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Learning English via dialogues is what stops you from going blank in conversation. This is because so much of what we say in specific real life situations follows a set pattern which is the same nearly every time. Speaking a language and having a conversation is a lot more predictable and repetitive than we generally realise or like to admit. We feel like we are expressing ourselves and showing our uniqueness with words, but really, most of the time we’re just following the same patterns of conversation that we’ve said potentially thousands of times before in our lives.

To make knowing what to say in English  much less stressful, the short cut is to learn what these patterns of conversation are and then to repeat them again and again until we have memorised them. These patterns are not about expressing ourselves as a unique individual; these patterns are about just knowing what to say in a specific real life situation. By learning and repeating these patterns, which are practically the same every time we find ourselves in that same situation, we always know what to say, even when our speaking skills are otherwise very poor and we don’t know a lot of vocabulary.

One of the most basic conversational patterns in a language is introducing yourself. Absolute beginners are able to memorise this pattern and then begin using it straight away:

Example Conversational Pattern – English Introduction

Speaker A: Hi, I’m Jade. What’s your name?

Speaker B: I’m Tom. Nice to meet you.

Speaker A: You too.

A problem only occurs when a language learner wants to reinvent the wheel to be original when communicating speaking English. For example, the person is used to expressing themselves uniquely with precise and descriptive language or with a sense of humour in his or her native language. This person struggles to speak English because he or she is always trying too hard to be express himself/herself uniquely. This kind of language learner always feels disappointed or frustrated when learning a foreign language. This kind of learner wants to be able to show his or her real personality in communication, however, this tends not to be possible until much higher levels of knowing a foreign language.

To get to the point where one can stop going blank when speaking English, one needs to memorise conversational patterns and quit trying to be original when speaking English. Simply commit to learning the language you need one specific situation at a time by learning the required conversation pattern for the situation.

To get to the stage where you always know what to say in specific real life situations in English, regular and repeated practice with dialogues is essential. Listen to the dialogues again and again to learn the conversational patterns. Remember, at low levels, trying to be original only leads to frustration and disappointment with oneself. Practise the same dialogues again and again, and then practice them some more. This is important so that conversational patterns become automatic to you when speaking English (just like they are in your native language). Once you have learnt the patterns properly, you will always know what to say in those specific real life situations and your mind will stop going blank.

 

Introverts are happiest when they are talking just on a one-to-one level or with two people they know well. Many introverts feel uncomfortable in group conversations, finding that they don’t know what to say and that they become drained very easily.

I would say that one of the reasons introverts may feel uncomfortable in groups is because they are used to making decisions for themselves about what they want to do and when. However, when in a group situation it can be difficult to assert your needs and you may feel just like a follower. A lot of introverts I know like to be in control, but they may not always express this openly.

When introverts find themselves in group situation, especially if they have social anxiety, they may feel awkward and not know what to say. This is because the group style of conversation which tends to be on a surface level is not felt to be interesting to them. Plus, shy introverts don’t feel comfortable talking loudly in front of a whole group of people. Often an introvert stays quiet in these situations, but this is not a good thing to do as this leads to the feeling of being drained.

Introverts who find that they have a problem in group situations will benefit from becoming aware of their social strengths. If you are comfortable in one-to-one conversations, break off from the group to have one-to-one conversations with people within the group. It is not necessary to spend the whole evening talking as a group.

When following a one-to-one conversation strategy in groups, it’s important not to get stuck in one single seat or corner of the room. This is because you will only manage to talk to the people right next to you, unless you move at some point. Another reason you should not stay for too long in deep conversation is because this will exclude you from the wider group. More than this, most extroverts don’t really like to get stuck in deep conversation when there are lots of people around. If you keep moving it gives you a chance to talk to everyone in the group. This will mean that everybody gets a chance to talk to you and will save you from the label of being ‘the shy person’.

Let me confess that as a highly sensitive introvert I am not a fan of small talk. I would much rather be having a conversation about something personal or abstract rather than blah blah blahing about the weather. However, since small talk greases the wheels of social interaction, I do have to engage in a bit of surface conversation from time to time. Here are 6 lifehacks for introverts to follow to make small talk easier and less socially awkward!

(1) Give your best – when someone asks you how you’re doing, reply with the most positive-feeling response you can muster. Don’t put a downer on your interaction by saying ‘not bad’ in a dreary tone of voice.

(2) Give them some meat – one of the reasons introverts don’t like small talk is because when talking to new people they may find it hard to open up and share details about their personal lives. They tend to give vague answers to standard questions such as ‘what did you get up to at the weekend?’ in order to keep their social distance. To be more socially open in conversation, decide to share one specific detail about your life and what you have been doing (it doesn’t need to be anything special).

(3) Matchy-matchy – keep in mind the balance of giving and receiving in your small talk encounters. If you find yourself talking to someone who is hard work in conversation, step back and stop putting in so much effort. Similarly, if someone is asking you lots of questions, you may wish to become more assertive and ask them some questions back.

(4) Allow ‘Basicness’ – small talk does not have to be anything spectacular. It’s absolutely fine to talk about regular topics of conversation that you’ve heard a million times before. Small talk is not original!

(5) Stay On The Surface – when you first meet people it’s generally a lot easier to talk about simple, regular topics of conversation. Most people you meet are not going to want to dive into deep and meaningfuls with you.

(6) Am I In Resonance? – When you’re in resonance with a person you find that conversation flows easily between you and you feel relaxed in each other’s company. However, you are likely to meet more people with whom you are not in resonance. Don’t be harsh on yourself when this happens – it’s probably just a matter of you not having anything in common.

By applying these 6 lifehacks to social interaction, I find interactions go more smoothly and I am able to navigate the new or uncomfortable social situation a lot more easily. Try these small talk lifehacks and see how they work for you too!

Conversation Skills Strategy for Social Confidence

Conversation skills advice often focuses on what we can do to keep conversations going. However, we should not always seek to prolong a conversation as social interaction will always need to end at some point. By leaving the conversation at the right moment, before the energy falls, we are able to leave the meeting feeling confident and energised.

It can happen that when we want to make a polite impression, we are too passive in our approach to social interaction. This means that we may ignore our feelings related to ending a conversation. We may stay in the conversation feeling increasingly more bored and drained, hoping that the other person will soon end the conversation for us.

Confident people know how to end conversations. They don’t wait around for the perfect moment to end the conversation. If you wait around for the perfect moment, you may find yourself becoming increasingly more drained and bored. On the other hand, you will find yourself increasingly more energised if you can learn to exit conversations at the right moment.

In conversation its also important to consider whether the person to whom we are talking is looking to exit the conversation. Once you have observed that they look ready to end the conversation, make it easy for them to say their goodbyes. By respecting that they are ready to leave the conversation, you will also be displaying at clear statement of social confidence.