How do I get better at group conversations?
May 8, 2016 9:44 PM   Subscribe

So, after years of practice and trying different things, I've gotten pretty decent at conversations with a single other person. That said, I spent a few days in a group setting recently and realized that I'm awful at conversations in mid-sized groups. How do I get better at group socializing and banter?

I would love general advice because even though my situations are my own, I think it would be good to have a starting point to figure out what to do and what to ask in the future.
posted by LSK to Human Relations (5 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I like to tell comically-spun anecdotes about things that happened to me during the week. Having a dozen good stories at hand is also useful. I find it hard to have any kind of genuine conversation in a large-ish group so I just revert to Charming Banter Mode when I start to feel like I can't be "real" in the given situation.
posted by deathpanels at 9:57 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

It would be useful to know what you're struggling with so that we can give you specific pointers on those things.

Anyway, I think the key to group conversations is to gauge the tone and flow of the group and go with it. So, like, if everyone is interrupting each other and one-upping each other's anecdotes, it's probably going to be ok to do the same. But if it's a serious conversation where people are sharing feelings, you'll want to wait for the appropriate moment to talk. Obviously, between those two extremes there is a pretty big grey area, so if you have trouble discerning tone/flow, then your first step is to spend some time honing that skill.

A few things, though:

1. It's ok to be the quiet person in a group conversation. I know some very well-liked people who are pretty quiet in groups, but when they do say something, it's clear they've put some thought into it (or at least, if someone's not always talking, sometimes that makes it seem smarter when they do!)

2. Don't be too worried about saying the wrong thing. While you're learning to identify tone and flow, you may occasionally get it wrong. That's ok - use it as a data point. As long as you're not hurting/offending people, you're fine, even if it does feel awkward for a minute. If it seems appropriate, you can make a bit of a joke about it. This just happened to me last week, I accidentally brought a conversation down buy bringing up a terrible historical event (it was relevant, I swear!). I jokingly apologized for being a Debbie Downer and then utilized ...

3. If you're in a small group where conversation hasn't really started, or if it lags, then talking about where you are at the moment is usually a good bet. So if you're at a party: "oh hey, I love this song," or "these wings are really good, who brought them?"
posted by lunasol at 10:32 PM on May 8, 2016 [9 favorites]

I agree it's ok to be quiet. If you are engaged in the conversation, it won't matter that you didn't actually contribute - listening to something is also an important way of participating in a conversation!

Don't worry about starting up a one-on-one conversation in a group environment. Like turning to the personal beside you and saying something. It's natural and organic for people to split up into smaller conversations which surrounding listeners can join into if they want.
posted by Ziggy500 at 1:58 AM on May 9, 2016

A good listener is golden in group conversations. I remember a boss I had a few jobs back would very rarely say things in group conversations, and she said this was a tactic. When you don't say much, what you do have to say, if you're clear, articulate, and strong in tone, goes a long way.
posted by xingcat at 7:05 AM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Learn to follow up on what you say with an elaboration or another story. Try saying three things in a row with room in between for others to respond to you.

Group conversation doesn't work well when too many people only want to say one thing and then give up the floor.
posted by michaelh at 2:53 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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