This is part three of four in a series for the ‘socially challenged’ called The Anatomy of a Conversation. It aims to shed light on what a ‘typical’ conversation with a stranger is like. Also check out Part Two: Opening, Part Three: Threading, and Part Four: Closing.
Person A: “Who was that you were just talking to?”
Person B: “Dunno, just met them.”
Exchanges like this used to be extremely common in my life. 99.9% of the time I was person A, completely perplexed as to how a friend or family member could converse with random strangers like they were old acquaintances.
It’s already well-documented that I struggled with shyness growing up. I had no idea how to talk to people that I hadn’t been around for a significant period of time.
And while I wanted more than anything to be that person that could start conversations with anyone, anywhere, and at anytime, I had a major mental block: “What the hell do I talk about?”
Some of this stemmed from the limiting belief that I was a boring person with nothing to offer and just generally not finding the world to be an interesting place, but that is another post for another day.
Thankfully, after obsessively consuming material on the subject, becoming much more observant of the world around me, and just generally pushing myself to get better at the skill, I now often find myself as person B in conversations like the above.
While ultimately this obstacle could only be overcome by myself, I wish long ago that someone had explained to me what most conversations consisted of, what a ‘normal’ one was like, and how to start, carry, and finish them.
Although it’s not necessarily something I think about in the moment, once I started reflecting on what went well and what went poorly in my interactions, in my head I was able to break down the majority of conversations I was having into three sizable chunks:
Conversation= Opening–> Exchange of Questions, Comments, Opinions, and Anecdotes (aka Threading)–> Closing
Attempting to simplify conversations is not necessarily a new idea by any means. It’s also fairly possible that had I been paying attention, one of my college Communication (my major) classes may have covered it.
But through the lens of someone that once felt like he was ‘on the outside’ and completely clueless as to what exactly went on in dialogues with unfamiliar people, over the next few posts I am going to break down what I consider to be the Anatomy of a Conversation.
I hope that my ‘rags to riches’ story with this skillset can offer a bit of a different (and less academic) viewpoint on the subject. It is my goal to ensure those that are struggling that there isn’t some sort of social secret or gene that they don’t possess, and that this is something that really can be learned by anyone.
Check back next week for the part two in this mini-series.