It’s been 5 minutes since the conversation began.
You can feel the energy has dropped and… yup, there it is.
The dreaded awkward silence.
It’s one of the most feared things in a conversation.
(Apart from starting conversations, ending them, speaking with someone who is super extroverted, saying the wrong thing… the list goes on).
Panicking, you start to wrack your brains in the hope to say something, anything, to break the silence.
Suddenly you remember this blog post you read on Empowered Introverts. You know, the one that tells you the 7 ways to never run out of things to say in a conversation?
Quick, let’s save your future self and begin!
1. The STAR method
One of the common complaints I receive from introverts is not knowing about or being interested in the conversational topic.
I get it. It’s hugely boring when someone starts speaking about their love for sea urchins. Who knew so many things could be said about the creatures.
We remain active in conversations we’re interested in. When we’re interested, our questions and responses flow. It feels nature, not awkward or stilted.
The STAR method is a way to think around a topic and introduce other, related, topics. Topics that you can speak about. Topics than mean you never run out of things to say.
Imagine a star with five points. Now, imagine the middle of the star as the conversational topic.The points coming out of the star are different, related topics that can be introduced.
For example. Your conversational partner brings up football, something you don’t know much about. But, thinking around the topic creates lots of ideas you can turn into questions or stories:
- Sport competitions
- Team sports
- Injuries from sports
You can even play the role of beginner with a question like: “I don’t know much about football, what do you like about it?”.
This works because it’s a win-win. A win for you because you get to have a great, engaging conversation without awkward silences. A win for them because other people love talking about themselves. It’s likely they will leave thinking you are great company.
It takes a bit of practise to start with. See if you can do it the next time you’re watching Netflix. If the characters are talking about something you know nothing about, what related topics can you think of?
The more you try it, the easier it becomes.
2. Taking inspiration from your environment
Context cues. One of our biggest saviours as introverts. An excellent way to never run out of things to say.
The go-to standard questions like “what do you do?” make us go on autopilot. We have heard them so. many. times. before. Spice up your conversation starters by using context cues from your environment as inspiration for conversation (scroll down for some scripts you can use).
If you’re online, you could mention a picture they have in their background. You could also point out something in yours—like a houseplant.
Starting the conversation with a neutral safe topic like context cues indicates you are an ally. You are trustworthy.
Look at what’s around you. Every object, item, thing is a potential talking point. It’s a never-ending list of things you can use to fuel conversation.
The next time you’re struggling to come up with something to say, take a deep breath, glance around you, and try one of these scripts:
- “I love your Zoom/video background, it reminds me of ______”
- “I’m trying my best to keep houseplants alive, like this one behind me. Do you have any tips?”
- “That picture on your wall is gorgeous, where was it taken?”
3. Leverage your introvert strength of preparation
Introverts are the kings and queens of preparing. We are those people who turn up at meetings with notes already written. We’ve organised our week ahead. We’ve thought about what we want to say to someone ahead of meeting them.
Leverage this strength to fuel conversations.
If you know you have a social situation coming up, spend 15 minutes preparing beforehand. It can truly make the world of difference, both to your confidence and people’s perceptions of you.
Preparation: who you are going to meet
Having some background knowledge to the people that you are going to meet or the topic to discuss is a great shortcut to connecting meaningfully.
A quick browse of a company’s website, a LinkedIn profile, or social media page can give you gems into the inner world of someone.
If you’re meeting someone on a Zoom call, having some brief notes scribbled down in front of you helps jolt your memory. If you know they’re a fan of digital marketing (seen from their LinkedIn posts), you could mention that you’re looking to improve in that area, and do they have any tips?
Advanced: Invite people to complete your knowledge:
This is a skill I work on with my private coaching clients. It’s a fantastic way of helping someone feel significant while learning something new in the process.
For example: someone is telling you about their love for houseplants. Instead of directly asking a question, share your knowledge first:
“Houseplants make my home feel much cosier! I’ve heard that you need to repot them every year. What do you think?”
When you contribute before asking a question, people become more engaged:
- You show that you’re someone who understands them.
- You give them an opportunity to show how interesting they are.
- You help them feel useful as they add value to what you already know.
Preparation: news and current affairs
Spend 5 minutes reading up on current news and interesting stories that you could talk about.
Keep this lighthearted and avoid anything that could be controversial (including politics and religion). For example, I read a story about an aggressive squirrel who was attacking residents in New York. There’s even an interview with someone who rugby tackled the squirrel.
This is a great story to mention as it’s weirdly funny (it’s not normal for cute fluffy creatures to do this) and it’s in a location a lot of people either have been on vacation to or want to visit, so it creates plenty of conversation openers.
You could drop it in to a conversation: “Have you heard about the crazy squirrel that’s going around attacking people in New York?!”
4. Asking questions that spark joy
Conversation openers that spark pleasure tend to create enjoyable, memorable encounters. It triggers dopamine in the other person’s brain and is a surefire way to create a positive impression.
- “Have you been working on anything exciting recently?”
- “What personal passion projects have you been working on?”
- “What has been the highlight of your week?”
You know when you’ve found someone’s passion because their eyebrows rise up, they lean in, and they will happily talk for ages about it. For example, ask a grandparent about their grandchild and be prepared to listen for a while!
These particularly passionate topics that are important in our lives, like grandchildren, are also known as hot buttons.
We all have something we love, sometimes obsess over. For me it is books. Ask me a question about books (seriously, do — you can email me here), and I’m happy to chat for ages.
What would be one of your hot buttons? Something, that if you spoke about, you’d never run out of things to say?
5. Dig questions
Dig questions go deeper into a topic. It shows we’re keen to really dive into someone’s thoughts and opinions around a subject. We actively want to learn more.
If your conversational partner starts speaking about something you’re interested in, use one of the below scripts to dig into it further:
- “That sounds great! Tell me more about …”
- “Oh interesting — how did you … ?”
- “I’m curious, what did you … ?”
- “What was that like for you?”
If you’re anxious about keeping a conversation going, keep a few “dig questions” as backup and helps you never run out of things to say.
This is especially good if you blank out. This happens to introverts more than we like to admit. It’s because we tend to favour long-term memory, over short-term.
(Extroverts go the opposite way).
Pulling information quickly out of our long-term memory can be… tricky. Especially when we need to answer under pressure. Job interviews, first dates, important conversations — these are times when it feels worse.
Being unable to say what you know is in your head is a horrible feeling.
Here’s how to handle it:
- Try to relax and allow your mind to wander.
- Buy yourself time by saying “I need a few moments to think”.
- Be lighthearted about the information not coming and tell the other person you’ll get back to them later (by text/email!)
Knowing this in advance helps you feel more confident. And leveraging your introvert strengths helps you flourish!
6. Focus on their immediate past
Asking about someone’s last 5-6 hours is an easy way to kickstart conversation.
Ask questions as detailed as…
- “How did you get here?”
- “Did you get stuck in traffic?”
- “How long would it normally take you to commute home?”
It may sound silly to you, but these are important topics to your conversational partner.
Those details are still very prominent in their mind. The time proximity makes them seem more important than they really are.
You can take any seed of information from their responses and use it to continue the conversation. Linking back to what they’ve previously said helps you never run out of things to say.
7. Energise before you socialise
Giving yourself permission to energise through alone time before you socialise is key to connecting easily with people.
Socialising is best done on a full energy tank. If possible, take some time before social situations to increase your energy levels. Even 10-15 minutes can make all the difference.
Speed the process up by consciously knowing what brings you joy and fills your cup, then doing it. For me, this is reading books and walking in nature.
Questions that may spark a deeper understanding for you:
- What do you love to do?
- What activities get you in flow? (being fully immersed and focused)
- When do you feel the most energised?
Knowing your “energy limit” is also useful. If you know that after 30 minutes you need to take a break, you’re able to continually top up your energy levels over the day.
Once you become aware that you’re drained, do a quick body scan and ask yourself if you want to push through and stay or if it’s time to leave.
If you feel the urge to leave, wait until the conversation has slowed down, bring it back to small talk (a natural indicator that things are coming to an end), then say something along the lines of:
“It was so lovely spending time with you today, I’ve got to head off as I need to do X this afternoon/evening. Let’s schedule in another time to meet!”
(X can be anything: prep for the next day, do some work, feed the dogs, call my grandma at a certain time).
Your energy levels are important. Look after them.
Awkward pauses in conversations feel horrible. It’s that cringey feeling like your skin is standing on end (!). Never run out of things to say by…
- Think around the topic with the STAR method. What else is related that you can talk about?
- Taking inspiration from the environment around you. Every item is a talking point.
- Making the most of your introverted strength of preparation. Preparing and practise are a fantastic combination, you’ll feel like you’ll never run out of things to say!
- Dig deeper into their answers: what do they really mean?
- Ask better questions. Questions that excite people and trigger dopamine.
- Focus on someone’s most recent past: those events are still important in their mind.
- Energise before you go out to meet people. It’s amazing the difference it can make.
I’m celebrating you for taking the next step on becoming a social introvert.
Knowing these skills can really help you in so many areas of your life… and help you never run out of things to say.
Being able to communicate clearly is so important. Want more tips on how to connect with other people?
Click on the blue button below.
I’ll send you the Introvert’s Ultimate Guide to Connection.
In it, you’ll learn:
- Strategies to melt away awkwardness when starting conversations
- A framework to ensure you’ll never run out of things to say
- How to navigate fears of saying the wrong thing or social blunders