There is no one-rule-fits-all when starting conversations with people. There are different types of conversationalists, each with their pros & cons.
The first talker type is “Still Waters”.
Still Waters isn’t the easiest person to talk to at first, they are often quiet & reserved. But with some persistence they can become a very valuable voice.
There is a phrase “Still waters run deep”, and what it means is that someone who appears quiet and uninteresting on the surface can be a very deep thinker.
When they eventually shake off their shyness, they hit you with nuggets of gold.
The classic example is Silent Bob in the movie Clerks. He doesn’t say anything for the whole movie except for one line towards the end, and it’s such a profound observation that the person he says it to stops in his tracks. The legend of Silent Bob was born.
Still Waters can be frustrating at first. It can take lots of effort to coax them out of their shells, and you can feel awkward. You throw every question you can at them and get tiny responses. They can even appear rude. You feel like you are having a one-way conversation.
Now I wouldn’t blame you for giving up on Still Waters at this point. But hang in there.
Still Waters can take some time to warm-up and feel comfortable. They are generally introverts. Once an introvert is warmed up and comfortable talking to you, they will really value your friendship. If they have a hard time talking to new people, they will gravitate to those they feel comfortable with, namely you.
Even though that first conversation may feel stilted, look at it as an investment for more rewarding conversations in the future.
Sometimes you have to let the awkward silence run a little so that Still Waters can push themselves to talk. They may not have the confidence to give a quick response, or they may need a chance to think about what you have asked. They may be reassuring themselves that it’s OK to open up to you.
Or the silence may even indicate to them that they are responsible for upholding the conversation too.
Don’t pressure yourself too much to take charge of the conversation with them. Give them a chance to move the conversation along.
Because Still Waters can be deep thinkers, sometimes a heavier question will get them going. Small talk often won’t work. They would much rather discuss something that they feel they can contribute something of value to.
And the rule that applies to most people applies to them too – find out what they are passionate about. They are very likely to talk with confidence about something that they have thought a lot about and that fires them up.
Still Waters are quiet at first, but give them time and they can be rewarding people to talk to.
You yourself may be Still Waters if:
- You get really anxious about initiating conversation.
- You find it difficult to express yourself when responding to questions.
- You ponder conversations by yourself when they are over, and want to go back to continue the conversation after you have had more of a think about what was asked or said.