Have you ever heard the saying ‘It’s not what you know it’s who you know?’
A lot of the successes you’ll achieve in life will come from the relationships you build, but what happens if you suck at starting and holding a conversation?
If you’ve ever struggled to introduce yourself to a stranger, if you’ve ever had someone not engaging with the words you speak in a conversation and if you’ve never been able to get what you want from conversations then this article will help.
Here’s how to start and dominate a conversation, but most importantly build better relationships and increase your network.
How To Start A Conversation
Starting a conversation is often seen as a difficult thing to do. We fear judgement, we worry what people think of us and we think we’ll make a fool of ourselves if it doesn’t go to plan.
Have you ever struggled to approach someone new and start a conversation?
Whether it’s at an event, in your office, a girl in a bar or a stranger on the street, struggling to start a conversation typically stems around fear.
That main fear is often worrying what people think of us, and we fear potential failure not gaining the outcome we imagined.
For example, let’s say you see a girl at a bar. You want to say hello, you want to start a conversation but you’re worried she’ll reject you. You’re worried she’ll tell you to go away, your friends will laugh at you, you’ll get slapped or even get chucked out of the bar for harassment.
These worries simply stem from fear and we create scenarios that don’t exist and probably won’t exist.
It’s simply you protecting your ego. Your fear will tell you it’s a safer option to avoid the embarrassment of her rejecting you, it’s better to just dance around her and make strange eye contact with her.
When we remove the belief that others are so judgemental of us, and when we can accept that rejection is ok, it makes it easier to start conversations with more people.
These two articles will help, but below is also some key shifts to help you overcome the fear of judgement and rejection.
- You’re really not that important. The average person has 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. Do you think you’re that important that the person you’ve approached is going to think about you as much as you think they are? If the person you start a conversation with judges you, they’ll quickly be so consumed in their own thoughts and insecurities they’ll quickly forget you.
- What’s the worst that could happen? The scenarios you create are often over exaggerated. These are simply worries that stem from fear and protection of our ego. People really aren’t that nasty, and if they are it tends to be their issue not yours. Most people will welcome your approach and your confidence will position you as someone they want to talk too.
- It’s their issue, not yours. If someone rejects you, says something nasty about you or embarrasses you, it’s their issue not yours. Typically their judgement will protect their own insecurities, maybe they’re having a bad day, maybe they’re shy and became overwhelmed with your approach. Typically if someone doesn’t welcome your conversation it’s their issue, not yours.
- Break the comfort zone, then break it again. If you fear starting a conversation go and start a conversation. All it is is fear, and you need to take action to break that fear. Start small by asking a stranger for directions, sparking conversation with a waitress or a shop attendant or introduce shock therapy and make a fool of yourself in public situations (listen to this approach in my interview with Joshua Morris). It’s important to simply go out and work on breaking the comfort zone, you’ll find that the more you do it the easier it will become…
- Nobody is perfect. I used to be a perfectionist until I learnt the importance of imperfect action. No one is perfect. You may get rejected by the majority of people you start a conversation with, you may struggle at first, but it’s important to remember action trumps perfection. If you fail or get rejected, try again.
Use the shifts above (and read the articles referenced) to help overcome the fear of what people think of you and the fear of rejection. Once you remove these fears starting a conversation becomes easy, it becomes natural and you’ll question why you ever struggled to do it in the first place…
How To Dominate A Conversation
Ok, so you can start a conversation but can you make an impact?
In fact, can you get what you want?
9 times out of 10 we start a conversation to gain something from it. Whether it’s a business deal, a business card, a telephone number or a date… how do you get what you want from the conversation once you’ve started it?
It’s all about building trust, positioning yourself as an authority and someone they want to talk too and not being afraid to ask for what you want.
1. Ask Questions & Listen.
People like thinking and talking about themselves, so make the conversation about them. Asking questions and listening will help put you in control of the conversation.
Listening is the best tool you can use in a conversation, showing them you’re intrigued and interested in what they have to say will make them feel confident. Pay attention to what they say and truly acknowledge the answers they give.
Asking questions will also create a form of mystery around you. If you’re asking them what they do for a living, how they got into it, whether they enjoy it or not and you haven’t mentioned anything about yourself naturally they’ll be intrigued to find out. It’s very rare to be in a conversation where you’re asking questions, the person is freely answering them but they never feel intrigued to ask you a question.
When you get asked a question use your answer to build trust, credibility and again create more mystery around you. As soon as they ask their first question don’t lose the conversation by talking about yourself for the next 10 minutes. Keep it straight to the point, use your answers to build authority and trust and ask them another question.
2. Create Common Ground
Common ground helps you build trust in a conversation and this is where questions are also important. Common ground are things you have in common. Whether it’s where you grew up, the Football team you support, your favourite drink or food… the list is endless.
When you have something in common with someone the conversation will flow easier.
I may be talking to someone about business and then I find out their favourite Football team is Liverpool, I can use this to create common ground, build trust and talk about it more.
When you find something you have in common talk about it, use it to your advantage. If you find out they grew up in the same area as you don’t ignore it! Talk about it! So much conversation can be had about the things you did in the area, the places you like and you can really start to build trust by doing so.
Angle your questions to try and find common ground.
3. Matching & Mirroring
Something I learned from Tony Robbins and it’s a powerful body language strategy.
Matching and mirroring is simply matching and mirroring the person you’re talking too. Of course you don’t want to overdo it, but use this tool to your advantage.
If someone is speaking very quietly and looking to the floor when they talk, don’t give them stern eye contact and talk loudly. They’re going to feel extremely intimated with this. If they speak quietly and look to the floor when they talk, do the same. Speak softly and only make eye contact when you feel you need too.
Think about the way they’re standing or sitting, how they’re talking, the language they’re using and their body language. Making eye contact is of course a form of body language that showcases confidence and authority but if the person you’re speaking too feels threatened by you they won’t want to continue the conversation.
Match and mirror who you’re talking too as much as you can without overdoing it and coming across weird and you’ll be someone they’ll want to continue talking too.
The above will help you start a conversation, continue a conversation and build trust with the person you’re speaking too. But if you fail to ask for something at the end you’ll fail to get what you want.
Like I mentioned we typically start a conversation to get something in return. Whether it’s a phone number, a business deal, a friendship or a new relationship. Don’t fall at the final hurdle and fear asking them for what you want at the end…
Of course the decision will be based around how you start and how you handle the conversation. If you fail to build common ground and trust then you’ll likely fail to get what you want at the end of the conversation. But if you create good engagement, why wouldn’t they say yes to your request?
Again don’t let fear of rejection get in the way, build trust and then ask.
If you think about a salesman, this part of the conversation is ‘the close’. If someone fails to sell something to you it’s because they haven’t built the trust or created a good enough offer for you to buy. Don’t accept the first rejection, work on continuing the conversation to build more trust and position the request as worthwhile.
The 51%/49% Ratio
As Gary V says, focus your attention on building long term relationships over achieving short term results. You want to always put in more to the relationship than the other person does.
Offer value, build the relationship and in the long term you’ll prosper.
If you want to close a business deal, look to build the relationship first before you pitch. Offer value, build a trustworthy relationship and your pitch will become almost impossible to say no too.
Focus on long term relationships over short term gains.
Want a summary of everything mentioned in this article? I’ve put it in a video for you…
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