A great conversation opener shows you have proper conversation skills, but avoid these three blunders.
Now, I understand what Jack meant to do. He didn’t do it well, but I understand. What he tried to do was be entertaining. He thought by making light of his relationship it would show that he’s funny, easygoing, and can be the life of the party. OK, well, maybe this is a way to break down walls, and show you have a sense of humor—when done tactfully—but not as an opener. If you’re going to “complain” as a conversation opener, do not make it something that involves tragedy, like your ex cheating on you. That can only go bad. If you’re going to gripe about something going on in your life, it’s proper to make it superficial and comical. Something where people don’t leave feeling as if you’re going to go home and drown yourself in a carton of Ben & Jerry’s. For example, complain about your two-hour commute, how your puppy keeps eating your socks, or how you get obsessed with binging on Netflix shows. Make it fun, lighthearted, and something people can relate to … not something they fear.
Tip #3: Don’t Be A Rambling Man
Similar to what Jack did in Tip #2, rambling on and on is something that happens when people fail to properly open with a mannerly conversation topic. However, even though rambling shows a person’s true nerves, it also comes across as being selfish. Yes, selfish. See, when you ramble you don’t let other people talk. Be it from nerves or not, rambling, over talking, or cutting people off, makes others feel as if you don’t have time for their opinions. Plus, who wants to be the person who can’t get even a “I hear ya… Yeah, good point” in the conversation. Even worse is when you let your rambling take over your conversation skills, especially as an opener, it leaves a negative impression. As well, it’s hard to kick the reputation of being an over talker, or a rambler. So, in the end the only cure for a ramblin’ man or woman is to simply sit back and listen.
Mannerly Nation, listening is actually the best way to open a conversation. Allowing someone else to talk makes you appear to be more appreciative of their time and what they have to say … as you should. But it also is the best way to NOT have to worry about having that “great opener” in the first place. When you let someone talk, it gives you the chance to pop in with your own comments and opinions but let the other person guide the initial interaction. Rambling is the opposite of that! I mean, let them ramble. Let them get eye rolls. You, on the other hand, can just focus on who else you would like to talk to.
For some great conversation starters, check out my colleague Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker's, recent article: The Essential Conversation Starters You Need Now.
As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.
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