How to Maintain A Conversation and Make A New Friend
In our last article, I showed you how to start a conversation with a stranger. Here, we’ll learn how to keep chatting and even turn that stranger into a new friend.
There are many advanced techniques for maintaining a conversation. I'm going to concentrate on a basic but powerful technique to keep the dialogue going: F.O.R.E.
What does F.O.R.E. stand for?
F – be Friendly
This sounds easy, and it usually is. Being friendly is all about making people feel comfortable around you. Giving off the vibe that you like talking to them. Try smiling, saying hello, being approachable. Use open body language—good posture, arms at your sides rather than crossed, show interest towards the person you're talking to. Don't look at your cell phone—give them your attention. Make eye contact. And, if appropriate, laugh.
Don't be way too nice, or fake—people can tell, and you'll come off like you're trying to sell something, or even a bit creepy. Either will cause people to become defensive and put up their guard.
Just be in a good mood—the best way to do this is to be grateful. Feel active gratitude for the good things in your life—even basic stuff, like having all your limbs. Having a warm house to go home to. Some people have nothing to their name—and if you’re reading this, you’re blessed with internet access. So, be grateful.
Another way to get into a good mood is by listening to uplifting music. No need to break out in a dance—but don’t be afraid to move a little bit. Physically moving helps your body and mind get into a more positive state. So put on your favorite song and just jam out.
O – for Occupation
During a normal conversation with the usual small talk, it’s natural to ask the other person what they do for a living. After they’ve answered, you can respond with your own occupation. But keep in mind the two follow-up questions for them:
After they've answered with their job title, ask, "How long have you been working there?" And after they answer, be sure to comment on what they've said. For example, "X years, that's what's up. I've been working at (your own job) for (y years); it's a good/ok company." From there, ask your second question. "Is it fun?" People usually don't find their work all that fun, so you have a comfortable lead in for the next part of our acronym…
R – Recreation
Aka fun activities. If they tell you their job isn’t fun, you can ask simply, “What do you do for fun?” Or on the off chance they do find their job enjoyable, you can respond, “Nice—not a lot of people can say they have a fun job. What else do you do for fun?”
This question provides an excellent opportunity to build a friendship. People love to talk about themselves—especially about they things they enjoy. All you have to do here is listen. And listening is so important that I wrote a separate article about it, here.
When you're listening actively, try to relate with something you also like to do—without making the conversation about you. Connecting with what they enjoy builds rapport, and makes the next part of the process easy to accomplish. But if you don't have a common activity to bond over, simply ask if they get to do their activity a lot, stay interested, learn a bit about what they like to do. Only one more step to making a new friend…
E – exchange contact info
Notice I said contact information, not phone number. Some people don't like to give their number out to people they've just met. Some people don't feel comfortable asking a stranger for their phone number. So instead, just ask for the best way to contact them. This way, they'll give you what they feel comfortable with as a way to reach them. You can also ask for their Facebook or Instagram handle—personally, I go for this first.
Before you ask for their contact info, set up a reason why you’d want to exchange information. This can help put you—and them—at ease. I’ve found that, barring something else that comes naturally, asking where there's a good bar or club near works well. I also state the fact that I don't get out much and/or know many people in the area. Along the lines of:
"Hey, what's a good place to go out around here, a good bar or club?" They answer, then I respond, "Cool—I don't go out much because my work keeps me busy. We should hit up that place sometime. What's your info—or better yet, are you on Facebook?"
If they don't know a good place to go, or they also don't go out much, you can do one of two things. The first is, "Yeah, me neither... Well, it's been awesome talking with you. Are you on Facebook or Instagram?" Don't be afraid to go for the contact info even if the reason for it didn't seem to pan out—most people are cool with exchanging info if they had a pleasant conversation with someone.
If they ask, "Why do you want my contact info?" you can take things in the second direction—which is to just say, "Never mind,” wish them a nice day, and move on with your life. Think about it: if they don’t go out much and are defensive about exchanging numbers, they probably are introverted or anti-social, and not much fun to hang out with, in which case they did you a favor by turning you down.
Or, it might have been something you did. There are a few big mistakes people might make in a conversation that you did here without even knowing it; read about those mistakes here.
I used to be shy, and using this formula has helped me tremendously. Sometimes we just need a little planning ahead to make sure conversations and social interactions flow well. F.O.R.E. helped me break out of my shell and start natural, friendly conversations with strangers. Give it a try, and let me know how it worked for you in the comments below.