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I often find myself having issues having "smalltalk" or talks which are not directly aiming for some kind of solution or end, but are rather for amusement and as a pastime.

When talking with people, especially people at my own age (~18), I would often get tired of the conversation unless it was about a topic which is either relevant to me or a problem, in which case I am always eager to find a solution or some way I can stay content with the issue.

Because I seem to be in this constant pursuit of solutions and final answers I often feel like I am cutting people off by driving the conversation to an end too quickly. I tend to listen to a person talking at the beginning of a conversation (which they usually start), then I make out the issue or "problem" and then I seem to invalidate or shut down anything else the person could have said by either saying "Well, that´s just how it is" or "I think you have got it wrong, you should think of it this way" and then I defend my opinion and prove them wrong which of course is not what most people are looking for when starting a casual conversation.

Are there any techniques that I can practice to keep a conversation going while still expressing my thought on the matter? It is not that I do not want to talk about things but I seem to fail to involve other people into my thoughts and I also find it difficult to involve myself with the issues of others.

I am living in Germany.

14

"Oh that's great"

has always been one of the biggest conversation killers.

Whenever I find myself in a situation where I may say "Oh that's great", I just ask more questions about that specific topic. For example, as you wrote in a comment above, when someone tells me that they have been to a movie, I ask them how the movie was, instead of asking them whether they liked it. This way, they keep talking about how the movie was, instead of replying in

"Yes I liked it"

or

"No I didn't like it"

While the other person talks, I think of another relevant topic, in case I'm not really interested, so that whenever they leave any opening in the conversation, I can attempt to switch to that topic.

If the other person really leaves no opening, and I have no interest whatsoever in the specific topic, I just answer in "hmm" or "yeah", until the other person gets the idea that I'm not interested. In case they don't realize soon, I sometimes pick up a random word they said, and try to think of related topics, and then suddenly bring it up. When that happens, chances are that the other person will leave more openings in the conversation. And, an opening is nothing but a slight chance for deviation in the topic...

In case you're really interested in the topic, the conversation will continue effortlessly. However, as you wrote above, if the person says that they didn't like the movie, ask them

"Why? What happened? I heard that the movie was [supply random facts about the movie]... So what really happened?"

That way, the person feels like you're really listening to him/her, a then they talk, even more, leaving, even more, openings in the conversation.

In short, I repeat what @Rory Alsop wrote in his answer... Try to make the other person talk more, by keeping the ball in the other person's court, figuratively. This way, at the end of the conversation, you might learn something new from your friend's talk, and you'll get better at changing the topic to something that you like with practice... If you just want the conversation to keep going, asking questions about random things that the other person talks about, and then adding your own thoughts to it seems to work out just fine with most people who love to talk. Asking questions and continuing with another topic is just fine for people who don't talk very much... So I guess that covers most people.

Again, Tl;dr:

Ask more questions, make the other person talk more, and keep the conversation going.

3
  • Step 1: listen. Don't interrupt, or assume you have correctly identified what they were going to say. Just listen until they are done.
  • Step 2: now you know what they want from the discussion (hopefully - if not, ask for clarity)
  • Step 3: respond. perhaps you will now close their discussion, perhaps not, but in any case you will be seen as much less rude. I would suspect that with fuller information you will find there are wider aspects to the discussion than you may have thought when making conclusions early.

Of course, sometimes you will still find that 90% of the conversation was filler, and sometimes small talk is exactly that, but often it won't be - people can just be poor at getting to the point they really want to talk about.

TL;dr Listen more. Speak less.

  • 1
    I believe I am already listening well, but I think I tend to give "dead end" responses. When someone tells me they have been to a movie (just to start a conversation) I am tempted to say "Oh that´s great." (because I honestly don´t care) and nothing more, or if I like the person I might ask "Did you like the movie?" and unless their response is "No, I did not like [...]", then all I would know to say were "Oh that´s great." – stimulate Aug 17 '17 at 11:30
  • @stimulate: You "honestly don't care" about the discussion (or about the person, or about the movie), but you do care about having a long(er) discussion. I think I notice a conflict here. Or? – virolino Apr 22 at 8:39

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