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How to Survive an Awkward Conversation

How to Survive an Awkward Conversation

by Brandon Specktor

Somehow you’re sitting next to the only person at the party you’ve never met, and the mood is definitely uneasy.  How do you draw him or her out?

Open with a compliment.  The other person will feel a wave of positive feelings, and you will be more likely to remember him or her later as the person with the “nice hat”.  Win-win.

Listen like a hostage negotiator.  The motto of NYPD’s Hostage Negotiation Team is “Talk to Me” – that’s because team members are taught to spend 80% of their time listening and only 20% speaking.  Draw your subject out by talking about what he or she wants to talk about, nodding, and asking follow-up questions along the way.  The more you make your subject feel understood, the more he or she will enjoy the conversation.

Have an escape plan.  The phrases “I won’t keep you” and “Give me regards to (mutual acquaintance)” are your allies. When the conversation reaches a dead end, employ them.

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