“I wonder what they think of me?”
“I’m sure they think I’m a weirdo.”
“Probably think I’m boring too.”
“This is so awkward…”
Sound familiar? Or maybe you’ve said something similar.
If you’re someone who feels that you come off as boring or unfriendly in conversation, that belief alone can get in the way of helping you to identify possible things you could change.
This isn’t about changing who you are though. It’s more about trying something different, seeing how it fits and if it feels great and you get the results that you want, keep doing it.
I’m not one to say you have to implement these x amount of steps otherwise, be a miserable, boring failure for life. No. I’ll give you some suggestions and you can take it from there. We’re all different so I can’t presume that everything will work in the same way for everyone.
So If you’re feeling lost and don’t know where to start when it comes to how to be more friendly in conversation, here are my suggestions for you.
Yes, I know. It’s obvious. And maybe you do it already. If so, excellent! I didn’t say I was going to be offering anything groundbreaking though.
The reason why I couldn’t resist adding it in is because I started to notice something recently.
I noticed that on occasions when I thought I was smiling, it seemed more like a displeased look. I noticed this when I took a few piccys of myself. I genuinely thought I had a noticeable smile on my face but when I saw the picture, I was shocked to see that my smile wasn’t anywhere near as big as I thought.
That means it’s likely I haven’t been smiling during some conversations when I thought I was.
So how about you. If you already smile a lot in conversation, are you sure it’s a smile-smile? It probably is but I thought I’d throw my example in, just in case.
If you tend not to smile too much or feel nervous, you don’t have to jump in and show teeth, start with a tiny one or just follow the other person’s lead. If they smile, there’s your cue to join in.
Make eye contact
Some people find this one really hard. I personally love looking into people’s eyes during conversation. They say it’s the window to a person’s soul after all. Maybe that’s why it can feel so hard for some. And it’s said to increase self-consciousness too. So it’s no surprise that if you’re already feeling somewhat anxious, you’ll feel challenged.
It can create a connection that goes beyond words, although it also depends on the content of the conversation and to whom you’re talking. Having said that, the last thing you want to do is stare too much (I’m probably guilty of staring too deeply into a person’s eyes).
But remember, the wider your eyes, the more it’ll look like you’re staring. And you don’t have to try to force yourself to hold contact when you’re talking. It’s normal to look away from time to time, whether you’re doing the talking or not.
Use Your hands
Sometimes I think I must have Italian blood in me. If I’m not careful, my hands could end up all over the place. Do you use yours when you talk or are they just hanging at the side of your body and would you like to use them more? Maybe you cross your arms because at least they’re out the way. Or when you do use hand gestures, it feels forced.
The last thing you want is to come across like some kind of robot or make yourself appear closed off when you cross your arms. And maybe you’re worried about looking silly as you practise getting comfortable with more or smoother movements.
To get the hang of it, try practising alone at first. I don’t mean acting out pretend conversations, although you can if you want, but to start, you can practise when you’re alone on the phone with someone. That way, you’ll feel less pressure.
Play with the pitch of your voice
Do you worry that when you talk you sound a little flat? If your voice is on the monotonous side, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are boring. You can’t sum up all of who a person is just by the way they sound when they talk. I certainly can’t anyway.
But there’s no harm in adding a sprinkling of energy. My suggestion would be to record yourself speaking for at least 1 minute. I know not everyone likes to hear themselves speak and I was one of those people.
It would be a great way for you not just to listen (and cringe) but really listen. As long as you’re busy wincing to every word, you won’t be able to move towards being a bit more objective about what you’re hearing.
Do your best to avoid harshly criticising yourself and instead, take notes on the areas you’d like to work on. For example, you might decide to work on making your questions actually sound like questions instead of statements.
A bit by bit approach will take you a long way.
Listen and listen well
Be honest, when you’re talking to someone, how much are you listening? Lots of people like to believe they’re good listeners and no doubt, some of them genuinely are. But for the rest of us, we spend a percentage of the time listening and the rest of the time formulating our response while the other person is talking.
I’ve done this plenty of times myself and still get caught out. Next time you’re conversing with someone, see if you can focus a little bit more than usual on what they’re saying. Having said that, improving your listening skills isn’t only about staying quiet and paying attention.
If you’re one to struggle with coming up with something to say, then listening well will save you often. When you spend most of your time worrying about what the other person thinks of you and/or you’re busy desperately searching for something to say, you’ll miss so much of the information they share.
Get curious about what they say and ask questions. Probe for more information and that alone will help to keep things going. Of course, you don’t want to fire off question after question and make it feel like an interrogation. Ask, respond with a nod of the head, an uh-huh or Mh-hm – anything that shows you’re listening/interested. Maybe add in a little bit about yourself if it’s something you relate to and then ask them something else.
Now that I’ve given you a few practical things to try, I’m going to suggest one more thing…
So, you think you’re more boring than friendly or that you give a standoffish vibe. The thing about having a certain belief about who we are is that we act in accordance with what we believe. We’re hardly going to see ourselves as, say, someone who likes to be indoors a lot and then purposely spend lots of time away from home.
It won’t happen. Unless we actively choose to challenge what we believe about ourselves. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean questioning every aspect of who you are. You’re questioning the parts that you believe are problematic.
So, what do you believe about yourself if you don’t see yourself as friendly?
And what if it’s only your belief that you’re not friendly that makes you come across that way??
Something to think about…
It might be that you already do all or most of the things I mentioned. More so when you’re around people with whom you’re comfortable. In that case, it’s just a matter of taking small steps to start doing what you already do with people outside of your close-knit circle of family/friends.
As always, what I shared are things for me to continue to practice too. We’re in this together.