You board the bus on your first day at a new school. A friendly-looking girl smiles at you. You say “Hi.” She says “Hi” back. Then you say . . . nothing. And stare out the window for the rest of the ride. If this sounds familiar, don’t feel bad. We’ve all been there. Small talk sounds like it should be easy, but sometimes it feels so hard. It can even seem better to say nothing at all. But the truth is, the ability to hold a conversation with anyone you meet is a valuable skill. Studies show that people with good communication skills have better relationships with others. And in surveys, managers report that they place the highest value on effective communication skills when interviewing job candidates.
“Talking to people is how we build relationships,” says Danielle Bayard Jackson. She’s a friendship coach and educator. “If we want to be able to relate to other people, grow our network, and access and share information, we need to be able to have meaningful conversations with other people.”
Thanks to texting and social media, our face-to-face conversation skills are all a little rusty. But now is a great time to polish them. “Throughout life, you’ll need to communicate with bosses as well as with peers, so getting a head start now will give you an advantage later on,” says Frank McAndrew. He’s a psychology professor.
Do your conversation skills need a boost? Here are tips to help you talk to anyone.