There’s a science behind having a good conversation, and according to Vanessa Van Edwards, a behavioral investigator and bestselling author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People, the science of conversations can be used in any situation.

It can be applied in work settings like professional networking events, business meetings, or social events like parties, birthdays, or meeting in-laws for the first time. is the same, It works well whether you love conversations or not. That said, here are four ways to have a good conversation with anyone from Vanessa’s experience as a behavioral investigator.


This is one rule we often forget. We think of our body language, the way we dress, eye contact, etc. But as Vanessa explained, the best conversationalists always have an intention for the conversations they engage in. Having an intention helps to ward off those awkward lows and pauses.

As Vanessa advised, before you go to events, think of what you want to experience or take from the event. Are you there to get business partners, make friends, have a good time, or meet a potential life partner? As Venessa confessed herself, she likes to deliberately set an intention in her car just before she goes out to any event. Just setting an intention helps you guide your conversation. This will help you know what you want to talk about or ask the person you’re talking with.

Your intention could be as simple as just wanting to laugh and have a good time. Besides guiding your conversation, your intention will also help determine the person to have a conversation with if you have to decide.

How first impressions happen

When we think about first impressions, we usually think it happens when we first meet or hear someone speak. But according to Vanessa, the first impression happens when you first see someone, whether or not you talk to or meet them in person. This is why the best conversationalists always start their conversations from their approach.

Hence, any time you’re about to introduce yourself to someone or initiate a conversation, set yourself upright. The best first impression, as Vanessa advised, happens when you have nice, open body language. As she put it,

“You want your hands really visible, out of your pocket, not in touch with your purse, not behind your back. This helps with our trust cues. Have your shoulders down and back. Any time we turtle it signifies anxiety… A smile warms people up before you meet them.”

The best openers

There’s a huge research experiment that has looked at almost every pick-up line that people used to start conversations, and according to Vanessa, they found that the best opener to be a simple “Hello, how are you?”

It’s simple and it’s effective, and it’s no wonder why. As Vanessa explained, the reason it works so well is that you really don’t want to say something too intense when you start a conversation. Some people will advise that you give a compliment first, but according to Vanessa, that too can easily go wrong. However, a simple “Hello, how are you? I’m…” accompanied with a warm smile cannot go wrong. It’s easy, it’s nice, and it’s natural.

Conversation sparks

Conversation sparks make the difference between a dazzling conversation and a boring one. As Vanessa explained, they are non-verbal cues that show curiosity and interest. And one example that has been discovered to be displayed by people irrespective of culture, gender, age, or race is the eyebrow raise.

After you’ve set your intention, maybe you intend to get to know your in-law better. The next thing you’ll do is observe them. As you ask questions and engage with them, pay attention to the sparks of interest displayed by them. You’re trying to look for mutual likes or similar hobbies. As Vanessa concluded, “Whenever you see the spark, go down that hole in the conversation.”

How to end a conversation well

We don’t think about how to end a conversation well when we think about conversations. But the truth is, your last impression is just as important as your first. A great way to end a conversation well is what Vanessa referred to as the future mention.

The future mention, as she explained, is a polite way to shift the focus of the conversation from present to future and thank the other person for a great conversation. For instance, at the end of a conversation, you might say “Hey, what are you doing later today?” Response: “I will watch a football game with my siblings.” And this will be your cue to say “Thanks for a great conversation. I hope you have fun with that game, take care.” If it’s someone you’d like to ask out on a date, this will be the time.

Final thoughts

A great conversation has less to do with the topic you decide to open with and more to do with the intention you go into the conversation with. It isn’t about not running out of things to say, it’s about connecting and having fun with someone else. This is why a conversation can be short and be memorable. When there is an intention, then a conversation will naturally have direction.


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