How to Keep a Conversation Flowing:
See also: Questioning Skills
The 7 Best Strategies
If you’ve been struggling with keeping a conversation flowing, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve created seven unique ways to help you avoid awkward moments and retain the flow of conversation.
If you’ve never learned how to keep a conversation flowing, it most likely has hurt your social life and even your work life. We want to help you improve this part of your life. And once you know how to keep the thoughts and words flowing, you’ll be surprised at how many more doors open to friendship, activities, and joy in your life.
So, let’s get started!
#1: Open-ended questions are your best friend.
Open-ended questions are the foundation of keeping a conversation flowing. Asking questions that begin with "why?" "how?" "what?", “tell me about?” “what was it like?”, provides a more authentic, in-depth, response from people.
Open-ended questions are important because they help you discover more information about someone. You’ll be able to solicit more meaningful answers and will be able to build off of the conversation. Open-ended questions are essential to keeping the conversation flowing and having better conversations.
#2: Use the Narrow to Open method.
To keep the conversation flowing and continuous, start with a simple, Yes or No question, also known as narrow questions. Then, build off the details you learn from the narrow questions and expand the conversation using open-ended questions.
Here’s a simple example:
You: “Do you like to travel?” (Narrow question)
You: “Where have you traveled?” (Narrow question)
Them: “Belgium, Italy, Mexico.”
You: “Oh, that sounds great. What was it like in Mexico? (Open-ended question)
Them: “I loved it so much! The food, especially the tacos are amazing. I’d love to go back”
You: “Sounds amazing. Tell me what else you did in Mexico?” (Open-ended question)
The above is a great example of how you can keep the conversation flowing. If you want to watch someone who uses this method, watch a news interview. You’ll see how they warm up the conversation with narrow questions and then lead to open-ended questions. Their job is to get the other person to talk about what they know, see, think, and feel.
#3: Keep the conversation flowing by involving others.
If you want to keep the conversation flowing, make sure to involve other people in the conversation. If you’re asking one person a question, make it a point to ask everyone as well.
Give people a chance to share their experiences and make it a comfortable space to talk, share ideas, feelings, jokes, and stories. Use this moment as a way to make more friends and give yourself a break to catch your thoughts. You’ll be surprised to realize that people will see you as approachable and easy to talk to. Just because you gave them room to speak and actually listened.
#4: Ditch long answers to keep the conversation flowing.
People are less likely to listen to you if you talk for more than 20 seconds during a conversation. Dr. Mark Goulston, the author of Just Listen, recommends the Traffic Light Rule:
He says, in the first 20 seconds of a conversation, the listener likes you, as long as you keep your statement relevant to the conversation and involve the other person. People who talk for more than half-minute are perceived as boring or too chatty.
If you continue to talk beyond 20 seconds, there’s a good chance the other person will begin to lose interest in you or the conversation because you’re just simply talking too much.
#5: Most people ask the same thing. Say something different.
This is obvious but most of the time we don’t say anything very different from everyone else.
Most of us use the same 5 questions…
- “How are you?”
- “Where did you go to school?”
- “Where do you live?”
- “What do you do for work?”
- “What’s the weather like this weekend?”
Boring, right? Yep. So, try changing it up to keep the conversation flowing. Talk about an interesting topic or at the very least, ask better questions.
Keep the conversation flowing using five action items:
- Read a book or watch a new documentary you normally wouldn’t. This will help you pull ideas and topics faster to keep the conversation flowing.
- Try Duolingo. Learning a new language can impress people.
- 3. Try a new food. Have you ever tried scrapple?
- 4. Learn about a different culture. Heard of the Huli in Papua New Guinea?
- 5. Take a trip to a new place in your city. Leave your town!
Use what you do in your life as content to keep the conversation flowing and interesting. If you’ve taken a trip or tried a new restaurant talk about it, and what your experience was like. And, if you know anyone who’s interesting, go hang out with them!
#6: Storytelling will keep the conversation flowing.
Keeping the conversation flowing sometimes is about keeping your audience engaged. How do you do that? Through storytelling. However, some people think they need to tell a complex or long story. You don’t. It can be a simple 20-second story, that’s clear and concise.
Here the Do’s and Do Not’s to improve your storytelling skills.
- Choose details that will best interest your listeners and will keep the story flowing.
- Identify the message/story you want to tell and consider your audience’s interests.
- Tell stories about life experiences people can relate to.
- Assume you don’t have storytelling skills. We all have it in us to tell memorable stories.
- Give yourself the starring role. Bragging about yourself isn’t cute.
- Overwhelm your story with unnecessary details. This takes away from the main ideas.
#7: Find people with common interests.
It’s a common belief that if you learn the right conversation skills, you can have a conversation with anyone. This is true. However, not everyone you talk to will be a magical spark or be compatible. However, the trick is to go places you know the people you meet will have common interests. This will help the conversation will flow better and make it easier to make friends.
If you find people with similar interests, you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to talk with them.
But always push yourself outside your comfort zone too. To grow you must be and feel a little comfortable. Remember, these are strategies to help you practice conversations and to finally learn how to keep the conversation flowing.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills eBooks.
Develop your interpersonal skills with our series of eBooks. Learn about and improve your communication skills, tackle conflict resolution, mediate in difficult situations, and develop your emotional intelligence.
About the Author
Steve Anthony is the creator of Loopward.com, a source to help people improve their conversation skills. He is also an entrepreneur, a world traveler, and enjoys a good conversation over coffee.