Have you ever heard a conversation between two or more outgoing people?
They have the most pointless conversations imaginable.
- Celebrity gossip.
- The stupid trash movie they saw last week (that really isn’t all that funny).
- Comments about other boring people they know.
Or nothing at all. They just talk on and on and it looks like they even enjoy it. They say almost nothing of substance and everyone else seems to love them for it.
While YOU can barely keep a relatively interesting conversation going. You know that you’re different than most people. That’s why you’re reading this article.
Maybe you’ve listened to some of those conversations. And maybe you’ve considered that you don’t talk much because you have nothing in common with most people. You don’t want to be lonely, but can’t ever imagine being part of such pointless conversations.
How can you add something interesting to a conversation that is about nothing?
But if you want to stop being quiet around people, then you’ll have to learn to talk about nothing. It’s an important social skill to have. (And I’m only joking a little bit here.)
What Should I Talk About?
You’ve come to this article because you want to know what to say. You want me to tell you some good things to talk about. But the question “What should I talk about?” is the wrong one.
Did you really believe people talk about stuff that actually matters?
They don’t, and for a good reason.
Most people have nothing real interesting to say. They just don’t know enough to be able to talk about fascinating subjects all the time. Maybe I’m a pessimist in this way, but most people aren’t even that intelligent.
But that doesn’t stop them from having friends. Or girlfriends and boyfriends. Or a social life.
It actually helps. Here’s why…
People Don’t Remember Most Conversations They Have
Most people spend many hours talking throughout the day. They have many conversations with many different people. They talk about their new cat, their vacation in Fiji and what someone else posted on Facebook. They talk about Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Obama, sports, music, makeup, celebrities and so on.
Most people’s problem is not thinking of something to say… it’s shutting up for once!
Yet how many of those conversations do you think they remember?
The trap many shy people fall into is believing every conversation you have must be interesting and important. You might obsess about some small conversation you had with someone for days afterwards. You might lay in bed thinking about what you said, imagining what you could have said, analyzing what you did right and wrong, and planning what you’re going to say to the person the next time they see them.
But tell me, how much has the other person thought of the conversation?
They’ve probably forgotten about it entirely. Because they had plenty of other conversations that pushed it out of their mind. Maybe they had new problems to solve or events to go to. In the end, one little conversation means nothing to the average person in the grand scheme of things. At least it shouldn’t.
That’s why no matter what you say to someone in the average conversation, they will almost 100% certainly forget it within a few days. Because of this, you don’t need to have something particularly interesting to say. You just need to say something.
People don’t remember what you said, but they do remember that you had something to say. In the end, you can talk about interesting stuff, or “nothing.” Nothing is much easier.
Why Should I Want To Talk About Nothing, Anyway?
Maybe you’ve agreed with me so far in this article. You find most conversations pointless, so you would rather just so something different. You can always spend the time: reading books, doing your favorite hobby, playing a video game or changing the world.
These are all great things to do, and you should definitely do what you want to.
But you should also find time to make small talk and socialize with people. This gives you much different feelings of belonging and connectedness that other activities never will. It brings a feeling of balance to your life and makes you feel understood by other human beings which gets rid of loneliness. And most importantly, it is what we were meant to do naturally.
People are supposed to be able to make conversation naturally and talk openly about whatever dumb thing comes into your mind, except your shyness gets in the way.
Fortunately, there are several techniques you can use to make words flow out of your mouth like water in a stream, many helped me overcome my own shyness immensely.
How Do I Talk About Nothing?
Did you ever see someone you’d like to say “Hello” to… and then you began to plan out exactly how you’re going to say it and what funny remark you’re going to say afterwards?
Don’t do that.
First of all, it’s too much effort to carefully plan everything you’re going to say. It’s like having a “filter” between your brain and your mouth, only letting through the few remarks that pass your high standards.
You have to stop thinking about what you’re going to say before you say it. Don’t think when you’re talking. Don’t decide on what you’re going to say. Keep your mind completely blank, and just let whatever wants to come out, come out.
Essentially, what you’re doing is making talking spontaneous. You stop using your rational brain and start using your instincts and “gut feeling” more often. This means you no longer have to actively think about or worry about what you’re going to say next. This does take some getting used to, but soon you’ll find small talk becomes a breeze and it’s actually really FUN!
What To Do When Talking
When you’re talking, you have to be in the present moment.
Shy people are usually stuck in their own little head (I would know) thinking about something they just said, and how funny or horrible it was. Or they’re worrying about what they’re going to have to say next, and how to avoid looking nervous or awkward.
Being stuck in your head… thinking, worrying, imagining, daydreaming… is the worst thing you could possibly do if you want to have a natural conversation.
It’s because of this that you sometimes run out of things to say. It isn’t like you have nothing to say. You have a whole lifetime of knowledge, experiences and opinions. The real problem is not a lack of thoughts to express, but believing that everything that comes out of your mouth must be interesting, unexpected or funny.
The truth is, people don’t remember most conversations, so it’s useless having something great to say every time it is your turn to talk. Instead, you have to practice speaking without thinking. This lets you relax and enjoy conversations more because you now just say whatever “feels” right.
To be able to do this, you can’t be thinking 10 seconds into the future or 10 seconds into the past. You have to be in the moment.
“What If I Say Something Stupid?”
If you don’t run through whatever you’re going to say in your head, how do you know what you’re actaully going to say?
You don’t. You just have to trust that over many years of conversations and hearing other people talk, you have enough experience to be able to come up with something appropriate to say automatically. This takes a leap of faith at the beginning.
You’ve been carefully thinking about what to say for so long, that just talking spontaneously will seem unnatural at first. Trust me, it’s much easier and it’s how most people talk.
“I’m Too Smart.”
Maybe you still think “regular people” are too different from you. You couldn’t be more wrong.
There are plenty of very smart and social people out there. You being smart and shy has nothing to do with you being a genius, you’ve just gotten into the habit of not talking. And you can break habits.
Here’s What I Do When Meeting New People
Have you ever seen someone you’d like to meet and wondered how to start a conversation?
Maybe it was an attractive girl or guy you really liked, or someone at your work.
If you’re like I used to be, then you probably starting thinking hard about what you could say when you approached them. You thought about funny or interesting ways to start talking to them. You thought about what you could say afterwards to keep the conversation going and avoid an awkward silence.
And guess what always happens? Usually all this thinking just makes you so nervous that you end up never approaching them. Over thinking makes you imagine everything that could go wrong, and you get stuck in paralysis by analysis.
Don’t worry, I used to be the same way.
This is what I do now: When I see someone I want to meet, I give myself 3 seconds to walk over to them. I don’t hesitate and I don’t think for even a second. I keep my mind completely blank and trust that I’m going to have something to say. And you know what? I always do.
Sometimes it’s as simple as: “Hi, I’m Sean” which is good enough. You wouldn’t believe some of the other things I’ve come up with on the spot!
The secret is to not think. Throw yourself into the conversation. You don’t know what you’re going to say, and that’s okay.
So here’s a list of the main points I’ve covered:
- It doesn’t matter what you talk about because people forget most conversations completely a few days after they happen.
- You have to be in the moment, not thinking about what happened 10 seconds ago or what you should say 10 seconds in the future. You have to trust that your mind can come up with the right thing to say automatically, you just have to stop “filtering” or censoring what comes out of your mouth so much.
- Most people have no idea what’s going to come out of their mouth, even as they’re talking. They are spontaneous when they are socializing. That’s the level you want get to.
Next time you’re in a conversation, talk without thinking. Stop putting pressure on yourself to say interesting, unexpected or funny things all the time. Sure, some conversation topics are better than others, but most of the time people talk about nothing significant. Over time this approach will feel natural.
Hi Sean, my name is Agnes and I am a very shy person. I don’t know what to talk about so I read your post and it kinda helped me. But my problem now is when people talk to to me I like to listen and I don’t know what to say or how to react, and it just gets awkward. I am a great listener but I just don’t know if I should laugh, smile say something back. I don’t know. BTW I’m 16 and I wasn’t always like this I started being shy in 6th grade when my parents got divorced.
I felt the same way a year ago but I don’t know, maybe it helps thinking you’re never seeing these people at school after you graduated. That it’s better to embarrass oneself and say something stupid instead of not saying anything at all and regretting the chance you could have taken. If you’re at lunch ask if you can sit next to some girl or boy that also sits alone or next to one of your classmates you like. Open more up when it comes to group work, share your opinions, even if the answer is wrong we all fail sometimes. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34.
We can talk about that issue more if you want my instagram is @idkjeans.
I have read so many articles and even some books on the topic, and NEVER have I come across anything like what you present in this article. This makes so much sense. This is the first article like this I’ve come across with advice I feel I can actually put to use. I’ve always, always obsessed over trying to say something interesting or intelligent. But like you point out, the reality is that most conversation is mundane and inconsequential. I don’t have to say anything interesting. This is gold. Thank you!
Thanks Sean, you’re so amazing and knowledgeable. There are only a few people out there who can explain all this complicated stuff so well. Hell, I’ll have to say you’re the only one who made me understand why I always have nothing to say, even if I have lots of things in common with the person in talking to. Keep up the great work.
I just.. Can’t even think of anything else after ‘How have you been?’
Thanks for the information, now it just for me to find the middle ground, talk nonsense while keeping my rational thinking active, oh I’m going to be an judgemental basterd but I remember they not thinking before they speak
This article looks very helpful ,I cant seem to programme my brain to not care what people think about me when I talk, I read this because of some stressy thoughts about my social life ,including when I am with my girlfriend (its my first girlfriend in 18 years) taking a walk ,I get Awkward silences for like 20 mitres of walking .. do I apply the same theories in relationshipso
I think a major component is missing from this equation, positive emotions. Shyness is a negative feeling that occurs during conversation and puts all of natural reactions on lock down. I believe that if you focus on not only keeping an open mind, or not thinking, you should focus on going into a conversation with and holding a positive, good feeling that will not only keep you relaxed, but also fuel your natural reactions and responses to the conversation. Those people who are natural conversationalists have no secret recipe for great conversation, other then they simply ENJOY it more then most people. They feel good during a conversation a no that opens the door to a positive interaction.
I would like to start with the fact that I felt like I was talking to myself reading ur article. I’m from India and I don’t read English stuff that much. I mean there is enough English for us in our textbooks.. So, i can’t really compare urs with another one I’ve read but I can say that ur article will help all the people, both awkward socially retarded and amiable. I was smiling all through and I felt like my friend was telling me about myself. I was very shy before during my childhood and schooldays. Now, I’m in college and I’m kind of okay in social situations but I’m still a long way from getting that “nice talking to you” vibe from people and I believe this article is going to help me get that vibe. Nandri for this article.. Thank u so much!
People do forget conversations but they don’t forget awkward vibes & that’s what’s hard
Wow,It was like you were in my head and knew exactly what I was thinking.It is a really nice article and your advice seems to work.Whenever I say what I want to say without thinking I have no regrets later.
Thank you so much! This is such a great article! It helped me a lot to better understand some talk dynamics. But I felt a little bit worried about all the pessimism in the article about most of your conversations being about nothing. It just doesn’t make sense to me! How we’ll improve ourselves, how we’ll change our perspective of the world, how we’re gonna build our knowledge and be interesting people without smart, thoughtful, interesting and rich conversations? Idk, I just don’t like the idea of the meaningless talk…
(pls, excuse any mistake because english is not my first language…)
Hello Sean, thank you so much of sharing this article. Believe it or not, I’ve had this problem of “I don’t know what to talk with people” for 35 years. And I just clicked your post. Every single thing you are talking on this post can relate to my situation. I always knew that I was not good at small talks and found myself awkward in group conversation. I often found group talks very boring and uninteresting and for me seriously I had no idea why people spend time to do that. So my entire life, I often avoided going out with group of people and stayed alone or with another person. It was easier for me to be alone than be surrounded by people who talk about nothing and also didn’t want people to find me boring for not talking funny or interesting things.
As a shy and highly sensitive introvert myself, I find myself more comfortable to listen to people than talking. I am extremely awkward when the spotlight is on me and everyone is listening to what I have to say. What you saying is true. Even we are shy people, joining in a conversation is a necessary thing to do socially to make us feel less lonely. It is still a challenge everyday to be a naturally shy person.
So, what you share here was very useful! But your article helped me! Thanks a lot.
Sean, Thanks for your insights and for this site. I have always “seemed” shy, but I’m actually not. Acting shy quite a bit of my life, and frankly, I’m tired of acting shy and find it tedious and too much work. Taking responsibility for how I act, and not blaming others for it, has helped me a lot. My self-talk, and low self-esteem has been the problem. Notice I said “my”… I’m the one thinking and acting like I do. Getting more and more in control of myself and how I want to live and communicate. Gets better everyday.
So the sense of belonging and connectedness comes from talking about nothing?
Hi Sean. My name is James Failing and I’m currently a sophmore in highschool and I struggle from severe social anxiety. Girls say that I’m good looking but I’m extremely akward, shy, and quiet amd frequently never know what to say. I have no idea how to start out a conversation let alone have one. It’s been over four years since I’ve had an actual girlfriend who didn’t even like me and I’m trying to get back in then game. Please help. I don’t know how to talk to anybody at all.
I’ve actually tried that but I still run out of things to say… Is it natural to have silences after a while? I know typically silences are labelled as ‘awkward’ but there are natural ones no?
This works. I’m not even lying. I used to be very anti social and I didn’t know how to talk about nothing. It had plagued me my ENTIRE life. After I read this article, it literally changed my life. I read it just about a month ago. I came back just to leave a comment and let you all know that it worked. You just have to think about nothing and have an entirely blank mind. That’s the whole trick!
Like dude u read my mine honestly the stuff u say not to do I DO THEM thank you
Thanks Sean for your very informative article. I never thought I had anything important to say, alwas though it had to be amazing. One thing that is helpful is to be in the moment, not to keep thinking what to say next or what I just said. I always want to say things just right without offending anyone and that stops me dead in my tracks, along with not sounding stupid and getting laughed at. I’m not a young person and have suffered shyness all my life though I’ve improved greatly over the years. Making conversation has always been a challenge. But your writing will help me greatly. Thanks again!