Get a signed copy of our latest book, Emily Post's Etiquette - The Centennial Edition, for yourself or to give as a gift, and support Vermont's independent bookstore Bridgeside Books.

Join our Substack newsletter for more from Emily Post.

Keep the Conversation Going Hero Label

Keep the Conversation Going

Good Conversation Happens When People Listen

Searching for something to say? People tend to get nervous when they have to talk to someone they don’t know very well. But here’s a secret: The person you’re talking to doesn’t know you well, either, so you’re probably both feeling nervous. How do you handle the situation? Easy. Start off with a basic question, like, “Whats going on with you?” or "What have you been up to since I saw you last?" If you listen carefully to the person’s answer, you’ll easily find an opening for a follow-up question.

“What are you up to these days?”
“I just graduated college. I’ve been applying for jobs in marketing.”
“Is that what you studied?” (There’s the follow-up question. So easy.)
“No, I was a studio art major, actually. But I want to put my art skills
to work at an advertising agency or something like that.”
“Really? I have a friend who’s working with JMP. Did you try applying there?”
“Yeah, I did, but they aren’t hiring right now. What about you, how are you keeping busy?”

Once you start talking to someone, all you really have to do is listen. By doing this, you’re actually telling this person a lot of positive things about yourself. For one thing, you’re letting them see that you’re interested. And by learning more about the other person (usually the goal in the first place), you’re demonstrating that you aren’t completely self-absorbed. Finally, you’re showing that you’re confident enough to talk to people you don’t know without losing an ounce of your poise, wit and charm.