Here at UC Berkeley, every single day is filled with interactions between people. From working with peers in class to joining a campus club or community, talking to others is probably one of the things that we do most in our lives. Sometimes, it’s just small talk about the weather. Often, it’s about classes, professors or the latest “L” you took on that midterm. However, this small talk can get boring and even repetitive sometimes. After a certain point, talking about how wacky the weather is just isn’t going to cut it anymore — big yawn! So, how do you have memorable and exciting conversations with people? Read on for the Clog’s short and sweet guide.
Seek and nurture conversational sparks
The first step of any conversation is to start! A nice way to get any conversation going is with an easy “Hi, how are you?” I know, I know — that often leads to a “Good, how are you?” followed by awkward silence and a situation in which both parties invariably end up on their phones. But, hear me out: This low-stakes question casually invites the other party to reflect on their current state and share their thoughts! And, once you get the ball rolling, look for conversational sparks; this is the most important part. Ask questions that incite moments of joy and excitement in the other party. Some sparks you could try include “What was the highlight of your day?”, “Have any vacations coming up?”, “What’s your favorite restaurant in Berkeley?” or “What do you do to unwind?” All these questions ask the other person to look for positives in their lives, as well as things they’re excited about or looking forward to. People love talking about things that make them happy! Now that the smiles are out and the walls are down, how does one continue this natural flow of conversation?
Push hot buttons
As you chat, create conversational high points by looking for their hot-button issues. These are topics, ideas, hobbies, activities, foods or events that light someone up when they talk about them. If at any point in your conversation the other person suddenly nods eagerly, exclaims in pleasant surprise, murmurs in agreement, leans in to hear more or displays elevated interest in your discussion, you’ve found a hot button! Hot buttons spark dopamine release, make us feel great and encourage us to go deeper into a conversation and explore more. By pushing hot buttons, you just might find a new discussion buddy that shares your love for Yogurt Park on rainy days or a fellow club member that can offer you pro tips for your first rock climbing endeavor.
With any conversation, it’s important to show that you’re actively listening and engaged in this special interaction between two fellow humans. Sometimes it might not seem like it, but one can learn a lot of interesting things about another person in just a few minutes! Invite them to feel comfortable in sharing their likes, dislikes, interests and hobbies by showing you care about what they have to say. Face your body toward them, maintain eye contact and use your facial expressions to react and show your engagement. No matter how shy you or anyone else might be, the most important thing to remember is to express your full presence and appreciation for what they have to share!
Every day on our beautiful campus, we casually chat with people left and right. But, you don’t have to dread small talk and it doesn’t have to be boring! Think of every conversation as an opportunity to learn a new fun fact or something interesting about one of your fellow comrades in college. So, with these three simple steps to guide you, go forth and push those hot buttons!
Contact Kristie Lin at [email protected].