How to Keep the Conversation Going in the Right Direction
Online dating, real life and text conversations with a potential connection can be an exhilarating experience. You’re getting to know each other, swapping stories and seeing what kinds of things you have in common.
But sometimes when you’re looking at how to get it started, the connection can feel a bit tender as you’re building rapport, trying to figure out how to keep a conversation interesting, finding commonalities and, most importantly, avoiding saying something that gets you ghosted.
So let’s look at some tried and true methods on how to keep the conversations going, building on your interactions and making it an engaging experience.
Why you may be having problems on how to keep the conversation going
The first thing you need to know is to never take someone not responding personally. A study from Science Advances found that there’s only a 17% likelihood of receiving a response on an opening message for men and a 52% chance for women1. The reasons someone may not respond are myriad.
Some important life events may have come up, they could be overwhelmed by work or just the dozens of other distractions that crop up in our daily lives. The reasons for a lack of response are endless, even when you know each other well and are wondering, how do I keep a conversation going with my girlfriend or boyfriend?
However, sometimes, when wondering how to keep the conversation going, it’s often our approach. Things like close-ended responses (like Just answering ‘Yes’) can put up roadblocks. You also need to be mindful when you send things that may make the other person uncomfortable such as making an inappropriate joke.
One of eharmony’s relationship experts Laurel House: “So many people struggle with social anxiety. And that can come into play in the initial stages of dating when trying to create conversation with someone you hardly know. Much of that anxiety comes from the deep feeling of “what can I say to make you like me?” If that’s the real question at hand, you can quickly minimize that anxiety if you reframe your feelings into an attitude of “I’m interested to see if I’m interested.”
So many daters give their power away and place too much weight on the other person liking them. This often happens because the person you are talking to might be attractive, interesting, wealthy, funny, or for some other reason intimidating, and you immediately mentally lower yourself. But while those fears and insecurities might be taking hold of your mind, thoughts, and therefore attitude and confidence, the truth is that you don’t know them well enough to know if they are worthy of it. Because you don’t know enough about them.
But you are interested in knowing more. And that’s where thinking “I’m interested to see if I’m interested” comes in. When you go on a date, think: “I don’t know you or what you stand for, so I’m not going to give my power away to you or put you on a pedestal by assuming that you’re really great just because of the little that I do know about you. So I’m not going to assume that you’re good, nice, smart, kind, or worthy, until I know. I am going into this with a clear mind, because I’m interested to see if I’m interested.”
How to keep a convo going online and IRL
While there’s no exact science on how to keep the conversation going and it can vary from person to person, here are some level-headed tips for making your interactions more engaging and people more likely to respond:
- Ask open-ended questions – Yes or no questions tend to halt the progress of a conversation. So rather go with questions that can lead to bigger conversations like asking about their plans for the future, their favorite things or travel stories.
- Listen actively and interact meaningfully with their responses – Remember that the other person is also trying to gauge you. So make sure you don’t derail the conversation by veering the subject when they bring up something you can feel is important to them. Try and build on what they said and enquire more deeply.
- Use context clues – When people’s responses are curt and unexpressive or if you can see them display negative non-verbal cues like closing off their stance or crossing their arms, it probably means either the topic or how your responding is making them uncomfortable or bored.
- Make sure you sound and look interested – Positivity can mean a lot in a growing connection and is a key factor in how to keep the conversation going. Particularly when it comes to attraction, people want to see that you see beyond their surface self to their inner life. So make sure your body language and responses reflect that deeper interest.
- Don’t do too much talking or too little – Conversations are like tennis in that it’s not fun playing on your own. So keep a healthy balance in the conversation. Ask them questions if they’re being a bit diffident but also make sure you reveal deeper aspects of yourself too.
Questions to ask of eharmony’s relationship experts Laurel House
We also asked our Dating Coach and Relationship Expert Laurel House what strategies she recommend to keep a conversation going: “Be prepared with pocketed conversations, as well as answers to the same questions that you plan to ask. That way you have reminded yourself how to be interested, and armed yourself with your own answers so that you can be interesting. Because interested and interesting are two turn-ons on a date. A few questions to ask?
- What would you do for a living if money were no object?
- When it comes to having fun and letting go, what does that mean to you?
- Would you say that you are an introvert or an extrovert? Or a mix? How so?
- Are there life goals that you MUST explore and accomplish?
- In case of an emergency, who is your emergency contact? And why?
- Do you believe in intuition?
- Do you believe that you are intuitive? Do you trust your intuition?
- What makes you feel most seen?
- When in your past (yes, even in past relationships) have you felt AND not felt that way?”
But what about when you have a specific relationship with the person you’re talking to?
How to keep the conversation going in certain social contexts
Sometimes your relationship with the people you’re talking to can have an impact when maintaining conversational flow.
- How do I keep a conversation going with my my partner – For new relationships, it’s important not to put too much pressure on this situation. You have plenty of time to get to know each other in time so learn to also enjoy the comfortable silences you two share.
- How to keep a conversation going in a group environment – Sometimes you’ll socialize with potential partners in a friendship circle or group meetup. Try to stay part of the general conversation but also take time to isolate the person you like and initiate small interactions that may grow into a one-on-one conversation later on.
- How to keep a conversation going with your crush – This can be particularly nerve-racking especially when you’re worried about saying the wrong thing and scaring them off. The important thing is to try to stay natural and not rush the pace of your conversation out of excitement or nerves.
- How to keep a conversation going with a new person in your life – When we’re getting to know people in the initial stages, finding common ground is the most important thing. Avoid the old, “So what do you do for work?” and delve deeper. Ask them about things that stoke their passions.
Let’s look at some specific questions you can ask that can help the conversation flow more freely.
Questions to keep a conversation going
Asking people questions is probably one of the easiest ways when wondering how to keep a conversation going and produce new possible conversational branches to explore.
A Harvard study found that not only do people talk about themselves 40% of a conversation but that we actually find the experience neurologically rewarding2.
The popular FORD Method (an acronym for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams) posits that there are key topics that particularly stimulate people during a conversation. So here are some topical question examples you can explore to get your date’s brain buzzing with those ‘feel-good’ chemicals3.
Depending on who you’re talking to, they may have an intense passion or interest in their specific profession. Plus, as it occupies at least 8 hours of their day, they probably have a lot to say on the topic.
- What’s your favorite part of your job?
- Was there ever a project that was a huge challenge for you?
- Do you enjoy what you do or is it just a steppingstone?
- Where are you hoping your career will take you?
Hobbies and interests
While work can be interesting, people love to expound on free-time activities and passions. So if you’re looking at how to continue a conversation, try asking them about the things they love doing when they’re not bogged down by life stuff.
- What first got you into your hobby?
- What’s your ideal weekend?
- Do you have any unusual hobbies or interests?
- Why do you think you love doing _____ so much?
Dreams and ambitions
The present can be a great source of conversation but sometimes exploring the other person’s dreams and hope for their future can really get them excited and engaged in the conversation in a unique way.
- You have 6 months off and no budget, what are your top travel destinations?
- What’s one of the biggest things you want to achieve?
- What would your dream job be?
- If you could create your dream house from scratch, what would it look like?
Family and Personal history
The past is something that keeps us tethered to our sense of self and the events that have shaped who we are. Asking questions about this interacts with that and their nostalgia. It’s always a solid conversational avenue if you’re looking at how to keep a conversation going.
- What’s your fondest childhood memory?
- How many siblings do you have? How do you get along?
- How did you and your best friend meet?
- Are you a morning person or a bit of a night owl?
Pop culture and entertainment
While not part of the FORD method, pop culture is a nice easy way to get the conversational ball rolling and also see if you two have similar sentiments when it comes to movies, music, art and other topics.
- What’s your favorite movie?
- What’s the latest series you binged on?
- Are there any bands or musicians you haven’t seen live yet but really want to?
- Have you ever been to an art exhibit that changed your perspective on life?
Let your conversations build naturally
As you can see, the topics and avenues to explore when looking at how to keep a conversation going are virtually endless. It’s all about keeping the conversation balanced between you and the other person. Explore their lives, how they fill their days, the passions that drive them and what they see for themselves in the future. As long as you’re actively listening and also responding to their conversational cues, there’s no reason you can’t build on your interactions and possibly take it further.
At eharmony, we specifically focus on creating deep and authentic connections between relationship-seeking singles with compatible personalities and interests, leading to much higher response rates and conversations that flow more easily and naturally, based on mutual compatibility. So come check out eharmony today and see where new conversations can take you.