Tips: Building Conversations

How to build a conversation with someone you barely know or to a complete stranger?

1. Provide an artificial end time.

Have you ever been in a situation with someone where you keep on asking yourself about when would this person stop talking or when will this end?

Yeah, don’t be that someone.

The first thing you need to do in building good rapport and a nice conversation is that you need to let them know that there is an end point and that it is coming soon.

So if you are in a museum for a field trip, you can just go up to someone and say:

“I was just about to follow my group mates when I noticed this piece and thought to stop by for a quick glance – Don’t you think its amazing how someone can put so much thought in just one canvas?”


Valid reason to talk with a subtle approach and artificial end time. Piece of cake. By doing that, you’ll put someone at ease by directly implying that you’re stay will be short but you are still open for more discussion.

2. Seek for Assistance

Reflect for a moment and recollect when was the last time you ask for simple help from someone you barely even know – like asking for directions or asking to help lift something too heavy to carry alone.

When request are simple and nothing too threatening, people are more vulnerable to directly entertain the request. This would give you a very harmonious and subtle atmosphere with the other party.

On a side note based on psychology study, our brain hates to hold two conflicting ideas for too long. So when people weigh whether they like you or not (not romantically) – you’ll fall to the former since its hard to rationalize helping someone or doing a favor for someone you don’t like, right?

3. Observe your body language.

I’m not talking about those things like “if their feet are pointing towards you, that means they like you” kind of stuff. I’m talking about those things that would make them see you as vulnerable, warm, open and friendly.

Notice when you go to a crowded place? Are you more drawn towards people who constantly frowns and shouts or towards people who constantly smile and laugh?
Smile. Poise yourself in a way that you are ready for an instant handshake or a hug. Don’t cross arms when talking to someone and look at them when you are or they are talking.

4. Throw away our ego.

Don’t keep talking about yourself. By nature, people loves to talk about themselves so only few people choose to listen. Don’t be one of the majority but be one of the few.

Always remember that it is not always about you; it is about them too.

Don’t just wait for people to stop talking so you can start to talk again. Always listen. Don’t try to impress people about your short stories and your life experiences. People won’t always remember what you say but they will always remember what you made them feel.

Listen. A good conversationalist talks once, listens twice. People will remember you by how you genuinely show interest in their life’s story. Ask questions. When you want to ask a question, let them finish first before opening it back again.

One good way to ask ‘real’ questions is like

“A few moments ago, you mentioned something about growing an interest towards ? I’d like to know how is that working out for you right now.”

This does a lot of things and impacts them in many ways.

  • it gives them the time to tell you their stories
  • it shows that you are genuinely interested by bringing up topics that they have mentioned
  • it creates a perfect application of the two of a two-way street logic

This is very simple yet very powerful way to enrich communication.

5. Implement Two-way Street logic.

As much as we want to know them and show that we are interested in them – talking alone is dull and boring. You need to reciprocate by sharing your thoughts too. This is where your listening skills and empathy will be measured.

Have you ever encountered someone you barely know but after you told them your problem, their words seems to be the perfect remedy to pain, confusion or sadness you are currently feeling? That if, by some point, it will come from a different person, it will not make that same impact?

Yeah. That is what it does when you are truly listening and you empathized at what the other person was telling you. You can put yourself in a situation they are currently in and share your thoughts that is very appropriate for the topic.

Involving in a two-way street logic doesn’t mean you can only do this by sharing your thoughts and life experiences. You can still do it by asking queries and possible scenarios that is appropriate to the discussion.

6. Give sincere, proper and timely compliments.

By default, people are so obsess by reciprocation that once you give them something, they will do something to repay the favor. A good example is that when you compliment someone, they will say thank you and unconsciously be nicer to you. These could be a good starter for those who can pull it off nicely.

Remember that your compliments should be sincere, proper and timely.

Don’t just give random compliments just for the sake of it. Make sure that when you give compliments, it is valid and it is really true. Don’t compliment their hair when the surrounding is pitch black. Don’t compliment their smell when you are calling from another building. Don’t compliment her face when actually you think there’s a lot of makeup in it. (I’m not saying make up is bad though, I’m trying to imply sincerity.)

The reason why I emphasized those three key points in giving compliments was because a lot of people are doubtful of compliments these days. It was mainly because most people gave insincere compliments which sometimes just go from insincere to plainly stupid like the ones listed above.

7. Keep your expectation at minimum.

You will never be everyone’s cool buddy. Not everyone will appreciate your actions of reaching out and others will always be sour or bitter towards you. Don’t ever make pleasing everybody your personal goal because you will just instantly fail.

Keep this inspiring quote of Marcus Aurelius:

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me.”

Instead of focusing on making everybody your best buddy – aim on making everyone you get it touch with to feel better. Make them feel better of themselves, make them feel appreciated, make them feel that someone actually was listening to them – that someone was really interested and help them have a positive outlook of their life.


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