Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles (upbeat music) - Hello, everyone, and welcome back to "English with Lucy." Today, I have a video for you on conversation and how to be an amazing conversation partner. All of this is what amazing speakers do, what amazing conversationalists do. I think we should get straight into it. The first tip I have for you is ask hypothetical questions. You might notice a trend here. We are going to be trying to avoid yes/no questions. They are the devil when it comes to starting conversations and maintaining good conversations. Asking hypothetical questions and talking about imaginary scenarios and situations is a really good way of getting to know someone better and getting them to open up as well, and it's not too difficult to do, even if you aren't very advanced at English. All you have to learn is the conditional tenses. Maybe I should make a video on the conditionals. Let me know if you'd like one. But really good questions are questions like, if you could have any job in the world, what would it be? That's a really good one, 'cause you get to know someone's biggest desires, and they get to really open up to you. So, for example, if you were to ask me that question, if I could have any job in the world, what it would be, I would say, "I would love to be a reconstructive plastic surgeon." That is what I've always wanted to do. Unfortunately, you have to go through the whole medicine route, which wasn't quite for me. But I wanted to help people rebuild their faces after accidents and trauma. Fun fact about me. Or another question: if you won the lottery, what would you do? What would you buy first? That's a good one. So if you asked me that, what would I do if I won the lottery, the first thing would be to pay off my parents' mortgage, and then I would go about doing secret deeds. I wouldn't tell anyone that I'd won the lottery, but I'd make sure that the money goes to good places. This brings us on to our next point, our next tip, which is to emphasise similarity. So you could respond to some of the things I've said and emphasise how similar we are because we like people who are like us. Emphasising similarity improves social relations. And in fact, salespeople use this a lot, and they do it in physical ways as well. It's a known technique that salespeople will mimic hand gestures and body language, and that can actually improve sales without the buyer even realising it. Now, we don't want to do that. We're not necessarily salespeople. Well, you might be, so you can use that. But when we are having a conversation, we want to find points of connection and points of mutual interest. If you hear your conversation partner say something that you really relate with or that you can add to, you need to let them know. So, for example, with that first hypothetical question about, if I could have any job what would I do, if that related to you at all, you could say phrases like, "Yes, I totally agree with you," or "We're really similar on that," or "We think similarly on that," or "I'm on the same page as you." Those are really good phrases you can use to show connection and the fact that you are similar to someone. Now, the next tip, tip number three, is slightly strange, but it's really important. It is to be aware of the sounds that you make whilst you are thinking. Now, you might not be totally aware of the sounds you make whilst you're thinking, and more importantly, how different they are in different cultures. In some cultures and in some languages, it's totally and utterly normal to make really loud open-mouthed sounds when you're thinking of something. And I noticed this in Spain. I lived and taught in Spain for quite a while. I had a Spanish partner. I lived with his Spanish family. I really did integrate into Spanish society. And one thing that surprised me at the beginning was the sounds they make when they think. And it was something like this. Eh, eh. (laughs) And it's just so different to what we do. I think in British culture, it's considered rude to have your mouth open in front of someone. It's not like a written rule, but in general, we're very, very conscious of eating with our mouths closed, of not talking with food in our mouths, and just not going "ah" in everyone's face. So when we are thinking, we are more likely to say "um," "mm," with our mouth closed. So we still make that sound. We still take that thinking time. Let me know in the comments below what sort of sound and mouth shape you use in your language and culture when you are taking a break in a conversation and thinking, and then maybe think about tweaking that if you're going to be speaking to native British people, or Americans as well, just English speakers in general, because it's different to us. We would be maybe slightly surprised if someone went "eh" (laughs) in our face. Now, tip number four, this is another one about filling in gaps, but it's a more general one. It is improve fluency to avoid having gaps. It can be really embarrassing and frustrating when you keep getting stuck mid-conversation. It's something that all language learners are scared of. A great way of improving your English conversation skills is to aim for fluency. You can learn to speak fluently at your own pace from the comfort of your own home 24/7, thanks to Lingoda, the sponsor of this lesson segment, and their new, more flexible offer. 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The link is in the description box. Best of luck, and let me know how it goes. Right, number five. This is a tip that I wish I had learnt a long, long time ago. It's useful for you as learners of English, and it's also useful for native speakers of English. It is be sensible with how you word potentially sensitive questions. So imagine I asked someone, "How is your job at Google going?" and they respond with, "I was fired. "Thanks for asking," or, "What do you do for work?" and they respond with, "I'm employed and desperately searching." Oh. It's such an awkward situation when you ask someone a question, trying to make positive conversation, and they just knock you down, and it puts a downer on the whole conversation, and it makes you feel bad, and it makes them feel negatively towards you. Now, there are good ways of rewording these questions so that it gives people some escape route, ways to avoid difficult topics. So instead of asking someone, "How's your job going?" you could say something like, "Fill me in on your life since I last saw you," or "Catch me up on what's happened "since I've last seen you." If you ask to be filled in or you ask to be caught up, that's a good way of asking someone to update you on everything that's going on. Or instead of asking something like, "What do you do for work?", "What is your job?", "What do you do for a living?", you could ask a more general question like, "So, what keeps you busy?" It's a little nicer than, "What do you do?" It's funny because in British English, "What do you do?" is quite a common question. It means what do you do for a living, what do you do for work? But when I went over to America and I asked people, "What do you do?", they were a bit confused. Maybe they were just being difficult. I'm sure they understood me. But had I asked a question like, "What keeps you busy?", maybe they would have been more chatty with me. Now, number six is a great one if you have a lower level of English but you want to keep conversation going. It is ask open-ended questions. And again, this is part of avoiding yes/no questions. So if I ask someone, "Do you like London?" they could say "yes" or "no," and then that might be it. And then I'm stuck searching for something else to say. However, if I ask a question like, "So what do you like most about London?" or "What do you like least about London?", that gets the person talking. They've got no way out. They have to say something a bit broader, and then you can expand on that. So questions using "what" and "how" are really good for keeping conversation going, and then you can use all the other tricks, like emphasising similarity. If someone dislikes the same thing as you, "I'm with you on that one. "I can't stand queuing." Queuing came to my mind because we're in lockdown at the moment because of the coronavirus, and I don't like the queues outside of the supermarkets. Now, number seven is ask for advice. And I'm not sure if I have a video on asking for advice, and if I don't, I should definitely make one, 'cause it's a big topic, and it's a great tool in conversation. So when you ask someone for their advice or for their opinion, but more advice, it's showing that you trust them, that you respect them, it makes them feel knowledgeable, and it just improves the connection between the two of you. If you shared a problem, and you feel like you've spent quite a long time talking about it, and you want to pass the baton to send it over to the other person for their response, you could say something like, "So what would you do in my situation? "What would you do if you were me?" And that's a really nice way of asking for advice and asking for opinion without saying, "What is your advice?", "What is your opinion?"