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How To Keep a Conversation Going? The Art Of Listening For Hooks

Do you always end up with small talks? And then regret ‘I wish I could keep the conversation going’?

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“I don’t know what to say.”
“I don’t have anything to add to the conversation.” 

“I’m probably bothering them.”
“My mind just goes blank.”
“Nobody asked my opinion.”

I hear these statements a lot from my clients. 

So I thought I’d share a tip for keeping a conversation going (which is arguably harder than starting a conversation–it’s so easy to let it trail off, like a car on empty rolling to a stop.)

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Raise your hand if this has happened to you: 

Your colleague: Good morning. How was your weekend?
You: It was great. 
Both of you: [awkward silence]

I know you can’t see me, but my hand is up.

Therefore, try this instead:

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When you’re on the listening side of the conversation, listen for a “hook.” A hook is anything that piques your interest, reminds you of something else, elicits a question, or that you can relate to. You get the point. It can be any part of what’s being said–the bar is low.

Related: The Art of Conversation: 25 Great Conversation Starters

Here’s an example of listening for a hook:

You to your colleague: Good morning. How was your weekend?
Your colleague: Great. My husband and I did some work on my dad’s place.

Okay, perfect! You now have a bunch of hooks at your disposal. Maybe you heard husbandworkdad, or place as the hook.

Related: 48 Deep Conversation Starters To Know Someone Better

Whatever part of that sentence your brain grabbed onto, you can toss it back with a related response:

  • Nice–are you the DIY-er or is your husband? 
  • That’s cool–what did you work on?
  • Oh, nice–I’m thinking of doing some remodeling on my place but knowing where to start is always a challenge.
  • That’s excellent–do you see your dad often?
  • My dad’s place could use some work–he’s lived there for 40 years so you can imagine how full the basement is.
  • Great. Does your dad live locally or did you have to travel?
  • That’s awesome that you do it yourself–I put caulk around my tub several rental apartments ago, but that’s the end of my skills. 

Whatever you toss back, offer a “hook.” Ask them a question or offer up something about you–what you think, do, feel, remember, or relate to. 

Big asterisk: If you tend to be a question-asker, push yourself to talk about yourself a bit more. It’s common for those of us who are on the quiet or shy side to hold our lives close to the vest. We think we’ll annoy people by talking about ourselves, that we have to deliver a 100% relevant comment, or we just don’t know what to say. 

Related: 50 Red Hot Conversation Starters To Spice Up Your Date

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Dr. Ellen Hendriksenhttps://www.ellenhendriksen.com/
DR. ELLEN HENDRIKSEN is a clinical psychologist who helps millions calm their anxiety and be their authentic selves. She serves on the faculty at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD) and is the author of HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach has been featured in New York Magazine, The Guardian, Harvard Business Review, Scientific American, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Business Insider, Psychology Today, Tonic, Quiet Revolution, and many other media outlets.
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