As you probably know, group conversations are a big part of socializing. Let’s learn how to contribute in group conversations, avoiding being quiet in them, and how to get better at them.
As you’re building your social life, you’ll quickly realize that you meet the most relevant and interesting friends in the context of a group. Highly successful and social people hang out in groups for the majority of their social activities.
This is why it’s so important for you to learn and master group conversations. In this article, you’ll learn some great techniques to improve how you participate when talking to a group.
What I Love About Group Conversations
When I just got started working on my social skills, I used to hate group conversations. I thought they were too messy and didn’t allow me to express myself. Once I learned and mastered them, I started to love group convos, here is why…
They Can Be A Lot Of Fun
Conversations with good friends in a group can feel like when you were a kid, having that carefree fun. From sharing stories to anecdotes, private jokes, teasing, as well as interesting and intellectual talk, group convos can be the highlight of your interaction with friends.
Even Introverts Can Master Group Conversations
Introverts like to spend time alone or in quiet. This doesn’t mean that they have to be quiet even when in the company of great friends. In group conversations, an introvert can really shine with witty humor, unique points of view, and well-thought-out ideas.
They Reveal Interesting Things About Your Friends
During group conversations, you can notice new things about your friends. You notice how each one relate to the other, what kind of energy they bring out of one another, who admires whom and in which aspect, and how they perceive each other.
There are many things you’ll learn about friends during a group convo that you wouldn’t see in a one-on-one setting.
The Pressure to Talk is Lower
In a group conversation, you don’t have to talk as much as you would in a two-person conversation. The attention is divided between everyone in the group, depending on who’s talking at each point. The focus is diffused, which lowers the pressure on the experience, and makes you do less “work” in socializing.
They Make You Feel Like You’re Part of Something Bigger Than Yourself
When you’re talking to good friends, and everything’s going well, you feel socially connected. It’s the feeling that’s exactly the opposite of loneliness.
You no longer feel disconnected from others, judged, or perceived as a stranger. After spending some quality time with friends, you get a very positive energy to take on other goals and challenges of life.
Contribute, Avoid being Quiet, and Be Heard in Group Conversations
If you find yourself being quiet during group conversations then you probably despise that feeling of being left out. This is entirely normal. You can see that others enjoy the back and forth so much that you’d like to participate in it as well.
This why I’d like to share with you my best techniques on how to contribute to group convos.
Here is what you need to understand right away. You can go from minimum contribution all the way to maximum contribution. The minimum contribution to a group convo is smiling, nodding, and saying nothing. The maximum is when you’re the only one speaking, and everybody is listening to you.
Let’s go over how to contribute, from the minimum level to the maximum…
1. Look at who’s talking, smile, and nod
If you’re not used to participating in group conversations, then just know that the minimum you have to do is very easy to pull off.
All you have to do is look at who’s talking, smile, and nod. You don’t have to say anything at first. Just by looking at the person speaking, smiling, and nodding, you’re signaling that you’re at least following the interaction.
2. Do Some Back Channelling
After a little while, you can be a little more active. The next level is to do “conversational backchanneling”. It’s a fancy word for saying “uh-huh,” “hmm…,” “right!”, “really?!”, “No way!” etc.
These small utterances are more involved than just nodding and they signal that you’re involved and interested in the conversation.
3. Contribute to The Group Conversation in Small Bursts
This is the next level up. What you do is ask quick questions, give quick comments, or express your opinion very quickly. This doesn’t put too much attention on you, because you speak briefly and put back the attention on others.
It’s ideal if you’re just starting out and still feel nervous in group conversations.
This can also help if you’re dealing with people who are older, more experienced, more successful or more intimidating than who you’re used to.
To contribute to the group conversation in short bursts, you can say things like: “Oh! You mean […] ?”, “Uh-huh… then what?”, “Oh, yeah! I heard the same thing.”, “Yeah, that’s a pretty good place!”
You can even disagree (keep your smile though), and contribute with short comments. Examples would be “What?! That’s crazy!…” or “I don’t know, that’s not something I would do.”
4. Participate Fully in Group Conversations
This is a really good level to get to. It’s about contributing fully to the group interaction. Very often, you’ll see that whatever is being discussed, the people in the group give their two cents on it, one by one. They don’t follow an order or anything, but it’s a consistent game of turn taking.
It’s like passing the ball around. Whenever a person “has the ball”, they comment, share their opinion, make a joke, or share a story.
What you do here is go beyond just short bursts. You take the time to give your perspective of what’s being discussed. You take as much time as others take to express themselves.
If you do this, you would be fully part of the conversation. You are engaged, you follow the interaction, you’re interested, and you contribute to it. You’re adding value to the interaction, and people will appreciate it.
5. Hold the Attention, Jointly With Another Person in the Group
This is one more level up, and it’s about holding the attention of the group, jointly with another person.
It can be a back and forth, or a friendly debate. It happens often when two in the group are the most interested, most engaged, or most knowledgeable about the topic being discussed.
You can be one of those two. You and the other friend are holding the attention in the conversation, doing all the talking. Meanwhile, everybody else is just looking at both of you, and maybe smiling because they can feel the excitement and enthusiasm.
If you can hold that back and forth with another person, within the group, then you’re doing very well. You’re able to hold 50% of the attention, and doing half the talking.
Example: Both you and one other person in the group are big fans of a tv show, you’re very excited as you talk about it, and everybody else just listens.
Another example: You and a friend, are debating which is the best place to invest your savings; real estate or the stock market. Maybe both of you are the most interested and knowledgeable about this, so everybody else is just listening to you guys.
This is not a dynamic that should go on for too long, as at some point it can be boring and annoying for others. But during the time it’s going on, it can be very enjoyable to get your points across, during a back and forth.
6. Hold All The Attention By Yourself
This is the final level, and the most difficult one to pull off. At this point, you’ve been working on your group conversation skill in groups for a while. Long enough that you’re able to hold all the attention.
As everyone else just look at you and listen, you’re telling a story, sharing some information you know well, or expressing some of your elaborate opinions.
This can sound like something only extroverts would do. But it’s not. In real life, introverts also hold the attention in group conversations, too.
If you’re at this level, then you can only get better at telling stories, and get your points across more precisely and by using fewer words. You can only get better as a conversationalist and communicator.
Just make sure you don’t hold the conversation floor for too long. Others need a chance to talk as well.
How To Get Better At Group Conversations
Mastering group conversations is very important. It’s a skill that is worth putting the time to learn and practice. Don’t expect to be the best at it just because you try it from time to time. Instead, consider it a long term process where every group conversation you have makes your skill better.
To get you started, here are a few tips to improve your group conversation skill.
1. Practice Different Levels of Contribution to the Conversation
The levels at which you can contribute to a group conversation go from minimum to maximum. As I explained in the previous section, they go from easiest to hardest.
The 6 levels can be a great structure of how you improve skill. You can start with the easy, short contributions, and work your way up from there. As you get more and more comfortable and confident talking to a group, you can try holding more and more of the attention.
Once you can do all the levels, you then have a choice. You have the choice to do as much or as little talking, depending on the situation and your conversation goals. You have the choice.
2. Improve Your Timing in Group Conversations
One of the important aspects to pay attention to is timing. It can seem hard to find the right time to cut in and participate when you’re talking in a group.
If you’re an introvert, then this can be challenging. You usually like to stop and think a little bit before giving your two cents, and that can slow you down. This means that whenever you want to contribute, you feel like you’re a little bit too late, or that your timing is off.
What really makes you great at picking the right time to contribute is to make sure you’re looking at those who are most involved in the conversation. That way, you can easily pick the time your comment or question will be most clearly heard.
3. Take Some Risks
If your skill in group conversations is far from where you want it to be, then you’ve probably been playing things too safe, for too long.
You may never want to try and make a joke. You’re afraid of embarrassment. You hesitate to share your opinions, you fear you’ll be judged. And you never tease anybody because you fear that it would offend them beyond repair.
The reality is that you’re probably putting too much scrutiny on yourself, and maybe filtering yourself too much. You need to get out of your comfort zone. Little by little, try new things.
You don’t have to go crazy and start behaving in a radically new way all of a sudden. But you can try talking a little bit more. Maybe talk 5 or 10% more than you usually do in group conversations. You have to take some risks, even small ones. Do your best to make conversations no matter what.
It’s important that you give yourself some slack as you improve your skill of group convos. You really don’t want to beat yourself over every mistake you make.
Most of those mistakes won’t even be noticed by the people you’re talking to. So, try and have some fun while you get better at group conversations!