Take note of the things that make you laugh. Pay attention to what others find humorous. You don't have to be particularly quick-witted or a great storyteller in order to make others laugh. In fact, some of the funniest (and safest) material is that which is self-deprecating. As a side benefit this approach lets your listener know that you don't take yourself too seriously.
Brush up on current events. Even with limited time, you can have a cursory knowledge of what's happening in the world. Subscribe to a weekly news magazine or at least skim the headlines of a daily paper. You can even catch the news online these days! You don't have to be an expert in order to casually refer to something that is newsworthy.
- Keep track of new and interesting experiences. What have you recently enjoyed? A trip to a space museum? Thai food? Your first opera? Fly-fishing? New (and attention-getting) experiences will always provide fodder for stimulating conversation.
- Be a bearer of good tidings. Keep your comments upbeat and enthusiastic. People are instinctively drawn to positive conversation. And notice how quickly they will excuse themselves if you begin discussing your current health problems!
- Keep your own comments short and to the point. No one is interested in hearing you drone on about your own opinions or achievements. Brevity and humility go a long way in social situations.
- In sum, you need be neither a rocket scientist nor a brain surgeon in order to participate in lively conversation. Being a good listener is half the battle. Having fresh information to share, and delivering it with a sense of humor, is the other half. Maybe that next cocktail party won't be so bad, after all!
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