How Introverts Keep A Conversation Going: The Hand-Off

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This is a highly requested topic to discuss, especially by introverts.

No surprise.

To keep a conversation going is hard.

We meet people from all walks of life, each with their own personalities and ideas.

This variability requires a holistic approach.

Interaction with a co-worker is not the same as with a friend. You speak the same language, but differ in context, mannerisms, and ideas.

Talking to two people is easy to manage; 30 people in a day requires a method. 

One that is basic to understand yet accommodates for variety.

Why Introverts Struggle In Conversation 

To understand the Hand-off technique, we must understand the difficulty of conversation. Over years, I found 4 major reasons that trouble introverts.

Overlistening

Hanging onto the speaker’s every word turns you narrow-minded. Listen to people speak. 90% filler and 10% information(make no mistake, filler is important). You must navigate the conversation maze to decipher the underlying message.

Overthinking

A big detriment to one’s conversational ability. You listen to understand, form a reply, and maintain an open ear to new information. It is a juggling act and people are terrible multi-taskers.

Fear Of Silence

People would rather ramble than remain silent. This stems from fear of appearing uninteresting. Fear motivates one to blurt nonsense for the sake of continuing conversation.

Anxiety

A common trait residing in fear of embarrassment. Anxiety impedes your ability to experiment and create a conversational palette.

In this case, anxiety grows when the conversation starts to sputter. You don’t want to bore the person, so your mind struggles. You are unsure what to say.

Should you continue with the same topic?

Jump to a different one?

Would it look weird if the conversation took a 180?

The possibilities are infinite but require a leap into the unknown.

The reason why so few people are agreeable in conversation is that each is thinking more about what he intends to say than others are saying

-Francois de La Rochefoucauld

What Is The Hand-Off?

The Hand-Off works by taking an idea, running with it, and handing it off to the other speaker.

Similar to a relay race, conversation is a series of consecutive hand-offs.

Earlier, we stated 90% of conversation was filler; consider the 10% as the baton. 

Engaging in the relay flatters the speaker because it demonstrates acute listening skills and interest.

“Surely, what I have to say must be interesting if he keeps talking about it”, he/she thinks.

The beauty of this technique: it can extend conversations indefinitely(within reason). 

To extend or end(tactfully) relies on your contribution. Think of your response as fuel for the lengthy drive(conversation). Take charge.

Why Is The Hand-Off Important For Introverts?

The Hand-Off builds rapport and trust.

The longer a conversation continues, the more information exchanges hands. Over time, the stranger grows from acquaintance, to friend, to long-lost partner.

This is important if introverts wish to keep the conversation going.

It is imperative to own the ability to communicate and form bonds. Communication is one pillar upholding the foundation of success and your path in life will depend on connections you build.

With the Hand-Off, you determine the length of conversation, how meaningful it is and which subjects to talk about. You influence conversation.

It Solves The 4 problems

The Hand-off obliterates the 4 problems mentioned earlier. Simple to understand and easier in its practicality, introverts will learn quick. The only requirement is practice.

The Hand-Off Only Needs Regular Listening Skills

No need to hang onto every word. The hand-off works if you listen and identify key ideas within the conversation. Ideas keep conversations going, not prepositions (for, in, off) or articles(the, a).

The Hand-Off Won’t Fry Your Brain From Overthinking

It requires minimal processing power. Build off the ideas of the other person. Add your own thoughts, ideas or experience about the topic and turn it back on them.

Unintentional Silence Be-Gone!

By solving problems 1 and 2, you have solved problem 3. Silence is an afterthought. The path in conversation is now defined.

i. You -> B-> You -> B -> repeat

ii. Let ‘->’ = idea transfer + assimilation + response

Anxiety Disappears

You will not have to wander aimlessly in thought for a topic. Use the one given at hand.

How The Hand-Off Keeps Conversation Going

Someone initiates dialogue and introduces a soft-ball topic. For example,

Mildly-intoxicated person: “Cool party!”

A stunning revelation.

Little information exchanges in the first few replies. Conversation is a car that needs time to warm. Fortunately, the Hand-Off works smoothly, even in barren deserts of dialogue.

Bob: “This is a cool party.”

You: “Yup. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is fantastic. What do you like about it so far?”

See? 

Add your thoughts and turn the subject around onto the host speaker.

The process goes like this.

  1. Receive the baton (question or statement)
  2. Run and send (your opinion + hand-off)

Let’s return to Bob. You nudged him into revealing his distinct preferences.

Bob: “The music is cheerful and the women are beautiful.”

To Bob, these two attributes may determine the night’s pleasure. To us, it is a means to knowledge and continue the conversation. 

Bob could say a million things here and the Hand-Off continues to reflect upon him. Choose one idea and keep the conversation going.

Traversing The Unknown

One of the beauties of the Hand-Off: it works even if you know nothing about the topic. 

Why? 

Because, the Hand-Off is about the other person. It uses humanity’s desire to feel important and reassure their self-worth. People want to talk about themselves or brag. Introverts can feed them the attention they crave. 

For example,

Bob: “What do you make of this painting by Van Gogh?”

You: “His use of color speaks to me in ways I cannot express with mere words. What do you make of it?”

Insert generic observations and hand-off the baton back. Let them run with it. Let them reveal their penchant for fine art and culture.

What if you can’t improvise? Simple. Tell the truth.

Bob: “What do you make of this painting by Van Gogh?”

You (the truthful): “My last exposure to art was finger-painting in grade four. His technique is indescribable to me. What are your thoughts of the painting?”

If you cannot maneuver around a topic, give them the baton. Run your part in the dialogue. Express your opinion. They should understand you are capable of thought, that they are speaking to a human being and not a brick wall.

Match Tempo

This is an advanced version of the Hand-Off technique. Match their running speed. Are they mellow and low-key? Use mellow language and low-key body language.

Cheery and energetic? Match. Use positive language and energetic gestures.

The advanced version is difficult because it requires give-and-take. I am not asking you to run at a pace you are uncomfortable with. I am saying this may require compromise. The choice is up to you.

You want to match their wavelength to avoid personalities clashing.

Clashing personalities produce tension. Tension begets uneasiness. Uneasiness creates cautiousness.

Cautiousness stunts conversation because it restricts information flow.

Refer to our conversation with Bob. We agreed the party was fun. Our emotions matched. What if we disagreed with Bob?

Bob: “This is a fun party.”

You: “What? The food is terrible and the atmosphere is dead. What do you like about it so far?”

I changed 4 words.

In doing so, I create a negative vibe. This forces Bob to defend his position; he thinks the party is fun. Already, the two of you are on shaky grounds. A conflict of ideas – at a party, is usually not conducive to a friendly relationship. Most people don’t expect antagonism at a social gathering. Just a relaxing time.

You can disagree when using the Hand-Off. 

For example,

You: “The food is alright and the entertainment could be better, but still fun. What do you like about the party so far?”

I’m sure the astute readers realize that almost any slight disagreement will create a chasm between the two speakers. It is better to find common ground than to create shaky ones, especially between two strangers.

You may find it easier to speak to people with similar personalities. Keep in mind, they are the focus, not you. You facilitate the chat.

Tips

Read Beyond The Lines

Conversation is infinite and variable in nature. You may realize I haven’t given you lines to memorize. You may realize memorizing lines is futile because discussion is random and chaotic.

Good.

Memorizing lines is the same as memorizing 2+2=4.

Do not pigeonhole yourself into a narrow understanding of the concepts at hand. Memorizing 2+2=4 means perpetuating limited understanding of addition. How will you ascend and scale the heights of algebra and calculus?

Seek to understand and you will appreciate humanity. The humanity that kindles bonds and stokes the wild fire of relationships.

You will succeed and fail at forming friendships, relationships, and companionship. That is life creating opportunities and challenges for you to overcome. Focus on the concepts and process instead of results. Don’t get lost within lines of dialogue. Look at the big picture.

Conclusion

The best way to keep a conversation going is to Hand-Off ideas to the opposite speaker. It creates a partner dynamic which allows them to present and expand their ideas. Use it anywhere, any time, for any topic, with any knowledge on the subject. Articulate your thoughts and transition  to the other person. The back-and-forth initiates an exchange of ideas. Hopefully, it leads to further interaction.

There will be more articles in the future. However, I’d like to know:

Do you have any techniques to keep a conversation going?

Let us know in the comments below.

“The only reason why we ask other people how their weekend was is so we can tell them about our own weekend.”
― Chuck Palahniuk

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