13. Match Their Energy
- 14. Develop a Learner’s Mindset
- 15. Record Yourself
1. Have a Few Go-to Topics
The biggest problem with “How to be more talkative” is that people run out of things to say. Suddenly, there will be this long, awkward silence.
To prevent that, have a few go-to topics ready that you can pull out if the conversation reaches a dead end.
These go-to topics should fulfill two requirements:
- They should be broad enough to appeal to a large segment of the population.
- They should be somewhat interesting to yourself, so you can talk about them passionately.
The second point is key. If the other person can tell that you are just bringing this topic up because there is an awkward silence, it will make you look weak, like you can’t stand it.
But if you start enthusiastically talking about this new conversational thread, nobody will think twice.
For me, one such topic is traveling. I travel most of the year as a digital nomad, so it is a big part of my life. Naturally, it is something I can talk about for hours.
But it is also something a large number of people can connect to. Almost everybody has traveled at some point. Indeed, most people in their heads are counting down the days until their next vacation. This topic will hit home pretty much every time.
Another one of my go-to topics is TV shows, especially The Sopranos and The Big Bang Theory. I enjoyed both of these shows tremendously and have rewatched them several times. I can easily talk about them.
But so can many other people. They have watched these shows too, or, if they haven’t, they might have watched other shows that they liked better. Boom, you have a discussion.
Come up with your own list of go-to topics, that relate to your personality and your preferences, but are mass-compatible.
Don’t just decide on these topics in general, but also come up with specific conversation starters, in case there is an awkward silence. Here are a few examples:
- “I’m traveling to Costa Rica in May. I am very excited, I have never been. Do you have any upcoming travel plans?”
- “Have you seen the last season of Better Call Saul yet? There are some interesting plot twists. What’s your favorite show?”
- “I have to take my dog to the vet tomorrow, she has to get vaccinated. She is still small, only 12 weeks old. Do you have any pets?”
- “I saw this awesome deal for the new iPhone online, I am seriously considering getting it. Are you an iPhone or an Android person?”
2. Avoid One-Word Answers
Imagine you are having a conversation at a party.
You: “So, where are you from?”
The other person: “Columbus.”
You: “Oh, nice, I studied there. Have you lived there your whole life?”
The other person: “Yes.”
You: “I remember the big Buckeyes vs. Michigan games. Those were wild!”
The other person: “I guess.”
How long do you think would you stay in a conversation like this? Probably not long. It’s too tiresome. You don’t want to keep talking to someone who is giving you nothing to work with.
People who struggle with being more talkative often show this behavior without realizing it. They will give one one-word answer after another and then feel hurt if everybody keeps turning away from them.
Give the other person some input. Elaborate on your answer. As a rule of thumb, add an extra piece of information to every answer you give.
Here is the above conversation again.
You: “So, where are you from?”
The other person: “I am from Columbus, from a suburb in the North-West, Dublin.”
You: “Oh, nice, I studied there. Have you lived there your whole life?”
The other person: “Yes, most of life. But I used to spend the summers with my grandparents in Jersey.”
You: “I remember the big Buckeyes vs. Michigan games. Those were wild!”
The other person: “It’s mayhem. The whole city gets in a frenzy. Especially the tailgate parties are legendary.”
At every turn, you are giving the other person something extra.
This will allow the other person to take the conversation further. It will also make them feel like that their questions are well received. They will enjoy the interaction more and will want to stay in it longer.
3. Ask Open-Ended Questions
You should avoid asking yes/no questions, like, “Do you like where you are from?” Here, you are inviting them to cut the conversation short.
Instead, ask them, “What do you like best about where you are from? What do you like worst?”
These kinds of open-ended questions typically elicit a much lengthier response. With some people, it might be difficult to shut them up again. But in any case, they will perceive you as someone easy to talk to (even though they are doing most of the talking).
4. Use the Question-Statement-Question Structure
While questions are an important tool in your toolbox, you don’t want to overdo them. Back in the day, I saw this a lot with my dating coaching clients— they would rapid-fire ask questions until the other person became annoyed.
Just try it yourself. Have a friend pretend you are just getting to know each other. Then let them ask away. After about ten questions or so, you will feel like you are being interrogated.
To prevent this, adopt a question-statement-question structure. It means that whenever you ask a question and the other person responds, you, in turn, must make a statement first before you can ask another question.
You: “So, I hear you are traveling to South-East Asia soon. What’s your itinerary?” [question 1]
The other person: “I’ll fly to Vietnam first. I am very excited, I have never been.”
You: “I have a friend who visited last year. He said the people were very friendly and the seafood was exceptional. [statement 1] What cities do you plan to visit? [question 2]
The other person: “Oh, I’m so looking forward to checking out Saigon and Hanoi bla bla bla.”
As you can see here, always intersperse your questions with on one or more statements. Overall, try to get a well-balanced question-to-statement ratio.
The thing is — the less familiar we are with somebody, the more questions we ask. So, we associate questions with distance.
Now observe how friends communicate with each other. They will ask each other relatively few questions but will make lots of unasked statements. We associate this communication structure with familiarity and trust.
5. Use Cold Reads
A great way to keep a conversation going without asking too many questions is to use cold reads.
Cold reads are when make an observation or a guess about someone based on the vibe they give off or something that stands out about their appearance.
Here are a few examples:
- “You seem like a very calm, composed person. If I had to guess, I would say you are a nurse or a doctor, someone who has to keep it together under pressure.”
- “You have a bit of an intellectual vibe about you. If I had to guess, I would say you work in academia, maybe in the humanities.”
- “I can tell you are not originally from New Mexico. If I had to guess, I would say the New England area, maybe Boston.”
- “I couldn’t help but notice your cauliflower ears and your athletic build. If I had to guess, I would say you are probably an MMA fighter.”
The reason why we respond well to such assumptions is vanity. We are highly interested in learning how we come across to others.
Also, when you make these observations, make sure to throw in some sugar. Observe positive or interesting traits about them, something that strokes their ego. Never make negative observations like, “You look like you don’t play a lot of sports,” or, “You don’t seem like the reading type.”
Which brings me to my next point.
6. Cater to Their Vanity
Most people, when they want to learn how to be more talkative, focus on themselves. They research conversational techniques or how they can change their mindset to become more extrovert.
But conversations are a contact sport. There is another person involved. And ultimately, this other person is not too concerned with how much or how little you talk. They are just concerned with getting their emotional needs met.
A few examples:
A loud braggart, always talking about their business success, is happiest when you listen, nod, and validate them.
A shy wallflower is happiest when you let them feel that they are pretty or interesting and that people should be paying more attention to them.
An attention-seeking joker will be happiest if you laugh at their drolleries and let them know how they are the delight of the party.
What it comes down to is this — everybody’s favorite topic is themselves. And the better you are at playing into their narrative about themselves, the more you will be valued as a great conversationalist.
It won’t matter much how many or how few words you say. In fact, you might say very little and they might constantly be talking. But in their minds, you still seemed talkative because you said the right things. You validated them at key points in the conversation.
So, stop obsessing about yourself, and what you should be doing in a conversation. Start obsessing about how you can best meet the other person’s emotional needs.
7. Use Multi-Threading
A novice conversationalist will cling to one thread. For example, they might start talking about last night’s game and then milk that thread until it’s dead. Only then do they switch to another topic.
The expert conversationalist will use multi-threading. They will start with topic A, but then midway switch to topic B, then come back to topic A shortly, then introduce topic C.
Multi-threading introduces an element of variety. It keeps the conversation fresh. From the other person’s point of view, talking to you becomes a bit of an adventure. You never know what new, interesting turn the conversation might take at any moment.
8. Use Hooks
Conversational hooks are when you remember something from much earlier in the conversation.
For example, you might start talking to somebody about their beloved family dog Brutus, and how he is currently suffering from an infected eye.
Then the conversation moves on to work stuff, but about twenty minutes in, you remark, “I just thought of this great vet that my sister told me about. She’s been going there for years. Maybe I’ll get you her number for Brutus?”
What this does is signal to the other person that you are really paying attention.
You are thinking about what is on their mind. And you are still doing so when the conversation has officially moved on. On top of that, you even remembered the Brutus’ name.
For these reasons, conversational hooks will buy you a lot of goodwill in interactions. You will be seen as somebody who cares.
9. Improve Your Body Language
“How to be more talkative,” is not just about what you say to others. The non-verbal signs you give off are arguably even more important.
If you have closed-off facial body language, flat facial expressions, and can’t keep eye contact, it won’t matter how interesting or witty you are. People will get turned off by you before you even get to demonstrate these qualities.
Here are a few pointers.
In terms of posture, stand as upright as possible. Unrounded upper back, shoulders back, chest slightly out.
Make it a habit to always check your posture when you walk by a reflective surface like a window or a car. Correct yourself for long enough, and your body will eventually accept this new upright posture as its new default.
Keep eye contact. At the beginning of an interaction, look at your partner and pick one of their eyes — that’s the one you will keep looking at for the rest of the conversation. No switching back and forth between eyes, no looking away.
A little trick — if you need a break from looking at somebody’s eyes, close your own eyes while laughing. This is perfectly acceptable and also makes you appear more animated.
If you are prone to nervous gestures with your hands, touch your thumb and your middle finger together. By focusing on keeping them in touch all the time, you will be too distracted to do weird stuff with your hands. At the same time, it is subtle enough for the other person not to notice.
With facial expressions, make a point to mirror whatever emotion the other person is talking about back to them. So, if they are talking about a sad event, look concerned. If they are smiling, smile with them.
Practice your body language in front of a mirror every day. For ten minutes, have an imaginary interaction. For example, imagine you were talking to your boss about the progress of the new project.
Now, say the things that you would like to say to your boss. Imagine their likely response, then respond to that.
But all the time, you are watching how your body language is matching (or not matching) what you are saying. If you notice any discrepancies, stop and start that particular sentence/gesture again. Keep refining that element until it looks confident, yet relaxed.
Finally, record yourself having real interactions, then analyze these recordings. Sales calls via Zoom are great for that. You can also ask your colleagues to record live meetings. Say that you want to make sure nothing is lost.
When you sit down to analyze your recordings, notice any problems or slip-ups you had in terms of body language. When you do, stop the recording, and reenact the scene in front of a mirror until you get it right. Then continue your analysis.
10. Speak Up
Many introverts struggle with speaking up. If that is you, you need to fix this.
Understand — other people can literally not understand what you are saying, or they have to try so hard, they grow tired of it. As a result, they turn away from you.
Many introverts I have coached take this as a grave insult. In turn, they withdraw even further in themselves.
Here is how to wrap your head around this.
Imagine you were watching a new season of your favorite TV show, but one of the producers had decided to cut the volume output to a tenth.
Quickly, you would become highly annoyed with the show. “How can they be so inconsiderate of their audience?” you would complain.
Guess what — this is exactly how people feel around you.
So, stop being such a sensitive plant. Learn to speak up.
A great way to practice this is the “speak to the wall” exercise.
Start facing a wall, with your nose almost touching the wall. Now say something. “Hey, how are you? Great weather today. I think I am going to go for a hike later. What are your plans?”
Now, take a step back, away from the wall. Say the same couple of sentences as before, but project them onto the wall. You want to hit the sound wave exactly where the surface of the wall starts.
Now take another two steps back. Repeat. Then another three steps. Repeat. Keep going until you are about 10 steps or more away from the wall.
Do this exercise every day. Once you get the hang of it, incorporate longer soundbites. For example, recite a poem to the wall. “The Road Not Taken,” is a good length.
What this does is teach you how to project. If you can “hit” a wall from 10 steps away with a performance piece, you will be more than able to make yourself heard in a regular conversation.
11. Don’t Fear To Be Judged
People who want to learn how to be more talkative sometimes suffer from analysis paralysis. They are so afraid to say something silly or wrong that they end up saying nothing at all.
If that is you, remind yourself that your fear of being judged is mostly in your head.
For example, you might be at a party and someone starts talking to you. Immediately, your brain goes into high gear. “How do I look? Was my response appropriate? Did I just laugh too loud?”
Understand — it is not just you. Most people you talk to are thinking similar thoughts. So, effectively, everybody is busy worrying about themselves and how they come across. They don’t have attention left to judge you.
Once that realization sinks in, you can relax. If you make a mistake in a conversation, take a mental note and try to do better next time. But chances are, you were the only one to notice it.
12. Show Vulnerability
If you are one of the few people not putting on a show about how great they are, you will positively stand out.
Honesty is disarming. You can mention your shortcomings and mistakes in a conversation.
If you messed up a relationship or a business in the past and learned from it, people will be interested in hearing about it. It’s juicy, it’s real.
It will also make you seem more human, and more relatable. We have all made these mistakes, but are too afraid to talk about them. You give voice to them.
Just don’t overdo it. Calmly touching upon that vulnerable spot in your life is fine, and even attractive. Giving in to self-pity or ranting is not.
13. Match Their Energy
You must match your energy level to those of the people around you.
If everybody is high energy, and you are being a bit of a bore, you are probably not going to be remembered as an outstanding conversationalist.
Vice versa, if everybody is acting calm and composed, and you are constantly high-fiving everybody, that is also not ideal.
As a rule of thumb, you want to match the other person’s energy and even add a little bit extra. This allows them to feed off your energy. Your positive mood will elate them. People appreciate that and will want to talk to you again in the future.
14. Develop a Learner’s Mindset
Most people will read an article like this one, think to themselves, “Oh, this is interesting, I should try that,” and then forget about it one minute later.
Understand — becoming a great conversationalist is a skill set that you need to practice like any other skill set.
If you wanted to learn how to play the piano, you wouldn’t watch a video on YouTube and think, “Oh, I’ll try this next time I see a piano around. That should be enough to figure it out.”
You would get books. You would find a teacher. But most importantly, you would block out time every day to deliberately practice new techniques.
You must do the same thing if you want to become a great communicator. Every day, start one or several practice conversations with strangers.
Don’t just start blabbering. Pick one of the techniques that we talked about in this article and try to apply it in the conversation at hand.
This will feel awkward at first, and it should. You are trying something new, and you are still bad at it. But keep doing it, and you will get better at it.
15. Record Yourself
To get the most out of your practice sessions, it is essential that you establish a feedback loop. You must be able to revisit what you said, recognize mistakes, and ponder alternatives.
The best way to do so is to record your daily practice interactions.
For example, at work, ask your colleagues if it’s okay to record your meetings. You can then sit down later and analyze what you did right or wrong.
Likewise, you could record sales calls with potential clients or your call with a family member or a friend. You could even record little interactions with strangers on your smartphone. Just let your headphones hang out of your shirt; the built-in microphone will pick up the sound well enough.
I recommend that you do your analysis in writing. Listen to about 30 seconds of audio, then stop the recording. Ask yourself:
- Did I sound at ease and natural? Or did I come across as nervous and even anxious?
- Did I closely listen to the other person? Did I work with what they gave me?
- Did I in turn provide interesting information?
- Did I stroke their ego a little bit?
- Did I ask open-ended questions and use a question-statement-question structure?
- Did I use hooks, multi-threading, and cold reads?
If you did these things, pat yourself on the shoulder. If not, write out an alternative, better response.
Do this for 30 minutes every day.
This is work. But forcing yourself to think of these alternatives and writing them down will condition your mind to access these new pathways when you find yourself in a similar conversation next time. You will now do better.