In the context of making conversation a lack of purpose can cause you to be indecisive about what to say and unable to take control of the interaction. There are a number of related issues we need to look at.
No objective when meeting people
Another common habit among people who avoid meeting people and dislike making small talk is the lack of a clearly defined goal for social interactions. This then gives rise to a number of related problems, you are more likely to be self-conscious and second guess what you should say next, you get stuck for words and you dread awkward silences, and you find it hard to pay close attention to what the other person is saying. None of this happens or at least happens in a major way when you know exactly what you want to achieve in the conversation: that singular focus changes everything.
Now, you don’t need to do this for every conversation however if you often find small talk stressful at one extreme or boring at the other it can be very helpful to have a clearly defined goal. Why? Because it allows you to focus on what you want to achieve and gives you a direction in which to drive the conversation, doing so keeps your mind busy and less likely to wander. It eases the problems of anxiety and not paying attention which can dominate when you lack a specific conversational goal.
Maybe in the past you’ve rarely considered having a conversation goal when you meet someone for the first time or when you need to chat with someone you don’t know that well. So what can serve as a conversation goal? It can be anything from something as simple as looking for what you have in common to something more involved like asking for opinions, perspectives or insights on local changes in your community that will affect everyone who lives there.
Do you tend to end up in situations where you don’t know what to talk about? Do you then randomly jump from one topic to another with no sense of direction? Instead make a point of having a goal for each conversation whether that be to establish and maintain rapport, discover commonality or to look for shared values and beliefs. When you do this, the conversation will have a direction and life of its own that you simply steer.
No common goals with people
If making conversation ever seems like an uphill battle it’s often because there’s a lack of cooperation, one person is competing with the other for air time or to win a debate. This can get out of hand very quickly and all it takes is a slight shift in perspective to turn it around.
Always look for what you have in common when you meet people and always be on the lookout for common goals, concerns or worries. When you share a passion or a problem with someone there is ample scope for a lively conversation as you put your minds together to find a solution.
The key is to look for emotional issues, strongly desired goals or highly charged problems. When you find those by listening carefully and pointing out your similar experiences and feelings about the issue it can create a deep connection with the other person. This can bring up intense feelings so if you want to maintain a more low key and relaxed interaction pay more attention to issues that have less emotional involvement.
Let’s say you travel to France every year and you meet someone who enjoys French cinema, you have a different but closely connected passion that could fan the flames for a great conversation. The key is to spot potential matches and to speak up to share your passions.
Do you often find conversations to be like a game of ping pong played against someone? Do you tend to have difficulties achieving deep rapport? If you do, aim instead to be on the same team as others by finding common interests you both enjoy or common problems to solve together.
No performance objectives
Another common and limiting habit is that of failing to establish performance objectives. When you are talking to someone you need to know moment to moment how you are doing. You need to constantly adjust your approach to feedback and this can only happen if you have objectives and ways of measuring progress towards or away from them.
Let’s say you are finding it difficult to talk to someone, there are awkward silences and all of a sudden the other person excuses himself and walks away. Were there warning signs? Of course there were and it shouldn’t have been a surprise that an abrupt conclusion to the conversation was imminent.
What could you do differently to avoid this happening in the future? First of all you need performance objectives or several related small goals that will contribute to ensuring a good conversation. This means dropping a Dzhope for the bestdz attitude and taking control of the situation.
Performance objectives would include the decision to give your complete attention to the other person when he is talking, the practice of revealing what you have in common every time the other person talks about a common interest and persistence in searching for common goals.
Do you usually have non-specific hopes for a conversation that can’t be defined? Do you often fail to stay on track and lose control of the purpose and direction of the interaction? Instead aim to take charge of the minor but related elements and the whole will take care of itself.
No long term outlook
Another negative habit is taking a short term outlook both when it comes to going out to meet people and when you are engaged in a conversation. When you procrastinate when it comes to meeting people weeks, months or even years pass by and then you wonder why you have a close circle of friends but you know very few people and you feel like you’re stuck in the rut of only doing the same few activities with the same few people.
It is much more helpful to take a long term outlook to ensure you have a happy and busy social life filled with people you enjoy talking to. This means saying yes more often and attending social functions because little by little you’ll meet great people and gradually build up a great network of good friends. If you don’t do this the inevitable happens, people move to a new neighbourhood, others get promoted at work and have less free time, while some get overwhelmed by their busy family lives. The end result is the same, over the years, you’ll know fewer and fewer people to meet up with unless you are always looking forward and aiming to find great people to meet.
People with lots of good friends look to the future. They see social functions as the ideal opportunity to meet their friends and to make new friends not just for right now but for years to come. They view conversations as much more than small talk because of this perspective, each chat is part of a much bigger picture and a fun way to get to know more great people, people to enjoy getting to know over time.
Do you fail to look beyond the immediate conversation when you meet someone? Do you avoid social functions because it’s just one evening you’re missing? Instead see each conversation and each gathering as a way to meet great people you can enjoy getting to know for years to come.