The Art Of Conversation: Avoid Awkward Silence

I love conversation. I’m extremely good at it. Whether it’s about politics, fashion, celebrities, religion, film, theatre, even the weather, I’ve got something to say. Years of practising the art of conversation have turned me into (if I do say so myself) a sensational silver-tongue. It’s a gift and a curse. This is, by and large, owing to a personality that is naturally uninhibited. I am not generally worried about being thrown into the social stratosphere, and can talk my way out of pretty much everything.

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However, not everybody has the blind (and often idiotic) drive to do this. Most people are more reserved than I am, and as such may run into trouble when they reach a speed bump in a conversation. These speed bumps, in the form of awkward silences, static laughter, and avoiding each other’s eyes, can arise at any time. They usually form at the most inconvenient moments; job interviews, first dates, the inaugural meeting with your significant other’s parents, etc.

If left unchecked, allowing awkward moments to flourish becomes a habit that is difficult to break. Never underestimate the value of a flowing conversation; it puts people at ease around you and helps create a great first impression. If you are not a naturally outgoing or confident person, the art of conversation can be terrifyingly difficult and seemingly impossible to master. However, there are certain ways to fan the flames of conversation in any situation; it’s all about paying attention. Here are three key tricks to smooth over those bumps in the road from a self-confessed super-conversationalist:

1. Ask questions

This may seem banal, but it is the key to all conversation. If you have run out of things to talk about, or want to start a dialogue with someone, simply ask them questions about, well, themselves. After all, this is the topic that people are most comfortable with because they are most familiar with it. Once you’ve got them talking, you will see them relax, and the rest of the conversation will begin to flow naturally. Showing a lot of genuine interest always helps as well.

2. Avoid contentious topics

I know it’s tempting to voice your opinion on the latest political debate, or what’s going on with the stock market, or what’s happening in the Middle East, but my advice is to keep your mouth shut – especially if you don’t know your conversation buddies very well. Unless you’re all of exactly the same opinion (which is rare), someone’s gears are going to get a grinding. This, understandably, leads to tension, which can be very difficult to diffuse depending on the flexibility of the people involved. Unless you are besties with everyone in the group, or you’re in an arena where this kind of debate is encouraged, steer clear. When in doubt, restrict your remarks to the weather.

3. Laugh a lot

It doesn’t matter if your conversation partner has made a joke that’s lamer than the fact that Zayn left One Direction, if you want to keep the chatter going laugh at it. Laugh loudly. It could be the least funny joke on the planet, but if you make them feel like they’re amusing you, they will relax. You’ll give them confidence and encourage them to open up more. Who knows? Perhaps they’ll start making some genuine funnies when they feel the pressure’s off.

All in all, the art of good conversation isn’t difficult if you practise it. It’s about trusting your own appeal; exuding quiet confidence (even if you’re faking it) is a great way to put people at ease. Remember those three tricks and awkward blurps in your daily chatter will be a thing of the past!

Image via Tutzone.org

5 Simple Tricks To Remember Names

Do you sometimes forget people’s names as soon as they’ve been introduced to you? It used to happen to me all the time. What’s more, I’d let the deception that I still remembered who they were drag on forever. I’d keep on smiling, talking to them and feeling awkward when the use of name would be appropriate. Then I decided to drop the belief that I wasn’t good with names and started using these some simple tricks to help me jog my memory.

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Pay attention

Often, while we wait for the introductions to be over, we’re thinking what to say next, scanning our surroundings or simply not paying attention. Instead make it a habit to listen out for the name and when you catch yourself getting distracted, turn your focus back onto the person you’re talking to.

Repeat the name back

Instead of “Nice to meet you”, you can say, “Nice to meet you, Jane”. This practice will ensure that you make an effort to hear the name in the first place. Speaking the name out will also engage a different learning channel from just hearing it. You can also repeat the name to yourself silently, just to make sure you’ve got it.

Find an association

If you already know someone with that name, bring up their image in your mind. Or maybe the name reminds you of a place you visited, a word in a foreign language you remember from school or it has a meaning that you could visualise. If you learn best by reading, you can imagine the name written down or even write it down at first opportunity.

Ask again

If you didn’t hear the name, ask the person to repeat it. Even if you realise that you’ve forgotten the name half an hour into the conversation (or ten conversations later), it’s still OK to ask. If you never use their name it’s pretty obvious that you’ve forgotten it anyway, so it’s better to just admit it and save yourself more awkward moments. And if you’re feeling embarrassed to ask, you’ll probably want to avoid the same experience in the future, so you’ll make sure you remember the name this time!

Let go of excuses

If you’re always repeating to yourself that you’re not good with names, the chances are you won’t even try to change that. As soon as you choose to believe that you can do it, you’ll be ready to take action. Even if you don’t fully believe in yourself, simply set the intention to improve your memory and start applying the above tricks. You’ll notice the difference and you will feel a lot more confident with names very quickly.

Image by geralt via pixabay.com

The Loom Band Craze

Rainbow loom bands are the latest kids craze to sweep the stores and online market. They are small coloured rubber bands which are plaited together using a rainbow loom and plastic crochet hook. As well as being affordable and a whole lot of fun, there seems to be more to this new kids craze than meets the eye, so we’ve decided to take a closer look.

What’s available

Rainbow loom bands can be purchased in kits and their contents varies. Most have a loom weave tool, hook and assorted coloured bands. Colour varieties include rainbow, silicon, opaque, glitter, glow in the dark, jelly and tie-dyed. Some kits include C-clips or charms. The travel edition is perfect for car or plane travel.

Cognitive and social development

Kay Margetts, Associate Professor of early childhood, primary education and development, at Melbourne University, believes that loom bands are excellent for children’s cognition of patterns, spatial awareness and fine motor co-ordination. Margetts also commented, that loom bands have a unique quality as they attract both boys and girls, which is unusual with craft activities.

Zoe, Adelaide mother of 3, step mother of 1, agrees, stating, ”It’s good for the kids minds and gains ability to focus and accomplish something they can finish. The boys will sit there for a while making them. It seems to get their minds thinking and as the boys love their footy, they will sit there for a few hours making (supporter coloured) wristbands.”

Emmy, aged 13, of Paringa Park Primary School, in a beach side suburb of Adelaide, supported the fact that boys are into loom bands too, saying, “ The boys wear simple ones, in their sports colours.” Unlike some Victorian schools reported in the Sunday Herald on April 1 and Sydney schools, discussed on 2GB on June 24, Paringa Primary has not enforced restrictions on wearing or making loom bands, although they have ruled against sales.

Emmy went on to provide an excellent perspective of why kids enjoy them. “They (loom bands) are really easy to make, they look really cool and you get a really good feeling when you finish one.” When asked what can be made, she suggested, “bracelets, necklaces, rings … anything you can think of really.” Even though she has only been making loom bands for about a month, each night as she watches TV, it only takes her around 15 minutes to finish a bracelet.

There seems to be other benefits coming from loom bands as well. According to Emmy, “kids are making loom bands to sell at fundraisers … we swap them and give them to our friends and stuff”. In this modern era of autonomy, knowing kids are getting involved in their wider community and exhibiting valuable social skills, such as sharing; it seems the benefits are far outweighing any negatives. Although parents are now having to budget for loom bands in their weekly shop, it seems well worth the reasonably small investment many parents are now making.

Prices and warnings

The prices of the original rainbow loom bands start at $2.50 for an individual packet of 600+ rubber bands. Starter kits are $15 and storage cases, around $25. Travel cases are under $10. Parents need to be aware that counterfeit versions are available but only the Rainbow Loom brand is guaranteed to be safe, non-toxic and meets professional toy standards.

Image via ecx.images-amazon.com

By Kim Chartres