Look who’s talking

By admin
13 January 2014

Clinical psychologist Dr Traci D tells us how to quit being tongue-tied and start chit-chatting like a pro

Talking – we’ve done it since we were toddlers so why do we feel such babies again when it comes to conversing with a stranger? “It’s just not easy making conversation at the best of times, let alone with people you know nothing about,” Lily (16) says.

Enter Dr Traci, a firm believer in the power of bulletproof conversation skills. She says anyone who gets sweaty palms at the thought of talking to a stranger is better off pushing through nervousness to reap the rewards of confidence and the connection that comes from this life skill. “Genuine social confidence is important because it shows you have a healthy self-esteem and you feel positive about the world and your place in it,” she explains.

Want to get chatting?

Follow Dr Traci’s steps and go from socially scared to super savvy.

1 Observe the person you’re considering chatting with to determine if they’re open to you. 

A good way to do this is to check out their body language. If they’re smiling, talking to others and have their arms unfolded there’s a good chance they’ll be happy to talk to you.

2 Introduce yourself confidently by saying, “Hi, I’m Lily.”

3 Start conversation using a common topic.

Your subject should be something that’s happened recently (a general knowledge topic is good), for example a film premiere or an election.  It could be as simple as asking, “Have you seen The Social Network yet?” or “I can’t believe how great Emma Watson’s pixie cut looks – would you ever try something like that?” They key here is to ask open-ended questions to allow the other person to open up.

4 Listen attentively to the person’s answer.

This is important because you’ve already put them in a vulnerable position by having to answer your question. This can be an uncomfortable experience for any shy or not-so-confident person and if you’re not paying attention they may not give you another chance.

5 Rephrase their words to show you’re interested, then add more info and back it up with another question about them.

Most people love to talk about themselves so this will work well to break the ice. For example, the person may answer, “I LOVED The Social Network and couldn’t believe the guy who invented Facebook has no friends!”  Then you could say, “I know! Did you also find it crazy that Justin Timberlake’s character now owns seven per cent of the whole company?  That’s a lot of cash for not doing much!” The more you incorporate questions into your confident yet relaxed conversation style, the more comfortable and stimulated the other person will become.

6 Keep it going if you like them, with the same strategies of listening, reflecting and responding with interest.

Incorporate your own opinions to show that you’re comfortable exposing a bit about yourself in return.

Dr Traci’s chatter don’ts

DON’T interrupt anyone you don’t know who is deep in conversation with someone else. Wait your turn.

DON’T begin conversations with your own agenda and disregard the interest levels of others. For example, don’t launch into a conversation about your latest Twilight revelations when you haven’t even introduced yourself yet.

DON’T ignore signals from others if it seems you’re pursuing a topic they’re not interested in or might find offensive. Signs you may be doing this range from the other person scowling to not answering you, trying to move away or just avoiding your gaze.

DON’T get too full-on and lecture the person with an argument you’re passionate about, unless they’re just as passionate about it as you are.

DON’T fall back on social media like Facebook and MXit. A conversation in the flesh is much more rewarding than an emoticon. =)

More tips for talking

If you’re super shy try these ice breakers:

- Practicse Dr Traci’s six-step conversation skills with friends or family, or even in the mirror.

- Work on pushing your social boundaries with daily challenges. Keep it simple, for example, just saying “hello” to someone you don’t know.

- Work on silencing the self-talk we all get when we aren’t confident. Banish negativity and words like “can’t” or “won’t”.  Replace with positive self-talk such as: “I’m a nice person and it’s fun to make new friends, so here I go . . .” Or even better, try: “I am bulletproof. I can do this.”

LILY ASKS . . .

If you get bad body language from the other person should you just give up?

Dr Traci answers . . .

If you get definite “go away” signals abort the mission. If you still like the look of this person, who knows, perhaps a conversation will begin that will thaw their icy facade.

SOURCES: Zoe Collins/ACPSyndication.com

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