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A Tip To Make Any Conversation Easier (& It Only Takes 10 Seconds)


Hannah Frye

July 05, 2024

Assistant Beauty & Health Editor

By Hannah Frye

Assistant Beauty & Health Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.

Image by Stocksy | Lucas Ottone

July 05, 2024

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Picture this: You’re walking into a room full of strangers. You know you have to start a conversation, but you don’t know a single thing about the people there. In these moments, social anxiety usually hits—but it doesn’t have to.

As award-winning journalist and author of Supercommunicators Charles Duhigg explains on a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, there is a way to ease these jitters before they begin. Here comes his simple tip.

The tip: Come with topics ready, even if you don’t use them

“Anxiety mostly exists because of the unknown,” Duhigg says—not knowing how the other person will react or what you’re even going to say. So, the mission is simple: Make the unknown known.

To do this, write down three topics you want to discuss. These don’t have to be complex—simply asking someone if they’ve seen a new movie, what their weekend plans are, if they live nearby, and so on will suffice.

This method was tested by Harvard Business students, Duhigg says, with interesting results: “Afterwards, the researchers asked them how’d that conversation go and, all the students said the same basic thing: They said, ‘Those topics I wrote down, they actually never came up. We talked about other stuff, but I felt so much more relaxed and so much more at ease and so much more confident in the conversation because I knew that I had these three things in my pocket.'”

What’s more, this tip transcends surface-level chitchat—it’s also worthwhile to prepare for more difficult conversations. Whether you’re discussing a major life decision with your partner or breaking difficult news to a friend, knowing what you can say beforehand can help ease anxiety, even if you end up switching gears at the moment.

Plus, this time spent reflecting before a difficult conversation can help clear your mind and organize your thoughts, whether you use the prepared information or not.

Think of it like an interview: You know nerves may make your voice shaky and your palms sweaty, but if you can prepare the content of your conversation, there’s less unknown to be frightened of in the first place.

The takeaway

Next time you gear up to talk with a stranger or sit down for a difficult conversation, ease your anxiety by coming prepared. Before your chat, write down three topics you’d like to discuss and bring them with you.

Whether you call upon these conversation starters or not, simply completing this prep work can boost your confidence.

For more tips on becoming a super communicator and why it’s so important for longevity, tune into the full episode on Apple Podcasts, or watch on YouTube.

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