A friend of mine asked me the other day how to bring up a specific subject of conversation without sounding strange, and I was surprised to find out that controlling a conversation isn’t really something that everybody knows how to do! The techniques that I’m about to explain came intuitively for me, so while I’ve done virtually no research as to how social interaction works (and admittedly am bad at this sort of thing in practice) I like to think I can make things go the way I want to most of the time!
There is one technique, (that I’ve picked up from the streamer Day somewhere) on how to always have interesting and engaging conversations. If you think that you never have anything to talk about with this one person, this trick will help you.
First and foremost, though its not exactly related, people generally like talking about themselves. I am notoriously bad at certain aspects of this. If somebody asks me “What classes are you taking this semester?” rarely will I redirect the question to them, even if its the polite thing to do. People always have more to say about themselves, so just keep this in mind.
The idea is to never let a full thought see completion. For example:
You: “What movies do you like to watch?”
Another person: “Oh, mostly horror movies. Jaws, Saw. Stuff with a lot of suspense.”
“Oh, really? What do you like about that genre?”
“Well, I like being on the edge of my seat and that tense feeling horror movies give.”
“Oh, me too! I like suspense, but I can’t stand blood, though!”
And so on. Think of it this way. You can easily take one aspect of any sentence another person says and ask “Why?” but disguise it so you sound like you’re asking a thoughtful question rather than letting them talk. Don’t say, “Hey, I like horror movies, too!” because it leaves nowhere for the other person to go. Either ask them to explain what they said in more depth, or add a contrasting opinion that can spark more and more. That’s the first idea.
But let’s say you go into a conversation with a specific subject in mind. Let’s say, for whatever reason, you want to find out if somebody has any siblings. Now, obviously it would be weird to say “Hey, are you an only child, or no?” so it would be more polite to approach the subject with more tact, especially if you want to talk about something more sensitive. Let me give an example that is actually more plausible than siblings.
The way I accomplish this is to find something that requires no introduction, and find a way to easily tie it into the conversation I really want to have. Maybe I want to know what somebody’s shoe/shirt size is to get them a present. Now obviously you don’t want them to know this. So think about the possible topics of conversation this can branch from: clothes, family foot size, the beach (specifically sandals and stuff). You can casually mention how your shirt is too small/big, and from there branch out to how you have a hard time finding clothes that seem to fit properly (whether or not this is true). They will naturally give their own input to this, and at this point you can ask them how they gauge their own foot/shirt size, or whatever the subject happens to be. If it goes well, nobody would suspect that the conversation you’ve been having for the past several minutes was one long lead up to one specific question.
I’m sure we all go through the scenarios of a conversation in our heads before they actually happen. But rather than daydreaming and considering the possibilities, try actually planning ahead for what you would say and how they may respond.