The Talking Confidently Tool

Learning to manage a conversation is a skill. You might feel really confident talking to people you know well, but struggle with new people. You might find that your worries about what others are thinking about you makes it difficult to talk confidently to people. If you find talking with others difficult it might help to consider some of these top tips to help you to feel more confident.

Use sounds

When listening to someone, making sounds like ‘mmm’, ‘ah’, ‘uh huh’ or even saying ‘yes’ or ‘ok’ indicate to the other person that you understand what they are saying and give them a cue to continue.

Control your voice

Your tone of voice, pitch, and speed of delivery are very important. For example, if you introduce yourself in a whisper, other people may not only struggle to hear you, but they may also assume that you lack confidence and may feel uncomfortable speaking with you – not because of how you look, but due to how you are presenting yourself. If you talk loud enough for people to hear (but not too loudly), with an even tone and regular pace of speech, people will see you as confident and in control.

Starting a conversation

If you have been struggling with your confidence and getting out and about, starting a conversation can feel really difficult, you might be out of practice, you might have negative thoughts such as, ‘I have nothing to say’, or, ‘No one will care what I have to say’. Remember, everyone has something to say – you will have done something, seen something, read something or have some comment to add to any conversation. It can be hard but try not to let your negative thoughts stop you from conversations.

Remember, thoughts are just thoughts, they aren’t facts, and the only way to disprove your negative thoughts is to do something that challenges them. In this case – starting a conversation. Here are some top tips for starting a conversation

Ask a question

Ask someone what they think about something, and this allows them to respond and you can then follow up on the response.

“Did you like the music?”

The answer is likely to be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ rather than something that invites more comment. This is not a major problem – you can still remark on the person’s answer or ask another question in response, but it will most likely come back to you to think of something to say.

You might like to think about asking open questions – these are more likely to elicit a longer and detailed response. Open questions start with the words:

  • Who…
  • What…
  • Where…
  • When…
  • How…

Think about how the other person might respond if you asked:

“What did you think of the music?”

I remember talking my little girls to mother and toddler groups and feeling really left out as no one was talking to me. Then I realised, I wasn’t talking to them either! I decided one day I was going to start a conversation with someone, I asked another mother if this was the main group they came to and this started a whole conversation about which toddler groups they attended, and when. It was really helpful as I got some top tips on the best ones to go to!

Kerry

Find mutual interests

If you are in a conversation and someone mentions a mutual interest, ask them about it. ‘I do that too, how are you finding it?’, or with sports ‘what did you think about the last game’. People love to talk about their interests and one of the things that attracts us to others (friends or romantically) is shared interests

Joining a group conversation

Before you start speaking, listen to what the group is talking about, rather than jumping in or changing the subject. Think of how you can comment on what is being said. When you feel you have a comment to make, try the following:

Wait for a natural lull or a pause in the flow and then speak
Make eye contact with the speaker and nod to indicate you have something to say
Step forward slightly into the group.

Remember to acknowledge what other people say, and share your experiences and thoughts, even if you are asking a question. Here are some examples:

‘I know, his last film was great. Has anyone seen the one he made previously?’

‘That sounds really lovely. Talking about holidays, we went to…’

‘You’re right about playing sport; I would really like to play more…’

‘It’s interesting that you say that; when I was at school…’

Other people feel awkward too. It is important to remember that most people find talking to someone new quite difficult. You may feel that an awkward conversation is due to your looks, but it may just be your own, or the other person’s, lack of confidence or communication skills – or both! Try not to assume that it is your appearance that is getting in the way of a good conversation.

I’ve developed a lot of skills over the years, through trial and error. I’ve also realised that people who do not have physical difference can also be worried about social situations

Alison

Being prepared

It can be useful to think about a social situation before you go. This may help you to feel more in control and confident about your conversation skills. Try making a list of possible subjects before you get there. Here are some useful things to consider:

  • Who is likely to be there?
  • What are their interests likely to be?
  • What might you have in common?
  • What interesting things have happened to you recently?
  • What is happening in the world at the moment?

You can start off gently being part of a conversation by nodding, showing interest and making encouraging sounds. When you are ready you can join in and see how it goes. Gradually, as you practice, you will start to feel more confident about joining in and chatting with people.

You might also find it helpful to look at the Body Language Tool

The Body Language Tool

Read

Handling questions

Read

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