“Conversation isn’t about proving a point; true conversation is about going on a journey with the people you are speaking with.” ~Ricky Maye
I bet you are tired of small talk1 in English, starting with simple comments or questions such as:
“What’s your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“The weather is really nice today.”
Have you ever wanted to have AMAZING conversations in English?
You know the conversations I’m talking about. You already have them in your native language.
Those deep discussions you have with your best friends, family members, or lover, where you talk about each other’s history, hobbies, goals, or priorities in life. You explore global issues and topics that are important to humanity.
They open up your mind to new ideas and beliefs that you never thought about before. They energize and inspire you to live your best life and follow your bliss.
You may even think about big questions like, “What does it mean to be a global citizen?”
In order to have a great conversation, you have to be interesting2.
This doesn’t mean you have to be the most adventurous man or woman in the world (like in the picture below), and do crazy things like bungee jumping, skydiving, swim with sharks, or hike Mount Everest.
Being interesting in English is actually a lot simpler than you probably think. There isn’t a complicated formula to become an interesting English speaker.
Over the past few years through my experience traveling, learning Portuguese, and teaching English I’ve learned a lot about how to be interesting and share deep conversations with my friends, family, students, and believe it or not, even strangers.
In this article, I’ll share a few of the most essential tips I’ve learned on my journey so that you can quit the small talk and start sharing big ideas on a daily basis.
1. Ask Questions
“To be interesting. Be interested3.” ~Dale Carnegie
Instead of focusing on yourself, focus on learning more about the person you are speaking with.
Imagine you are a child again. Be curious.
Ask questions. Listen actively. Engage in a meaningful way. Hear their story. Then, ask more questions.
Research shows that this is a proven way to not only have great conversations, but also make people want to talk to you again and again.
Think about it. In general, people love to talk about themselves. So when you start to really dive deep into their lives, they see that you are genuinely6 interested in getting to know them.
As a result, they are likely to ask you more questions also, and will want to know more about you. Then when it’s your turn to speak, say whatever is on your mind.
The next time you are at a language exchange event in your city, having a conversation in English, or meeting someone for the first time, try this technique out.
2. Express Yourself
“The greatest act of courage is to be and to own7 all of who you are — without apology, without excuses, without masks8 to cover the truth of who you are.” ~Debbie Ford
Brazil has really taught me how to communicate more expressively. To be my authentic self around people.
Walking along the beach in Rio, it’s common to hear vendors screaming, trying to sell iced tea or açaí9 , kids playing, people laughing, crying, smiling, kissing, hugging, celebrating, and applauding the sunset.
It’s a whirlwind10 of energy and emotions, and I love it! The culture of expression in Brazil has influenced me a lot and made me realize the importance of communication, and the fact that there are different ways for me to express myself.
I’m not as afraid anymore to express my thoughts and emotions, and this has made a big impact on the overall quality of my conversations.
When you take off your masks and express your authentic self, you give permission for the people around you to do the same. It’s a really refreshing feeling.
On a daily basis, the people you meet are likely to be more open and vulnerable when they talk to you.
Consequently, your conversations get a little bit more interesting. Instead of talking about boring or common topics, you might talk about more captivating11 subjects such as relationships, travel, spirituality, culture, new business ideas, dreams, or future plans.
If you want to improve your conversations, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Stop covering up how you really feel. Express your true self with others, and observe how they start to share more about themselves with you.
3. Tell a Great Story
“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” ~Ira Glass
Storytelling is a really useful conversational skill to have. When you tell a great story, you capture the attention of your listeners.
You pull them into your world and your imagination. All they want to do is listen and follow what you are going to say next.
Every little detail matters when you are telling a story. The people that are listening to you speak are creating an image in their mind as you talk.
For this reason, it’s even more important to be expressive with your communication and engage your audience by asking them questions. They don’t have to know the answers, but just the act of asking them questions keeps them engaged.
You really can’t include too many details. Describe the atmosphere that your story takes places in; the time, place, sounds, smells, colors, people, and events leading up to what happened.
If you find it tough to create a very detailed and visual story because you lack the necessary vocabulary to really explain what you want to say, you can try to write it instead and search for the words that you don’t know in English on an online dictionary. It is a great way to improve your vocabulary.
Storytelling is one of the oldest arts. Before written language, stories were told orally all over the world to bring together and inspire large groups of people around the world.
If you can master the art of telling stories in English, then I doubt that you will have any problems maintaining an interesting conversation.
4. Live Your English
“Life isn’t meant to be lived perfectly…but merely to be LIVED. Boldly12, wildly, beautifully, uncertainly, imperfectly, magically LIVED.” ~Mandy Hale
Imagine your life is like an adventure or action movie, and you play the role of the hero who is destined to master English.
In order for your adventure to start, you have to embark13 on the journey to live your English every day in order to have stories to tell your friends and people that you meet. It starts when you wake up each morning.
The more experiences and things you learn in English every day, the more you will have to talk about.
It will be impossible to run out of ideas and topics to talk about if you are consistently practicing English by listening to podcasts, watching TV series, or TED Talks, meeting English natives and other non-natives, or traveling to new places. These are just a few ways you can start creating experiences in English on a daily basis.
Don’t be afraid to speak in public. Take risks. Make mistakes.
It’s all a part of the journey to English fluency. There is no such thing as speaking English perfectly. Even native speakers make mistakes when they speak.
So don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and start a conversation in English today. The value gained from your conversations will definitely be worth the discomfort you will experience.
Are you ready to answer the call to adventure and start your journey to English fluency?
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Vocabulary from this article
- small talk: short, ordinary conversations
- interesting: describes something you are curious about
- interested: the act of expressing interest or curiosity (this is different from interesting which is used to describe something that makes you curious)
- first impression: the impact you make on people when you meet them for the first time
- crucial: important
- genuinely: truly or authentically
- to own: to take responsibility
- masks: external protections or personalities you create that you use to hide who you are and how you really feel
- açaí: popular tropical fruit grown in the Amazon that is frozen and sold like ice cream on the beaches of Rio
- whirlwind: a big storm, often used to describe something overwhelming
- captivating: another word for interesting
- boldy: to face something with courage
- embark: to leave