Sometimes we start great conversations with people and then only a few minutes later we find ourselves running out of things to say. How can we stop this? Here are three ways to keep the conversation going.
Ask open questions
Ask specific questions
Change the subject
One of the main problems when running out of things to say is the questions being asked, and they are often closed questions. Closed questions are used to get short, specific answers and open questions are used to elicit longer, more opinion-based and often subjective answers.
Did you have a nice holiday?
Yeah, it was great, thanks.
What did you do on your holiday?
I went waterskiing and I played golf.
This open question is going to provide details, but it doesn’t really keep the conversation going unless the first speaker asks about waterskiing or golf.
To get a longer answer, you might need to ask a more specific question. Instead of ‘What did you do on your holiday?’ you might want to ask something like ‘What was the thing you enjoyed the most when you went on holiday?’ or ‘Did you get the chance to do something interesting that you normally wouldn’t be able to try?’
These questions aren’t perfect. They could still be replied to with a short answer lacking details but it is unlikely.
If the conversation is going nowhere, it could possibly be that you are talking about something that is not interesting enough. In that case, don’t be afraid to change the subject. There are two ways to do this: fast and slow.
To change the subject fast, say something like ‘By the way’, or ‘Oh, I meant to ask you,’ and ask your question.
Oh, I meant to ask you: did you enjoy that film you went to see last week?
Oh, I meant to ask you whether you enjoyed that film you went to see last week.
With the slow way you have to ask questions to move the topic of conversation to your chosen subject. This is easily done if you are changing the subject from, for example, music to dance; it is quite difficult to do it slowly to change the topic from music to your plan on Wednesday evening to visit a science museum.
I hope this helps you maintain your conversations. It may also be helpful for you to listen to this podcast episode.