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10 Simple Ways To Make Conversation Easier When You Struggle To Connect

Photo: fizkes / Shutterstock
Young African-American woman smiles during conversation.

Juggling the many aspects of a reciprocal conversation can be hard for people with ADHD.

Sometimes, we talk and talk without really engaging with the other person.

We talk at them rather than with them, and then we experience, shame, embarrassment, and rumination — replaying the interaction for days.

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What is a reciprocal conversation?

When two or more parties engage in back-and-forth communication that develops into increasingly extended conversations, it's called a reciprocal conversation and it tends to benefit both parties.

This give-and-take manner, back and forth engagement enables an exchange in order to gain a mutual benefit.

8 Parts of a Reciprocal Conversation

1. Walk up to the person.

Face them and stand about an arm’s length away.

2. Look for the signs that tell you it’s OK to start a conversation.

If they're talking to someone else, it’s good to wait until they’re finished. A sign that they are ready can include looking at you.

You can also initiate by asking a question, such as, "How have you been?" Everyone loves to share their story.

3. Start the conversation. 

First, say, "Hello" and say their first name, if you know it.

For example, "Hi Mike." Follow this with something general, such as "How are you?" or "It’s nice to see you." If you're speaking to an adult or elder person, consider saying "Hello" instead.

4. Take turns. 

Listen for their contribution, answer their questions, and allow them to answer yours.

5. Check if they're interested.

Ask questions to help engage the other person.  

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6. Talk about mutual interests.

Try talking about things that you know the other person likes as well as things that you like. For example, video games, tv series, sports, etc are easy to talk about.  

Steer clear of saying things that can make the other person uncomfortable or hurt their feelings.

7. Tell a tight story so people can tell what you're trying to convey to them.

Use some notable phrases that can help you focus, get to the point, and keep others’ interest.

8. End the conversation.

To wind things down, you can say something like, "It has been nice talking to you, but I need to run." Saying this before walking away allows you to wrap up.

How to Manage the Elements of a Reciprocal Conversation

It can sometimes feel daunting to manage all the aspects of a reciprocal conversation.

Here's a big tip: Work on one piece at a time. Don’t expect all pieces to be as you would like them, at least not initially.

Evaluate where are you, what is in the middle and where do you want to go?

Tell a tighter story.

A critical element to telling a tighter story is to avoid monologuing. As you are trying to make a story tighter, it’s important to focus on the key details people need to know.

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Ask yourself, "What does John need to know about this story?"

To help you focus and stay on track, there are some short phrases that are intended to sum up your message and speed things along.

These comments help you skip unnecessary details and help you tell the person what you want them to know about your story. 

For example, if I'm describing how I became a coach or why our vacation was stressful, I adapt my message depending on the audience.

Then I might use one (or more) of these phrases to sum up and keep the story on track.

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Here are 10 phrases you can use to move the conversation along.

1. "Taken all together..." 

2. "Summing up..."

3. "To fast forward..."

4. "Long story short..."

5. "Skipping to the end..."

6. "In a nutshell..."

7. "To be brief..."

8. "When all is said and done..."

9. "At the end of the day..."

10. "Let me cut to the chase..."

Why bother having conversations?

The ability to connect and inspire is an essential human need. In demonstrating respect for our audience, it's essential to learn the critical life skill of being a good storyteller. Equally important is the ability to listen and empathize.

Good and open communication is the key to all healthy relationships. You can also initiate by asking a question, such as, "How have you been?" Everyone loves to share their story.

RELATED: 3 Powerful Psychological Tricks To Make Someone Trust And Respect You

Caroline Maguire, M.Ed., ACCG, PCC founded and facilitates a comprehensive SEL training methodology (#ConnectionMatters) for adults, parents, clinicians and academic professionals on how to develop critical social, emotional and behavioral skills, in themselves and in others. For more information, visit her website

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This article was originally published at carolinemaguireauthor.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.