While the shy person generally wants to be seen as friendly, he or she
often has trouble making conversation right off the bat with a new
acquaintance. Also, much of the nervousness associated with shyness stems
from the fear of not being able to think of anything to say. So improving
conversational skill can help relieve much of the anxiety commonly
associated with shyness.
My advice to the average person would be, “Give the other person a chance
to speak!” To converse means to exchange thoughts and opinions. Conversing
is not lecturing; it’s an exchange. However, since most shy people’s
problem is not one of talking too much, but too little, my advice to them
is exactly the opposite: you must make a hobby of thinking of things to
talk about, of constantly storing up conversational subjects for later use.
It is often helpful to try to think up potential conversational topics in
advance of situations in which you know that some conversation may be
appropriate. Constantly consider how the people and activities going on
around you could be good topics for conversation. At odd moments
throughout the day, imagine yourself running into new acquaintances and
the subjects you could discuss with them.
What about getting someone to talk about his or her pet interests? In
this case, you will increase your edge if you know something about the
subject under discussion. Read magazines and the newspaper.
It has been said that the best conversationalists know a little about a
lot of things. Of course, it is impossible for you to have personal
knowledge about everything. But the human mind is a vast storehouse of
knowledge. You will find that you can relate to almost every subject if
you apply the following techniques.
- Ask Questions (obviously)!
- Think of someone else you know who relates to the subject. For example,
if you meet somebody who’s in, say, the military and you have a
friend or a cousin who is as well, this is a great common ground for
- Bring up something you’ve read on the subject (this is where all that
reading comes in handy).
- Bring up something that you have personal knowledge about that relates to
subject under discussion. For example, say the other person’s joy in life
is skiing. You’ve never done any of that, but you have enjoyed ice
skating. These two activities are similar enough that you may find you
have much common ground for discussion.
The more conversation you have with people, in fact, the better
conversationalist you will become. This is true for two reasons: first,
you get more practice at conversing. Second, and less obviously, the more
people you know, the broader will be your range of contacts and shared
knowledge, and therefore, the more subjects you will be able to
indirectly relate to.
Remember that first impressions are important, and the first conversation
you have with each new person you meet will set the stage for the future
relationship. Therefore, when you are introduced to someone you expect to
meet again, you should do the following things:
- Learn that person’s name.
- Enter into a conversation with that person, and focus the conversation
on that person.
- Remember the facts that came out about the person in the initial
conversation. This is extremely valuable, as it will ease much of the
difficulty of thinking of things to say in future conversations.
For example, in subsequent conversations you can ask about the other
person’s children, hobbies, interests, and any other facts that came out
in the prior conversation. Therefore, cultivating a good memory about
people will make you a better conversationalist and will ease much of
the fear about what to say to people in subsequent meetings. If you
apply this technique successfully, you will also never have to worry
about running out of things to talk about, as the previous conversation
will always suggest new lines of discussion for the current