As awkward as that can be, remember that it's not a reflection on your conversational skills.
"People might be tired, they might be distracted, there could be a lot of explanations that have nothing to do with you and the actual conversation," says Ali Mattu, PhD, assistant professor at the Columbia University Medical Center. "When we're in a conversation and it might be dying out, we can take it so personally, and take so much responsibility for it, but in reality, it might not have anything to do with the conversation itself."
The other person might tired, stressed, hangry, or just simply not feeling chatty — and it's normal for conversations to die out even when we're talking to our best friends. It just seems more pronounced when it happens with someone we've just meant, because there's more of a fear that you'll be judged on this one conversation alone.
"There's a lot more fear of being evaluated and judged when it's someone we don't know as well," Dr. Mattu says. "We don't have that as much with family and close friends, so we don't notice those conversations dying out [with them]."
If you're trying to revive a rapidly dying conversation, Dr. Mattu has two-fold advice. For one thing, ask open-ended questions. In other words, questions where someone has to give you an answer that isn't just yes or no. If you ask whether someone has seen the latest episode of Riverdale, for example, the conversation will die pretty quickly if they say no. If you ask what they like to do for fun, though, there's more of a chance that the conversation will lead somewhere.
The other part of Dr. Mattu's advice? Listening.
"So often we put so much pressure [on ourselves] to say more to keep the conversation going, but the best way to keep it going is to listen better," Dr. Mattu says. "Reflect back onto the person about your understanding of the conversation so that shows that you're listening, you want to know more, and as you learn more, that will keep the conversation going."
The more you do that, the more you'll find things to talk about. If, for example, you ask what someone likes to do for fun and they mention rock-climbing, ask them more questions about it and see where you go from there.
If you keep asking questions and hitting a wall, or the other person is looking around the room instead of making eye contact with you, it might be time to call it in. At the end of the day, Dr. Mattu says, you don't have to have a great conversation with everyone you talk to. If the chemistry just isn't right with you and whoever you've latched onto at a party, politely excuse yourself to get some food or a drink, and say hi to someone else.