Many times, you must have had a chit-chat with people around about random things; the weather, a news report, billboard sign or even a bus driver’s speed. These small talks occur spontaneously and often end up short-lived and without proper impact on either party. This is usually because you or them didn’t try to have meaningful conversations.
In this article, you’ll find three very important tips to have meaningful conversations with small talk peculiar to Nigerians, and develop amazing friendships. It’s what I like to call the 3 Ps. You’ll be leaving this page knowing how to make a huge difference and sound interesting in any conversation.
3Ps to Have Meaningful Conversations from Small Talk
Proper use of compliments
A great stride in getting a meaningful conversation going is putting the other person at ease. A good way to do this is greasing the wheel of the conversation at its initial stage with a compliment. Compliment specific things about them – their work, energy, shoes, or even physical appearance like beard or haircut. Ensure to keep these compliments purely platonic. Being too sexual or exaggerating is a guarantee of losing the person’s interest and making the conversation awkward.
Do not pre-plan your compliments. For example, you plan to complement a person’s clothes while practising your conversation. But you meet someone dressed casually in a white tee-shirt and sweatpants. A direct exaggerated compliment on the person’s outfit will feel out of place and forced.
Hence, use what you appreciate and feel at that moment and make it work. Keep it genuine and natural. Resist the Nigerian urge to whine. A good complement helps to have meaningful conversations. You both feel relaxed and are more likely to respond positively to each other afterwards.
Providing room for participation
Another major problem with grooming meaningful conversations is that people do not know when to participate in the conversation. You might find yourself in a situation where a person just keeps on talking that you don’t get a chance to speak. Weirdly enough, people who do this have no idea that they do. It’s frustrating not to be able to share your opinions during conversations. This is one of the reasons why some people refrain from contributing to conversations. It ends up being one-sided, thus killing any chance of a great conversation.
How do you avoid this?
The key is involving the other person in the conversation. Make them know that you want to hear from them. Ask them their opinion on things, you would be surprised at how much positive response you will get.
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One time I was going for a seminar in a hotel I wasn’t familiar with. I decided that I needed to have one meaningful conversation that day and maybe make a new friend. I chose to keep my phone out of sight and make use of what I call the ‘human Siri’.
Questions on direction, distance and events around that I’d naturally look up online, I asked the people around and this worked the magic. The pandemic made me feel like I couldn’t keep a conversation going or bear socialising but the effort proved me wrong. A particular person I asked about the hotel said he was going in the same direction and coincidentally the same event. On our way, I asked him how he felt about the seminar, breaking the silence barrier which led to a great conversation.
Ask questions that are fun to answer too, not boring conventional questions. Stimulate imagination where necessary. By doing this, you’re getting your audience excited about a potentially great conversation and pinging for topics of mutual interest between yourself and them. This is perfect to create common ground for future meaningful conversations. It could be sports, animals, or even a recent news report. Ensure to go the extra mile to inquire. And minor pauses when talking create opt-in points for your audience, hinting them to join in on the conversation, even if it’s with a group.
Prolificity of circumstance
A third ingenious way to make meaningful conversations is by being creative with replies. Especially if your audience isn’t as versed in communication skills as you are. Take an example, if you’re asked how your day was. Instead of saying ‘fine’, and probably throwing in a ‘how about yours?’, try saying something with a little more spice. ‘It was amazing, except for this crazy traffic that made me arrive late. It reminded me of the time last week when I was going on an outing and …’
You may think that this would be overbearing on your listener but the opposite is quite the case. Everybody enjoys a good gist, including Nigerians around you. A person is more likely to relax with you when you put effort into telling them non-conventional things about situations. There’s also the chance of them doing the same when you ask a similar question. Let me take you back to the day of my seminar.
After whetting the conversation with the person’s thoughts on the specific topic, I used what I would call ‘human twitter’. As an avid Twitter user, I know that, unlike Google where you go to ask questions, Twitter is a place to share thoughts or more profoundly, make statements. It isn’t out of place to tweet ‘Gosh this harmattan season is crazy, my body is so white’.
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That internal voice? Bring it out. Here’s how I did mine. After a brief laugh we had, I told him something not far from what I would tweet. ‘You know, the craziest thing happened on Thursday, I was going to pick up a package from Warri post office when I saw a …’ and just like with compliments, be as natural as possible. Don’t force these talks by trying to be funny as this will ruin the entire energy of the conversation. And from then on, keep having great conversations.
Pro tip: When talking, whether in public speaking, to a group or a person, maintaining eye contact and using hand gestures actually portrays confidence and trustworthiness.
Now next time you go out there and need to have meaningful conversations or just make a friend, I hope you find these tips helpful.
Have you built a relationship with any of these three tips? Share your experience on our Whatsapp community
- Figure Lawrence is a creative thinker, multi niched professional writer, content creator, brand influencer and all round cool guy.