How to Have a Conversation With Someone

There comes a time in everyone’s life, around about age 3 for most, where they start talking. Then pretty soon they realize there are other people around to talk to as well, and then the party starts. Unless they don’t know the proper techniques for a successful conversation. Of course, this really doesn’t matter until adulthood, but bad habits can land you in trouble. During a job interview, a date, or trying to make an impression in general, it helps to fully understand how to really talk the talk. In five digestible tips, here’s what will leave that lasting impression:

  1. The Greeting

    1. When you approach someone to start a conversation, be sure to greet them with eye contact and something to the extent of “Hey, (name) how’s it going”? Additionally, if it is a job interview a handshake is necessary. Among peers, the handshake is at your discretion, but it seems like the further along in college we have gotten, the handshake at the time of greeting has been pretty common.
  2. Eye Contact

    1. As just mentioned, this is the second most important part of a conversation besides a proper greeting. Try not to be too aggressive with keeping rigid eye contact the entire time, but break now and again to look at something off to the side like over their shoulder or look down to take a breath. Do not look away for more than a few seconds, but just enough to recollect your thoughts. There is something especially exhausting about consistent eye contact, so a brief break every 35-45 seconds in a conversation is good for the general flow of it anyway.
  3. Phone

    1. Do not touch it. Do not. Touch it. Think of your phone as the plague to any type of relationship at all that needs to be fostered with conversation. That’s pretty much all of em.
  4. Have an Exit

    1. Ever been having a conversation that’s awesome, but should have ended 10 minutes ago? So have we. It’s uncomfortable and frankly, makes me a little bit exhausted too. The best way to mitigate a perpetual conversation is to be aware of some place you might need to go that day or really in general what class you have. Feel for when the conversation has a major transition or lull, then interject with “well, I really should go get ready for, study, work etc.”
  5. The Close

    1. Depending on the conversation, circle back to the main subject matter of it. Tell them something like “Good luck with xyz or I bet you will do fine” if they have a test or something that day. After they reciprocate with something similar, this could be a tricky part. If you ran into them in passing and it could happen that they are heading the same direction as you, it will be awkward if you say the goodbyes then walk twenty feet ahead of them getting to the destination. I know way too many people who admit to doing that or deliberately walking a different and inconvenient way because the conversation ended but it turned out they were going the same direction. As you are about to step away, ask whether or not they are going the way you are. If so, revert back to where the conversation was going that you just avoided and continue until the destination is reached. Restart the new exit and close at your second split-off point.
    2. If it is a faculty member or distinguished member of your university, other options are “well, I don’t want to take up any of your time, I know you are busy”. This both complements them and gets you free to go do whatever it is you need to. In a job interview, it’s probably common sense but I am going to say it anyway. Let them end it and juggle you out of the office. It would be a little strange for a job candidate to say something like that.