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How do I learn how to talk?

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Madame Peccato

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I like communication, and I like writing a lot, because it gives me time to really think over what I want to say. On the other hand, I absolutely loathe talking to other people, since I feel like my brain shuts off and I'm just spitting out words at a faster speed than I can think, which leads to moments of frustration and me saying things in a poor way.

I can explain myself well, and I can talk to multiple people at once on topics I know a lot about, but I can't for the life of me express myself in "small talk", or more generally in a typical discussion. It feels like my brain freezes and I'm talking for the sake of it.

The best way I've found avoid this issue is taking time to think over it, but it still takes me a lot (a minute or two), and people don't want to wait that long for that type of casual discussion.

Is there a way to speed up this process? Or more generally to learn how to have my brain get unstuck when I talk to people?
 

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Madame Peccato

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You have to learn to LISTEN first.
You misread my post. I'm not just waiting for my turn to speak and then vomit words to please my ego. I am a very good listener, in fact, this issue of mine is probably why I'm one. Since I have to be thoughtful about what I need to say I need to consider what other people are saying, or I'd be even more F*cked than I already am when it comes to communicating.

Since I can't collect my thoughts quickly enough, I end up not saying anything and just thinking over what was just told to me for minutes.

Have you tried taking an intensive like the Art of Charm?
I hope it's not the one I found with my Google search, because this huge sales page with multiple price reductions and long copy doesn't sit well with me.

Join Toastmasters, do table topics.
Looks like the closest Toastmasters club to me is about 2 hours of travel away from me, and I can't find any info about them doing online events in my country (Italy), but I'd expect them to have moved their meetings online because of the quarantine. Maybe they are still organizing things, so I'll check back in a week or two.

Thanks for all the input so far, I think I'm starting to figure out a way.
 

krishnafied

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As children, we feel a sense of oneness -- belongingness -- with everyone. We don't filter ourselves so much, even if we're being a little ridiculous. As we grow older and more intelligent, we lose our innocence. Enlightenment is coming back to your innocence, in spite of your intelligence, so you can just be natural. Everyone you meet is not craving for perfect words from you, they just want your love, your acceptance, your vibes, your joy -- what you say is secondary.
 

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If it is a topic you are not familiar with, then start with asking more questions. If will get you involved in the conversation and as you are getting answered it could give you time to actually comment on what the person is saying or more time for a different thought to continue the convo. Plus, most people love or are just super comfortable to keep talking and explain stuff that they seem to know more about than the people around them. You said yourself, if it is a known topic you have no issues.
 

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You misread my post. I'm not just waiting for my turn to speak and then vomit words to please my ego. I am a very good listener, in fact, this issue of mine is probably why I'm one. Since I have to be thoughtful about what I need to say I need to consider what other people are saying, or I'd be even more F*cked than I already am when it comes to communicating.

Since I can't collect my thoughts quickly enough, I end up not saying anything and just thinking over what was just told to me for minutes.



I hope it's not the one I found with my Google search, because this huge sales page with multiple price reductions and long copy doesn't sit well with me.



Looks like the closest Toastmasters club to me is about 2 hours of travel away from me, and I can't find any info about them doing online events in my country (Italy), but I'd expect them to have moved their meetings online because of the quarantine. Maybe they are still organizing things, so I'll check back in a week or two.

Thanks for all the input so far, I think I'm starting to figure out a way.
Try an online club. I love Toastmasters! Always free to visit, do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
 

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Throwing my chips in with @Sethamus ... ask a question about the person or something they're interested in and let them talk a bit. It makes them feel like they're in an engaging conversation, and gives you time to process whatever you need to process (of course you'll be listening to them primarily). You can also ask them a question that leads them down a similar path to what you're thinking, and then you have two brains working in the same direction at the same time, which is wonderful.

Like you, I don't always know immediately the full implications of something that's said. Frankly, someone could be telling me about their cat, and it triggers an idea for a series of algorithms based on cat behavior. Obviously I may have to suppress that and evaluate it later, or risk being the most awkward conversationalist ever. But... life hack... if a computer scientist is talking about cats, you can actually ask them what they think about cat-based algorithms, and maybe design some together on the spot (oh happy day!).

If that works, and you're both drawn into the same line of thought, it will probably be much easier to express yourself. Like you, I am often quiet when people are talking... part of that is probably that I'm not 100% aligned with the conversation. I'm either thinking about too much, or thinking about something related to what the person is talking about, but not identical, so the moment to express it never seems to come. Basically, everyone is "in the moment" but some of us end up in different moments than others ;) A question is a great way to draw someone into the same moment you're in, because they have to think about the direction that question leads them in.
 

SM Switi

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Exactly same as my problem thank you for bringing that out, I even started listening to communication podcasts lately, the issue is I never paid any attention to this topic until recently when it started affecting my life and the way I express myself to others or participate in common discussions, I find myself out of words and can't wrap my ideas in a coherent complete sentence, even the way I spell out words is incorrect.

But what might help us is the saying "you master what you mostly practice and experience" and so you learn how to communicate by actually communicating.

we need practice dude and a lot of small conversations even with ourselves, so that the words will come out naturally instead of deep thoughtful thinking before we spell them out.
 

reedracer

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Exactly same as my problem thank you for bringing that out, I even started listening to communication podcasts lately, the issue is I never paid any attention to this topic until recently when it started affecting my life and the way I express myself to others or participate in common discussions, I find myself out of words and can't wrap my ideas in a coherent complete sentence, even the way I spell out words is incorrect.

But what might help us is the saying "you master what you mostly practice and experience" and so you learn how to communicate by actually communicating.

we need practice dude and a lot of small conversations even with ourselves, so that the words will come out naturally instead of deep thoughtful thinking before we spell them out.
This is why I do Toastmasters - to stay in practice. I taught for 3 years in the Navy and never was want for anything to say. Fast forward 10 years and I get asked to speak at a Microsoft conference to replace someone who could not be there. "I got this, I taught for 3 years. Write some notes make some slides and badabing ..." Well I got up there and choked in front of 500 of my peers. Unlike the proverbial bicycle, I have to keep speaking or I lose it.

I later had a job at a company with 7500 employees. The CEO was a charismatic face to the company and was brilliant while being quite demanding. He had a reputation for asking employees a question about their job and if the employee did not know or did not have a good answer he'd fire them on the spot.

To add on to what @Rabby said, have a couple questions you can pull out at any time. It doesn't matter if it is totally on topic and it gives you time to think.

Mr. Burns: Homer, how are we doing with the fission to fusion conversion metrics?
Homer: Hey Mr. Burns, I trust your kids are well? or I heard about your uncle?
Mr Burns: Blah Blah
Homer: That's nice. The fusion numbers are off the chart...donuts
 

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Fox

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I like communication, and I like writing a lot, because it gives me time to really think over what I want to say. On the other hand, I absolutely loathe talking to other people, since I feel like my brain shuts off and I'm just spitting out words at a faster speed than I can think, which leads to moments of frustration and me saying things in a poor way.

I can explain myself well, and I can talk to multiple people at once on topics I know a lot about, but I can't for the life of me express myself in "small talk", or more generally in a typical discussion. It feels like my brain freezes and I'm talking for the sake of it.

The best way I've found avoid this issue is taking time to think over it, but it still takes me a lot (a minute or two), and people don't want to wait that long for that type of casual discussion.

Is there a way to speed up this process? Or more generally to learn how to have my brain get unstuck when I talk to people?
I think you would like the Chris Voss Masterclass a lot.

It is on negotiation but I found it very useful for just general conversation.

Also podcasts with great conversationalists will teach you a heaps - just model their questions and style till you improve your own.
 

Andy Black

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I’m similar. I don’t do small talk.

However, I’m fascinated by what makes people tick and what their “thing” is. What’s the topic we could talk about that has them light up?

I do chat to people everyday... I say hello to people who walk the other way on the street. I have a little conversation with shop tellers, cashiers, waiters, barber etc. Those conversations are easy and pretty much standard. Practice on those people... they have those same conversations every single day so are well used to it. You could say they’re professional small-talkers, and those conversations are only for a couple of minutes anyway.

To be interesting, be interested. Find the topic that they’re passionate about. Allow yourself to get sucked into their world (unless they’re complaining of course).

I second @Fox in that the audible book “Never Split The Difference” is excellent. I’m only part way through and there’s things I notice I already do naturally, and things that are just plain counter-intuitive.


When I talk my brain is often going so fast I interrupt myself and don’t finish sentences or thoughts.

Some (most?) people don’t seem to mind so don’t worry about it. Passion, a desire to help, and genuineness beat talking skills imo.

For some reason this chat popped into my head. I’m an introvert by nature (happy with my own company), but I’m so keen to help someone that I come out of my shell and chatter away unselfconsciously:
> A chat with a consultant about escaping the time for money trap


There’s also a recording of me and @Lex DeVille chatting for the very first time. When I listened back I was struck how we were comfortable with silence and rarely spoke over each other:
> AndyTalks with SinisterLex about Selling & Scaling
 

Xavier X

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I like communication, and I like writing a lot, because it gives me time to really think over what I want to say. On the other hand, I absolutely loathe talking to other people, since I feel like my brain shuts off and I'm just spitting out words at a faster speed than I can think, which leads to moments of frustration and me saying things in a poor way.
My degree is in Communication, and in my opinion, your problem might not be poor communication skills, but communication anxiety.
So instead of "how do I learn how to talk?" a more helpful approach might be "how do I minimize communication anxiety?"


I can explain myself well, and I can talk to multiple people at once on topics I know a lot about, but I can't for the life of me express myself in "small talk", or more generally in a typical discussion. It feels like my brain freezes and I'm talking for the sake of it.
In public speaking, one of the ways to reduce stage fright is to master your topic completely. This gives you confidence, and in turn reduces nervousness and anxiety. As a result, you are somewhat relaxed, and deliver eloquently.

I mention that, because I believe it's the same reason you can speak adequately to multiple people about something you know a lot about. On the other hand, while you can learn tips on making small talk, there is no real way to master the content of small talk, without coming off as a robot. So, now what?


The best way I've found avoid this issue is taking time to think over it, but it still takes me a lot (a minute or two), and people don't want to wait that long for that type of casual discussion.

Is there a way to speed up this process? Or more generally to learn how to have my brain get unstuck when I talk to people?
What I'd recommend you work on are "overthinking" and "relaxing."

When making small talk, don't overthink it. Listen, but don't over-analyze. Genuinely listen, without trying too hard to extract possible questions from their statements.
Your brain is getting stuck, because you are consciously forcing it to analyze and formulate an appropriate response. And doing so against a bomb-like countdown timer (which explodes when they finish speaking).

Realize you don't always have to make "great small talk." It's small talk, it's not that serious. With that state of mind, you will eventually relax and consequently make better small talk.

On a different angle, working a sales job can tremendously help with this as well. Consider getting a temporary one as a seasonal worker, perhaps. It might help.
All the best.
 
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Madame Peccato

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Terrific advice, thanks everyone! I'll put them in practice immediately at lunch time with my mom (the only person I can realistically talk to at the moment because of the quarantine).

I will also get Chris Voss' book.
 

ARMAT

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There is another great way which helped me a lot and I am sure it will help you also. Every night before getting asleep write down your thoughts and ideas on the paper or success journal. It will take from you maximum 10-15 minutes. After two weeks you will communicate with people much easier and words will come automatically. Wish you Good luck !
;)
 

Jon L

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I used to freeze when trying to make small talk. Id literally not know what to say next. I don't know if this is your issue, but mine was that I was afraid to just be myself. I was too worried about how I was coming across and that created a lot of anxiety.

I can now talk to just about anyone on any topic. What changed for me was a few things:

1) learning the mechanics of conversation. (focus on the other person, fit in with the flow, ask questions, act happy/content, see Andy's post above on this)
2) be appropriately vulnerable and authentic. This one is a huge deal. If you're feeling shy, say so. If you have a stupid question to ask, ask it. Often stupid questions lead to the most profound outcomes. If you're uncomfortable with a course of action, speak up. If you're not sure why you're uncomfortable, say, 'im not sure why, but something about this feels off.'. Brene Brown has a ted talk on this that is excellent. If what I've said here resonates with you, I highly recommend watching her Ted talk and then reading a book or two of hers.
3) this forum. Providing value to people is a big deal. I look for ways to add to someone's day even if it's to put a smile on their face. Or, if I'm totally awkward that particular time, at least I gave them someone to compare themselves to favorably :)
 

luniac

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I like communication, and I like writing a lot, because it gives me time to really think over what I want to say. On the other hand, I absolutely loathe talking to other people, since I feel like my brain shuts off and I'm just spitting out words at a faster speed than I can think, which leads to moments of frustration and me saying things in a poor way.

I can explain myself well, and I can talk to multiple people at once on topics I know a lot about, but I can't for the life of me express myself in "small talk", or more generally in a typical discussion. It feels like my brain freezes and I'm talking for the sake of it.

The best way I've found avoid this issue is taking time to think over it, but it still takes me a lot (a minute or two), and people don't want to wait that long for that type of casual discussion.

Is there a way to speed up this process? Or more generally to learn how to have my brain get unstuck when I talk to people?
Just ask questions and listen, then ask a subquestion based on the answer.

So u meet someone, ask "Hey what you up to right now?"
they say "blah blah doing X" or "blah blah going to Y"
So that gives you info about X and/or Y,
so ask "Oh yea tell me about X", "whats happening at Y?"
if u know something about X, Y then great cause now u just talk about what u know.
If X,Y are completely unfamiliar, then have a sense of genuine curiosity and learn something new lol

And if "awkward" silence happens, then who cares, its not a big deal anyway.

Basically a similar approach to how i'd write an essay,
Whatever topic i got, id split it into subtopics, and then subtopics of subtopics and simply fill in the info about each subtopic, and the essay writes itself lol
 

Kevin88660

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I like communication, and I like writing a lot, because it gives me time to really think over what I want to say. On the other hand, I absolutely loathe talking to other people, since I feel like my brain shuts off and I'm just spitting out words at a faster speed than I can think, which leads to moments of frustration and me saying things in a poor way.

I can explain myself well, and I can talk to multiple people at once on topics I know a lot about, but I can't for the life of me express myself in "small talk", or more generally in a typical discussion. It feels like my brain freezes and I'm talking for the sake of it.

The best way I've found avoid this issue is taking time to think over it, but it still takes me a lot (a minute or two), and people don't want to wait that long for that type of casual discussion.

Is there a way to speed up this process? Or more generally to learn how to have my brain get unstuck when I talk to people?
What are the topics?

It really depends on the topics. If I have to give an explanation on a complex topic without prior Preparation.

If small talks you refer to are light hearted topic maybe you are a too perfectionist for a well thought answer in a scenario that no one expects.

It is more about thinking fast and speak, and not being afraid to correct yourself later going back and forth.

Basically on way to communicate is to articulate your thought process out without limiting yourself to speak only when you have a conclusion.

During a discussion that would be beneficial as your group mate will know what exactly they agree or disagree about.

Example: Has the stock market bottomed?


Potential quick answer: “Well possible. Given that we had unlimited QE, and fiscal stimulus. But we have to pay attention to the development of corna virus. I think the we havent reach the peak of the curve in new death count and infection count. There is a lot uncertainty around. If things gets worse and there could be panic selling that will force the Fed to buy the assets directly to prevent the further price decline. Exact bottom will be difficult to ascertain because we do not know how big the impact will be if the corona virus momentum doesn't het stopped, and conversely fed can do whatever they want but there is a lag time between policy implementation and its effect on assets price, unless Fed buys assets with minted cash directly. Well, my advice is do not try to time the bottom and the only thing seems to be certain is that volatility is here to stay. We have this virus, oil price crash and China and U.S. pointing fingers at each other...”

Basically I just said “I do not know when is the bottom and volatility will stay.” But I cannot figure it out right at the start because my brain needs to gather and consolidate information. So while I was doing so I lash out my thought price.
 
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Madame Peccato

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I talked a bit with @Tourmaline and what changed my perspective the most is the reason for which people do small talk. I thought it was entirely pointless, but it turns out it's not.

What he said that helped me put things in the perspective the most were the following questions:

'I'm a human and I deal with the weather. do you too?'
it's asking 'are we on the same wavelength?' 'are we friends?' 'can i trust you?'
So now I have a good reason to engage in small talk. I put too much focus on what people said, instead of why or how. Now I just need to practice:smile2:
 

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Mainstream7

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I like communication, and I like writing a lot, because it gives me time to really think over what I want to say. On the other hand, I absolutely loathe talking to other people, since I feel like my brain shuts off and I'm just spitting out words at a faster speed than I can think, which leads to moments of frustration and me saying things in a poor way.

I can explain myself well, and I can talk to multiple people at once on topics I know a lot about, but I can't for the life of me express myself in "small talk", or more generally in a typical discussion. It feels like my brain freezes and I'm talking for the sake of it.

The best way I've found avoid this issue is taking time to think over it, but it still takes me a lot (a minute or two), and people don't want to wait that long for that type of casual discussion.

Is there a way to speed up this process? Or more generally to learn how to have my brain get unstuck when I talk to people?
Are you doing a lot in english?
I found doing more in native language will realign you with the current environment(italian people and language) and thus improve your communication skills.
 
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Madame Peccato

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Are you doing a lot in english?
I found doing more in native language will realign you with the current environment(italian people and language) and thus improve your communication skills.
I was referring to my daily life. So yes, in Italian.

When I do it in English (like when I travel) it comes way more naturally to me.
 

Dianne Cohen

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To me, it sounds a bit like you have some social anxiety. If you do or don't, try hypnosis. It will help you to be more relaxed in these situations and you will think faster too. Eventually, you will not be so concerned with say the exact right or wrong thing. That takes a bit of time because you have to build up your confidence.
 

Andy Black

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I put too much focus on what people said, instead of why or how. Now I just need to practice:smile2:
Interesting that this is the possible root cause.

I agree. Just smile and practice on people who’s job is to smile and chatter back (cashiers, grocery checkout folks, etc). Guess what? Sometimes their day is going a bit shitty and a friendly smile and hello can really brighten it.
 

Andy Black

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You know what you can do that can really help you @Madame Peccato?

Give thanks.

Look for the smallest opportunity to thank people. Make it heartfelt. Look them in the eye. Even better, explain *why* it’s helped you if you can.

People will open up like flowers.



And when someone thanks *you* for something you’ve done why not go beyond “You’re welcome” or “ No problem”?

How about saying “My pleasure” instead?
 

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I’m so glad Tourmaline helped and put it in such a succinct way. I think chit chat is like good table manners or politeness among family members - it greases the wheels of a nice society.

It’s funny because I can dive into metaphysical conversations so easily when I connect with ppl.. but chit chat took me a lot longer to figure out. I realized it was a language of its own and learning it was a way of showing love to my more extroverted friends. Now ppl think I’m an extrovert which still amazes me... lol.

Anyway, it’s cool that you’re working on it. I wish you the best of luck.
 

Champion

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Hey there, here is my opinion on this:

There is no shortcut or tip/trick that will make it all easier. I also had this same issue as you when talking in German, however, practice makes perfect.

If you want to really improve it as quickly as possible, get a job in sales. Thats what I did.

By no means am I a natural sales person or great speaker, however, I have improved significantly in the course of 1-2 years since I took the job and I believe its the fastest way to improve your speaking.
 

Vanyka

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Thanks for taking the time to write and bring this up.

I totally get you! I f*cking hate small talk!

Well, I did. I used to think it was a severe waste of time, both mine and the poor soul's that was standing next to me, engaging in this luxurious time-haemorrhaging activity.

I avoided this (as I thought) empty, fake and dry bla-bla-bla everywhere I went. As a practicing introvert/admirer of productive work/connoisseur of meaningful conversations, I swiftly left the premises when I saw these sh*tstorm clouds approaching.

And then one day it hit me. I realised that

not one meaningful conversation has ever started abruptly, out of the blue.

Even with your dearest and closest friends we start with smalltalk.

"Hey, how was your weekend? Did you end up going to see the match?"

We do this easily because you know our friend's wavelength/interests and there is certainty that shortly we will have a meaningful conversation.

However with colleagues, random relatives and homeless dudes under the local bridge, it is a bit different. We are in the same place not to talk to each other, but to do our work or because we were forced to attend the girlfriend's mom's third wedding this year. Not sure how the homeless play a part in this story, but you get the point...

So what do we do if we don't know what interests the other person? Correct - we ask questions. We do it to the point where we find something in common and woop-dee-f*cking-doo, we now have a chance at a meaningful conversation that we all so admire.

The 5 Shots Rule (I totally made that up and my Russian background shows...)

Vodka tastes like sh*t. Well, the mass market labels do. Having had some noteworthy alcohol experience during my younger years I noticed that only the first 4 shots taste awful. Everything from the 5th shot onwards flows like water.

Now, I am by no means promoting alcoholism and irresponsible intoxication, but the same rule goes for smalltalk.

First 5 questions are the hardest.

This is because you have been working on different things and living different lives. You are not on the same wavelength from the get go. I found it generally takes about 5 or so questions to find some common interest/vibe/topic that you can effortlessly carry and ride with it into the sunset, comfortable swaying in the saddle of an interesting conversation.

To be honest, the more smalltalk I took part in (using the rule above), the more meaningful conversations (time allowing) I've had. You can't win them all, but there are more than 7 billion of us here. A couple of awkward conversation is a totally acceptable statistic.

As Tim Ferriss wisely put it "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable". For the record I am still working on this lol.

This is just my $0.02, and I see heaps of excellent advice here already from the fellow members. Toastmasters are an excellent idea for ongoing practice, as well as the informational videos posted above.

All the best on this very worthwhile quest!

;)
 

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