How to Join a Conversation

Teenagers talking in a dorm.
Move beyond social anxiety by joining others in conversation.. Getty / Cultura/Benedicte Vanderreydt

Knowing how to join a conversation is an important social skill. If you find yourself at a party or gathering with people that you don't know well, knowing how to approach a group or individual will ensure that you don't end up sitting in the corner. Below are the steps to join a conversation.

Be Prepared

Before ever trying to join a group in conversation, it is important to do some preparation. Read the news every day.

Brush up on popular topics like sports and entertainment. At the very least, be aware of any current events that are likely to come up in conversation.

All of these strategies will help you when you join a conversation. Not only will you have a point of reference for what is being discussed—but you might even find that you can add a new perspective or share something unique with the group such as by talking about your travel experiences or favorite musicians.

Choose a Group

Choose a group of people who are in a conversation that you would like to join. If possible, look for a group that includes someone you might already know, or who are talking about a topic that you have interest in or know something about.

But don't hesitate too long trying to find the perfect group! Your goal is not to have the world's best conversation, but rather to gain experience entering into a conversation that is already ongoing.

Listen/Make Eye Contact

Hover on the edges of the group and listen until you know what they are talking about. Make eye contact with one or two people to show your interest in what is being said. Individuals with social anxiety are less likely to make eye contact, which can you seem aloof or standoffish.

Try extra hard to look people in the eye as you talk to put others at ease.

Be Polite

Wait for a natural break in the conversation before you speak. Instead of just jumping into the conversation stream, politely acknowledge that you are just joining the group by saying something like "Are you talking about last night's game?" or "Can I ask a question?".

Show Interest

Be interested in what others have to say. Listen carefully and reflect back what you have heard. Ask open-ended questions that encourage others to speak and share opinions and stories about yourself to help others to get to know you.

Individuals with social anxiety disorder are less likely to hold up their end of a conversation, so it is important that you try especially hard to be receptive to what others have to say, especially when joining a new group.

Think about it this way—would you be more likely to want to talk to someone who appears warm and friendly or fearful and closed off? Be the person that you would want to talk to, and you will find that others will warm up to you more quickly.

Read Next: 16 Tips to Cope With Awkward Conversations

Sources:

Howell AN, Zibulsky DA, Srivastav A, Weeks JW. Relations among social anxiety, eye contact avoidance, state anxiety, and perception of interaction performance during a live conversation. Cogn Behav Ther 2015:1-12. [Epub ahead of print]

Mein C, Fay N, Page AC. Deficits in joint action explain why socially anxious individuals are less well liked. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry 2016;50:147-51.

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