How to have a conversation


People have been coming to our site with questions, and sadly we haven’t had all the answers. Here are some recent examples.

How to take a sophomore to the Prom?

How to talk to a guy after a fight?

How to paralyze someone? (Huh? This still makes us laugh and cringe!)

So to help out our readers, we decided to start our own How To series. Let’s begin.

The art of conversation has taken a nosedive in recent years. Why? We’re out of practice. Technology has had a lot to do with this, since we use our devices to do much of the talking for us. But really the blame lies with us, because we’ve stopped valuing face-to-face communication.

At an early age we learn how to converse from our parents. We observe their body language as they discuss household chores. We watch them handle sensitive topics like who’s night is it to be up with the baby. We see how they argue, and hopefully resolve problems. It’s a complicated and delicate dance for sure, and difficult to learn. But it takes a lot of time and practice. Hopefully this guide will help you become aware of the finer points of good conversation, and get you started on your way to becoming an artful conversationalist, or maybe just a little less boring.

Let’s pretend you’re meeting someone new or you’re on a first date. Here are ten things that might help you keep it interesting, or at least yawn free.

1. Greet the person with a smile. Getting off to the right start is key to having a good conversation. Smiling breaks the ice and lets the person know you’re happy to see them, or at least eager to get to know them. Otherwise they start to think, “Do I have a furry woodland creature coming out of my nose? And I don’t even have a tissue.”

2. Keep eye contact. And that doesn’t mean bore a hole through their head. You don’t want to scare them right away. Save that for later when you tell them about your latest stint in rehab. This means, look at them when they’re speaking, or for that matter, when you’re speaking. And please don’t constantly glance at the big flat screen TV or the cute waiter or waitress. Those are big No Nos!

3. Ask them questions that are relevant. Whether you care about the topic being discussed or not is irrelevant, because the primary goal is to get to know the person better. If they’re discussing Yoga passionately ask them to tell you their morning routine, or what is their favorite pose, or what would be something good for a beginner to try, or what are the best poses to relieve constipation. (Okay, maybe save that last one until you’re married.) But don’t ask them to show you Downward-Facing Dog, or what they look like in their outfit, or if all Yoga people use Patchouli, or how does the mat feel on their soft skin. That’s creepy and pretty much a conversation stopper!

4. Don’t redirect. We like to talk about ourselves. And there is nothing wrong with that. However, flipping the conversation to give yourself a platform for pontificating about your Iron Man training or your Dog Grooming business won’t win you a new fan. If you feel it’s relevant to interject a personal experience about the topic at hand that is completely appropriate, but then please redirect back to them. Sorry did I say, don’t redirect?

5. Read their body language. This isn’t always easy, so here are some tips. If the person has tears dripping down their face, it’s best to stop talking about your fascinating Cigar or Porcelain Figurine collections. If they keep looking at their water glass like it should be in the Louvre, it’s best you stop talking about your last partner’s annoying habit of picking the calluses off their feet. And if your friend starts to look at the waiter or waitresses or the big screen TV, even without SOUND, it’s best to ask them a relevant question quickly.

6. Listen. No, for real. Listen!! This doesn’t mean, listen for the first opening to inject some clever quip. This means listen, and show them you are interested in what they’re saying by looking at them(#2), and asking them relevant questions(#3). Listening is an art form in itself. It takes practice. So practice on your buddies, or on your boss, but don’t go out on dates to practice listening, unless you like going on a lot of first dates.

7. Show that you’re interested. This goes along with listening. One way to show interest in what they are talking about is to use their name when you ask them a question. “Jane/Jon, I heard that apples bring on physical reactions during allergy season. Is that true?” Of course they’d better be talking about some sort of homeopathic remedy to ask a question like that. (Remember, keep it relevant!) Using a person’s name is very effective and will immediately tell the person you are focused only on them. Some other obvious things. Eye contact(#2). And body language(#5). Don’t slouch, glance or pick anything. Sit upright and maybe even lean forward a bit and nod your head. One Word of Caution. You are not auditioning for a play. Don’t overact or overuse any of these things, or you’ll win the “Worst Impression of a Conversationalist” at the next SAG awards.

8. Don’t share too much. By all means tell the person about yourself. They want to get to know you too. But don’t get too personal. You don’t have to share about those funny spots that cover your neck beneath your turtleneck, or the time you and some friends woke up naked inside the science museum, or the fact that you tend to yell out “mommy” when you sleep. These are things best left to mention after you’re married.

9. Show you have a sense of humor. It helps if you are funny, but that doesn’t mean telling jokes. This is not a comedy act and your friend is not your audience. You can certainly try to inject funny remarks or a few humorous stories into the conversation. It’s even OK to gently tease your friend. Teasing is a form of flirting and can be very attractive, but please be subtle. Don’t make fun of any physical features, or their family or friends. Another note of caution. Don’t try to be funny if you’re not. You can always show you know how to have a good time by laughing with them. Which brings us to our last point.

10. Be yourself. Be genuine. Don’t change the way you do things just to make a good impression. If you’re not one to talk a lot, then listen a ton and ask questions. If you’re used to dominating conversations, then get your friend involved. The best you can do is show the person you are interested and let them know who you are.

Conclusion: Avoid the yawn. This is your goal for the entire night. Once your new friend yawns the night’s over. It doesn’t matter if they say they’re tired, or they had aΒ  long day at work. Those are all nice ways of saying, “Check please.”

So relax and have a good time. You might be surprised at how stimulating a good conversation can be.

If not you can always go home and play with your ipad.

Do you have any funny, scary, horrible or awesome conversations you would like to share with everyone?

Or do you have any more advice on how to have a conversation?

36 Comments on How to have a conversation

  1. How to paralyze? Well, I have done that! Years ago we had a sales meeting of my husband’s sales crew in Memphis, and I had a cocktail party at our house. One of the salesmen who was ADHD, never stopped talking and one could hardly get a word in edgewise. He was an avid golfer and that night engaged me in a conversation about his game, and mine. I listened intently to his stories FOR EVER, and after explaining to me IN DETAIL about the best part of his game, he asked me, “So what is the best part of your game?” Without missing a beat, I said, “My clothes.” He blinked, and went silent. The whole room erupted in laughter. I had actually shut him up, but in a very polite way.

  2. Great advice guys!
    Number ten is the best advice of all. Many people try very hard to be anything but themselves when ‘being yourself’ is the best you can be. I can’t tell you what Moe says. It’s unprintable. Happy Weekend Guys!

  3. @Judie……That is funny! It sounds like you had a lot of time to come up with that too!

    @Diana…….No one is better at being you than you. And if that doesn’t “sell” nothing will. Hmmm, we want to know what Moe says!


    That is way to much work!

    Skip that shit.

    Be niiiice, smile, listen…. BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!!


    Hold the door open? check

    “I’m a pain in the ass. Are you okay with that?” check

    Did he pay? check

    good kisser? check

    big cock? FAIL

    Those are the things that matter GUYS, SCREW the other bullshit!

  5. You have covered every point that I could think of. What I thought particular important are to be yourself and to really listen by asking relevant questions. These will surely make one an interesting person to be with.

  6. This was a topic of conversation among a few of my friends and I last week. One, who was trying to better his conversational skills, had just finished a book (I can’t recall the name) on the subject. This list would be very helpful for him.

    The older I get, the more important good conversation is to me, whether with friends or potential significant others. Like you said, it’s become hard to find. Nevertheless, I continue the search πŸ™‚

  7. Actually, I’ve used that line before. It is my own creation, though.

    Regarding my situation earlier last week, I have always believed the best way to defuse a verbal attack is to listen with a bland half-smile on your face while looking directly at the attacker, and say absolutely nothing.

  8. Dude i know a lot of people who need this. As a matter of fact I know some people who need more basic instruction. A lady at work was telling me a story and I nodded my head and said something like “uhuh” and she stopped and said “Oh I’m not done yet.” Seriously- she didn’t catch the clues for active listening…I work with a lot of people like this.

  9. @Ashley……….We guess if you put it like that, maybe the other stuff doesn’t matter.

    @BK………..Yes, we all must be true to ourselves.

    @Kernut………We wish you well on your search. A great conversation is so much fun! But it doesn’t happen that often.

    @Judie………That is a good strategy, but VERY HARD to do! Good for you.

    @mountainmomma………That’s scary. How come people aren’t learning these skills??!! What is going on?!! Those are some scary co-workers you got there. Good luck with that!

  10. Thanks GUYS! Great advice! I think I’m going to LOVE this “how to” series!
    Keep ’em coming, I’m listening! πŸ™‚

  11. @Gogo……Thanks, we will.

  12. I think the advice you gave was excellent 6, 7, and 8 are very good…have I had a scary experience, oh yes thus, it makes me very cautious with people I don’t know and often I just like to be there with no one knowing me or hearing me speak I just listen.

    Dorothy from grammology

  13. @Dorothy……..We need more people in this world who just listen. Nothing wrong with being a bit cautious.

  14. Is Bigfoot real?

  15. The art of conversation has been lost in space satellites and the Internet. We write cryptic messages of 140 characters or less and email rather than write letters. Heck, my kids don’t even use email anymore. All they do is text.

    It would be wonderful if people still engaged in meaningful conversations, but it means they would need to take their eyes away from their iPads for a few seconds.

  16. Damn it! You forgot Number 11. Upon your first meeting, you are supposed to belch and fart at the same time. It causes you to appear more sophisticated and shit. Girls like it because it shows you really care. πŸ™‚

    Your advise on listening, to me, was one of the most important. I always tried doing that above all else. Being yourself is great advise but most people find it hard to do 100%. You will always be nice, smarter or whatever on your first date. People usually don’t let down their guard, in that area, until the fourth or fifth date.

    Great post! Great advice.

  17. @Vange………..In an odd way that just might be a relevant question.

    @Askcherlock………..We find it to be sad. Technology, when used properly, is a great tool for communication. But speaking to someone face-to-face is still by far the best way to do things, and potentially the most meaningful.

    @Kelly………You make a good point. People are on their best behavior early on in a relationship. Of course maybe that’s why so many fail. When you finally unwrap the gift it’s not quite what you expected. The fart and burp would certainly be a good test. If the woman stuck around after that you know you have a keeper.

  18. Good Advice guys. I think all of them are equally important. Especially the tenth one. Being Original helps.
    Great post…:)

  19. I love this! I was too much of a ho so I never really had any real dates. The couple of blind dates that I had were horrible. They guys were total dorks and of course they only wanted one thing once they saw the “rack”! Do big boobs automatically make you slutty?

  20. @Mr. Stupid……….Yes it does. Have a great day.

    @Jayme…….No they don’t. But they often make guys forget how to have a good conversation.

  21. I left you a message about your comic strip.

  22. Great advice. They should bring you into schools to teach the kids how to behave. I wonder if they would listen.

  23. Great words of wisdom! I think some people simply do not know how to communicate. I blame technology. For example I went out on a date (one date) with this guy. He would never call me on the phone – just text. Needless to say the date was pretty much a bust because he had zero conversation skills. But he was a witty texter…. lol but that wasn’t enough πŸ™‚

  24. @Judie…….Thanks. I’ll check it out.

    @Anne……..Well my kids don’t listen to me, so who knows what chance I’d have with anyone else’s!

    @E……………That’s funny. I’ve never thought of that before. Someone who is funny at texting, but not funny in general. Interesting. My how the world is changing.

  25. “Don’t slouch, glance or pick anything.”

    Hahahahahaha. Also works for job interviews.

    How about use your manners! Please and thank you! So many people seem to have this enormous sense of entitlement. I don’t need to have a conversation with someone who acts like I’m there to kiss their ass.

    Had one more thing, but it’s gone now. I blame insomnia. Or the boobquake.

  26. “…boring a hole through their head…” and “…tears dripping down their face…” made me lol.

    face-to-face conversations don’t get enough cred these days.

  27. I got off to a great start in life, conversation-wise, because my mother and I were very close and used to talk about everything. It wasn’t just a matter of me being cute and spouting off to her, but I used to love to listen to her telling the story of her life. I literally hung on every word she had to say about her past. This ability to listen well has served me well in life, both in forming close friendships and in the insights that sometimes sneak their way into my writing.

  28. @Elisa………WE agree. There shalt be no ass kissing by the GUYS!

    @You’re lucky I don’t have a gun…………..No they don’t. Technology is no longer just a tool, but actually shaping the way we interact. There are other reasons as well.

    @Nothingprofound………Listening well is a dying art. It might be dying faster than conversation. You’re lucky to have had such great times with your mother. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Ah, the great art of communicating. People have such an issue with this now. I try to focus on listening, while adding in relevant conversation where I see fit. Great advice πŸ™‚

  30. YES!!! As I am currently ‘In The Market’ for meeting someone new, I LOVED reading all of these. And even though I am not really READY to start dating again [and I probably wont be for quite some time] – Numbers 6, 9 & 10 are the most important to me!

  31. mustn’t forget…

    Chivalry… hold the door for him/her/the little old lady with the doggie bag…

    Escort her/him/grumpy old lady with the doggie bag to their car EVEN IF IT”S PARKED UNDER THE STREET LIGHT !

    These are the things that make you unforgettable… stand above the rest… worthy of a second date!

    Really! They are… okay, they help!

  32. @Brooke……….Yes, it’s getting worse and worse.

    @Meleah………We imagine you’d be a great conversationalist. When you’re ready of course. πŸ™‚

    @Dawn……….Yes, yes. Thanks for those tips.

  33. WAIT! WAIT!

    Kissing MY ass is fine, rofl. *giggle* (Couldn’t help it. Sorry.) Seriously though…i’m tired of the entitlement thing. This may even become a blog entry for me once I’ve let it stew. Hmmm…

    I was going to bring up chivalry, but I’m wondering how GUYS feel about it. As a woman, I think it’s sweet (or scary, depending on the guy). My guy always opens the car door for me (even if he has to wait for me to strap the baby seat in first), holds doors for me when we go out, sometimes he brings me a cup of tea when I’m soaking in a much needed bubble bath. But, like I said, he usually thinks of me first. Which, honestly? Still blows my mind.

    Anyway, being a girl, it’s usually sweet. Who wouldn’t like a guy who thinks of her comfort first? As a guy? Do you feel like it’s just “one of those things” and do it because you were taught to? Do you resent it because the world sucks and what does the girl do for you? If you open doors, seat her first, surprise her with a flower (sexier than a bunch of them!), and help her out of the car do you expect to get laid? Do you figure, “she’s not gonna even kiss me so I’m not opening the door for her.” Or do you just think that to show us you think we’re capable, independent people we should get our own damn doors?

    TRYING to think like a guy gave me a headache. LOL.

  34. @Elisa…….Guys are chivalrous because that’s how we were brought up to be. We do it because it’s what we do. Any guy who expects something in return for opening a door, or standing until she sits, etc. is a loser. Of course cleaning the kitchen and putting the kids to bed, now that’s a different story. πŸ™‚

  35. First lemme congratulate you on your new design πŸ™‚ You Guys Rock!!!!!

    I liked all the points especially one should not share everything , if you come to know every thing then you won’t be interested any more …….

  36. @Shabnam……..Thanks!

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