Striking up a conversation can be pretty intimidating—especially with someone you don’t know well…or don’t know at all. And, TBH, that’s probably why so many people’s anxiety is triggered by social situations. But if anyone knows a thing or two about how to talk to literally anyone, it’s NPR host Terry Gross, who’s interviewed thousands of different people over the years. So, what’s her trick for always having such mesmerizing conversations?
In an interview with the New York Times, Gross revealed the key to being a good conversationalist is actually a simple one. Instead of trying to do all the talking yourself, put your listening ears on and unleash your curiosity. “[Excelling at having a conversation means] being genuinely curious, and wanting to hear what the other person is telling you,” she said. “I can respond to what somebody is saying by expressing if I’m feeling sympathy or empathy, and explaining why.”
But how do you start that conversation? Don’t worry—Gross has a pro tip for that, too. According to the journalist, the only ice-breaker you’ll need is: “Tell me about yourself.” Easy, huh? Instead of asking simple questions like “What do you do?” she says leaving the question open-ended can yield better results. Another perk? It’s the easiest way to avoid any of that awkwardness that comes at the beginning of a conversation when you quickly run out of things to say after a few back-and-forth exchanges.
“Excelling at having a conversation means being genuinely curious, and wanting to hear what the other person is telling you.” —Terry Gross
So bring on the season of impromptu conversations as you hit up holiday parties near and far. Gross’ tips won’t fail you so long as you’re genuinely curious about what your new friend is saying.
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