How do you get excellent conversations?

No really, I’m genuinely asking. Everyone’s been through the “formality” conversations that go something like this:

“Hey, (name you hopefully haven’t forgotten), how’s it going?

“I’m good. How are you?”

“Not well haha. (Annoying class) is really tough. How far are you on the homework/project?”

“Oh yeah it’s rough. I haven’t gotten much of it done.”

…and really stilted conversation about school (your only common factor) continues. This usually happens with someone you’re only tangentially close with – acquaintances that you’ve seen around a lot but don’t really know well. Great conversations with close friends are candid, free of pressure, and it feels like you could be talking back and forth forever – neither party is just “waiting for their turn to speak,” but instead conversation flows naturally and both people are attentive and interested.

It seems obvious that the differentiating factor is just familiarity and common interest, but I know charismatic people who can have genuine conversations very early into meeting someone new. Thus the question I have is “how can you pull excellent conversations out of people you might not know well?” Or perhaps the core question is “How can you get people excited to talk about something, even if it’s not a shared interest?” – because it’s passions that are the interesting windows of character that lead to friendship.

The last great conversation I had with a total stranger was on Dostoevsky and Russian literature. They were studying philosophy, and it’s not really too often that someone in EECS gets to talk about their love of the humanities. But conversations like this are pretty sparse. I find that most of the time, even if the two of you have some shared interest, it’s still not easy to get people off their guard. Of course, there’s the FORD acronym – Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams, that acts as a good topic list for generating deeper-level conversation, but in general, people still seem a bit wary when it comes to sharing too much about their lives, unless their personality is to be naturally open.

I’m interested to hear how others approach having good conversations with strangers, and how to circumvent the “formality” of a not-close relationship. Is familiarity and shared experience really a necessity before you can have more candid conversations? How can you get people to feel comfortable enough to talk about their passions? I’d like to know!

Evan Jiang

Sophomore CS Major bashing my head through these projects until they work

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!