Make a Start… on Conversation.
Beginnings can be exciting and fun. They can also be scary and overwhelming. Lots of social learners I work with tell me they don’t know how to “start” social interactions so they just don’t try at all. Here are a few ideas to help you start a conversation:
Focus Outside Yourself:
When I was an improviser at The Second City, I always felt scared before jumping in to a Freeze game or entering a scene. And then I learned to move the focus from worrying about my performance and onto what was happening in the scene and how to add to that. As I learned about “Yes And”, and how to Listen, I could finally contribute to the scene (AKA Moving Conversation) and stop worrying about mistakes I might make. (More on The Magic of Mistakes next blog!)
Know your Jam!
Like other improvisers, I developed a library of favourite characters, running scenarios and topics of interest that I continued to mine from show to show. I loved lyrics and wrote songs that reflected my experience and life. These were my special areas- my “jam”. What are yours? Bring those to your conversations.
Check your Audience:
Who in the room looks open to chatting? Look for someone who has a relaxed, open stance and a friendly expression whose personal style might be similar to or complement yours. If there is no one like that, then pick the person who isn’t talking with anyone and say hello. And remember, conversations don’t have to be overly long! Some of the best scenes are short and sweet.
Don’t expect yourself to be perfect at socializing if it is not your usual thing. Try out low stakes conversations with family members. Ask them to roleplay with you if you are preparing to go to an event with people (Events usually have those). Get your special interest on! Remember a few topics that are socially useful (weather, job, hobby) to start that low-stakes conversation.
When you really listen to other people, you get information that you can ask questions about or add statements and comments to. Listening with your whole body also helps your conversation partner feel at ease and want to chat with you more. Imagine being able to help someone else relax!
Special thanks to Guest Blogger, Alana Shields Barker from ImprovAbility
Alana is the Executive Director of ImprovAbility! as well as being a drama teacher, writer, role-play coach and workshop creator/facilitator. Most importantly, she is the parent of a young adult with Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism.
Inspired to further apply the skills she gained as an award winning professional actor and member of The Second City Toronto, she created Social Improv ™.
This highly successful program uses drama and improvisation to teach social understanding to teens and adults with ASD and other social learning exceptionalities.
Alana Shields Barker