By Nadine Briggs and Donna Shea
Conversation skills are absolutely critical for making a friendship connection with another person. The nuances of conversations are subtle and can be tricky for people who don’t pick up on social cues. Here is a “flow chart” of sorts to help with understanding how to start a conversation and when to stop trying to talk to someone if they are not interested in continuing the conversation.
Step 1: Comment – Start a conversation with a comment – this doesn’t require a response. (ex.” Oh man, I hope this math test isn’t as hard as the last one.”). At this step, if the person responds, then move on to step 2. If not, ask yourself if the person heard you, did they look at you or or nod or in any way acknowledge you? If so, then consider moving to step 2. If not, consider leaving it as is.
Step 2: Question – If the person responds, then follow up with a question. (ex. “Have you started studying yet?”) In this step, you are taking a bit of a risk since you are asking a direct question. If they don’t respond at this step, then stop trying for now. If they respond, you can feel comfortable moving to step 3 as long as their response was positive or even neutral. If they rolled their eyes at you or turned away, then stop trying for now.
Step 3: Reflection – Mention how you are feeling about the topic (be sure to stay humble) (ex. “I’m thinking that I’ll do all the practice problems to prepare.”). This is another step that does not require a response but it’s always nice if the other person does continue the conversation at this point. Avoid saying anything that would seem like a brag such as “I always ace these tests” even if it’s true.
Step 4: Invitation – If the person is actively engaging with you, and you have developed a friendship, you can consider an invitation. (ex. “Would you want to meet me in the library after school to study?”) This step is a fairly big one since you are definitely opening yourself up for possible rejection. If you’re just getting to know someone, this step can be skipped.
Not all conversations will follow this process but this gives a basic outline for those who struggle with how to know when to keep trying to talk to someone and when to stop. The best success for making great conversation with others is to be genuine, humble and interested in others. That’s how acquaintances can become friends.