Do you sometimes feel like you’re the only one in a group who never has anything to say?
Maybe even as if it made no difference to the conversation at all whether you’re there or not?
Well, you’re not alone. Yesterday I met up with a reader who told me he had this problem. He always feels like the quiet guy in the background. When he’s in a group of friends, the things he says are mostly limited to safe sentences like “I love this song”, “Yes, I have that too” or “Could you pass me that blunt?”
And I thought "Wait a minute… This guy’s describing almost every single person I met as a teenager." I was a bit of a social butterfly back then, and I hung out with different cliques of just about every subculture. But I always noticed the same thing: In every group, most guys would only say things like that, with one or 2 exceptions. I always wondered if any of them maybe was a passionate trumpet player or a skilled painter in their spare time. No one would ever know because they never said anything about themselves besides the things they knew applied to everyone.
But then it dawned on me. If this is how he feels (the guy I was with), then maybe every single person in all those cliques felt the same way. Totally unaware of the fact that everyone else in the group felt the same way as well.
If you have similar issues (not knowing what to say, not saying anything in a group), read on 😉
Why Do You Never Know What to Say?
When you don’t know what to talk about, that doesn’t just happen without a reason.
How do I know?
Well, let’s say you are 20 years old. That means you have already lived 2 decades of a life unique to you. Every day a number of things happened to you, or because of you, that happened in no one else’s life, except the people you were with. And on top of that you thought and felt things about those events. Things that were 100% unique to you. Even if you are the biggest lazy low-life in the history of mankind: At the very least you think and feel things about that.
So theoretically, it is simply impossible to run out of things to talk about. What is possible though, is that you run out of things you believe are worthy of talking about.
Now we have to figure out why you deem those things unworthy to talk about. This can be a very big reason (which we’ll discuss at the end of this article), or a rather mild limiting belief.
Maybe it’s just that you have too many doubtful thoughts that come up. You think of something during a conversation, but you think “I don’t know, I don’t think they’ll find that interesting to hear.” The faulty belief then is that you already know up front what people will find interesting, which you don’t.
Another reason could be that you are intimidated by something about the group. Maybe they use expensive words and sound more educated than you. Or the opposite, maybe they’re too cool for school, and you are more of “heady type”. In this case the reason is simply a fear of embarrassing yourself in front of the group. But once again, you don’t know if that will happen. Maybe your uncommon opinion/peculiar way of expressing yourself will be a social advantage, helping people to remember you more while the rest of the group blends together for them.
If a simple limiting belief or minor fear is your issue here (you don’t even have to identify the exact belief), here is something you can do to fix it:
How to Never Run Out of Things to Say
The next time you’re hanging with a large group of people, make it a game. There are five rules you need to stick with the entire night/day. Afterwards, you can reward yourself with a nice treat.
Remind yourself of these as much you need to, learn them by heart and live by them for a while, until the feeling of not knowing what to say is permanently gone.
Ready? Here they are:
Rule #1: Unless they have a practical purpose, human interactions are basically nothing more but people sharing themselves with each other to deepen their acquaintance. For that reason, anything you say has innate value purely because it comes from you. It helps people get to know you. People want to know what someone else finds interesting and look for commonalities and difference.
Rule #2: Whenever you catch yourself thinking about what to say, just blurt out something random. I know, people say it’s important to think before you speak. But that’s mostly important for people who speak too much or say hurtful things. In your case, it’s important to stop thinking so much. Speak first, think later. If you said something wrong, apologize. It probably won’t happen any way. Seriously, if you accidentally blurt out the word “Pancakes” to a stranger, nothing bad will happen. They may not even find you weird because they’re too busy thinking about what to say themselves (I actually did that yesterday, so proof is in the pancake).
Rule #3: Lower your standards for what’s good enough to say. Anything you find worthy to think of, is also worthy for someone else to hear. Again, I know some people share an annoyingly big amount of uninteresting facts when they tell a story. But once again, you are not one of those people. In fact, you're the opposite of that right now. So go wild 🙂
Talk about anything. Talk about how much you love eating blueberries for breakfast, how you saw some guy making a faceplant on the way here, and the perfectly shaped dookie your dog made yesterday. It’s all good (except for the guy with the faceplant).
Rule #4: Focus on your strength: Show people how good you’ve gotten at listening all these years. Good listeners are rare and people love them. Ask them personal questions. Remember details. Empathize with them. Have hours long conversations that are about nothing but you getting to know them for all I care. After a while they might start asking you similar questions, and that will help you to find things to share about your life with them, which can help you in the process of making it feel more natural to talk about yourself.
Rule #5: When you’re done discussing a topic and don’t know what to talk about next, play the word association game. Start a conversation about bacon when you’re done talking about trump because he’s face made you think of a pig’s. Or about elephants / trumpets because his name made you think of that. Hell, you can start one about your penis because the first letter of that word was the last of trump’s name. Anything goes. If you want to get really good at this and leave your comfort zone at the same time, you may even join improv classes (this alone may potentially fix the entire problem).
Rule #6: If for some reason, you really have one of those brainfart moments where you couldn’t think of anything to say if your own life depended on it, just say “Well, for some reason I can’t think of anything to say. So why don’t you tell me something instead?” It’s really not that weird to be honest. You can even talk about how you often don’t know what to say in groups and are trying to improve on it, maybe they’ll have some tips of their own 🙂
Breaking Negative Feedback Loops Associated with Not Saying Anything
Sometimes, when you’re the kind of “quiet background person” who feels awkward about it (there’s nothing wrong with a quiet person who is at ease), it may be because you are stuck in a negative feedback loop.
To identify these, try to observe your own thoughts and behavior from a 3rd person perspective.
You may be too “stuck in your head” and constantly “deleting” the thought every time you have something to say. For example, you may think of something but then immediately think a second thought that dismisses it, like:
• Don’t say that. It’s too depressing, people won’t like you.
• The conversation is already shifting in a different directions, so it would be weird to bring up something related to what we were talking about a minute ago.
• My ideas about that are too weird compared to other people, so I’ll just keep them to myself.
Recognize when you are having these thoughts and make it a point to say it any way, no matter what. Even if you have to correct yourself after the fact. It may surprise you how wrong your assumptions were.
In the past, when I saw a woman I found attractive for example, I would try to come up with something to say and then dismiss it as stupid. Then by the time I decided I was going to say it anyway, they would be too far and I wouldn’t walk after them because it made me feel like a creep.
One time I tried it anyway, I just hauled ass to catch up with her and said “I’m sorry for chasing you, but I saw you back there and wanted to tell you how gorgeous I thought you looked. But then I chickened out. I don’t care if it’s weird, I just think I owe it to myself and you to come up and say it any way.”
I had the same thoughts again about how creepy it was to chase someone down just give her that compliment. But she loved it. That’s not to say you should start stalking women on the street now (please don't), the point is that your mental feedback loops are probably based on false information. And to break them, you can take deliberate action to prove them wrong.
Another kind of feedback loop you may be suffering from is a physical one:
When you sit there in silence, thinking about how you don’t have anything interesting to say, you become very inhibited physically as well. So when at one point during the interaction, you finally muster up the courage to say something, there’s a very high chance your voice will sound very soft and will command no attention. Because of that, most people will not even notice that you actually said something. This will prompt a thought like “See? When I DO say something, no one cares or finds it interesting.”
But that’s not true of course, they just didn’t hear you, especially if there was someone else constantly fighting for the center of attention (there always is). The solution hear is to yell everything you want to say.
I know, this sounds like it will annoy people. But when your voice is very soft and inhibited, what feels like yelling for you will probably not be very loud at all. And if it does sound loud, just apologize. At least people have your attention now. Work on speaking as loud as possible first, then learn to calibrate a little over time.
Now there is one kind of feedback loop that’s also possible, and that’s an environmental one:
You know you are in one when you follow all the tips in this article and then get verbal feedback from other people that goes a little bit like this:
“Shut up, moron. You don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
While it may or may not be true that you know what you’re talking about, there is one thing that is definitely true in this case:
You are surrounded by a bunch of assholes you confuse for friends. And you need to cut them out of your life.
If that’s your situation, read this article.
When It’s a Deeper Issue
For some people, there is a deeper issue underneath the problem that is a lot harder to fix. You can figure out if you belong to that group by asking yourself the following question:
Is the problem merely that you can’t think of a lot of interesting things to talk about?
Or is it that you think other people won’t find you very interesting as a person?
If you think the things you say aren’t interesting enough, that’s easy to fix. Just decide that from now on it’s not up to you to judge what is interesting or not and that other people will decide, after you said it.
But if you think the problem is that you aren’t interesting or valuable enough as a person, or somehow don’t deserve other people’s attention. Maybe even that you don’t really deserve to be part of the group. Then it’s a more serious self-esteem issue.
Like I mentioned in my last article, there’s a lot of ways to go about fixing it (therapy, coaching, books, bio-energetics, spiritual healing). There’s also a lot of tips in that article as well.
But one last thing you can start doing right now (most people tend to procrastinate on therapy) is a short daily journal exercise:
Every day, take a moment to write down 3 things you’ve done in your life that you can be proud of (these can be as small or big as you want), and 3 qualities you find awesome about yourself.
This may feel a little awkward, but don’t worry. It’s only douchy to do this when you already feel like you’re the shit. If you’re the kind of person with a lot of self-doubt, this is actually a great thing to be doing.
Don’t stop until you found any. It’s okay to write something on more than one day some times, but really make an effort to start seeing what makes you valuable as a person, so that you start to realize you actually have something to say. You can even ask others what they like most about you if you want. Most people terribly underestimate their own awesomeness until their friends and loved ones start speaking up.
If you don’t see yourself as a person people would be interested in, start making this little ritual the most important thing of your day.
If you only had 5 minutes of time the entire day, that little exercise should be the one thing you do besides eating, working and sleeping.
Because if you don’t celebrate yourself, how can anyone join you?
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