How to be included in a conversation with a group of friends

How do you avoid getting pushed out of a group conversation and suddenly realize you’re nothing more than a spectator of people talking? Today, I want to share a method that you can use to be included in a conversation with a group of friends.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article that a lot of you told me you liked, called “How do you join a group conversation if you’re not supposed to interrupt?”.

That article focused on how to join a conversation. Today’s article will build on that one and focus on how to in a natural way remain part of an ongoing conversation – and even be the center of it or the leader of it if that’s something you’d like to be.

I have a friend, Nils, who’s really socially savvy. I’ve studied his manner whenever he’s in a group conversation. Even though he talks less than most do, every group includes him in whatever conversation he joins.

After having him as a close friend for a few years, and after spending countless hours in group conversations with him, I’ve figured out what he does differently from almost everyone else.

Nils is one of the best people I’ve seen when it comes to including others in whatever he’s talking about.

The other day, he, I, and some of our friends made plans for this summer. (We’re going to a festival called Borderland, which is the European version of Burning Man.)

When he started talking, it went something like this.

“David talked before about renting an RV and I like that idea. But as Emma said before, we might still need a tent. Andreas, what do you think about an RV?”

It took me a long time to realize this, but Nils often takes the role of a facilitator, making sure that everyone’s heard.

The 5 effects of this method that makes people want to include you in the group:

1. People react to their names

Because it’s a part of Nils’ way of communicating, to often mention people’s names, everyone listens to him.

2. People love being listened to

Because Nils often summarizes and refers back to what people have said, he comes off as a good listener.

3. People get tired of hearing other’s opinions

Nils mainly communicate by talking about other people’s experiences, ideas or opinions. If he has a different idea, he lifts up someone’s idea and modifies it rather than start talking about his own stuff. While some people come off as self-centered, Nils gives the opposite impression (and because of that, people listen to his ideas).

4. Reciprocity

One of the fundamental principles of human psychology is the idea of reciprocity: If you give something to someone, they want to give back. If you include and lift up someone and what they say, they want to do the same to you.

Because Nils includes others, they subconsciously include him: When others are talking, it feels natural for them to direct their conversation towards Nils.

5. Leadership

A person who becomes the “facilitator” of the group is automatically seen as the leader of that group. This is because a facilitator, just like a leader, seems to grasp and understand the entire situation you’re in.

This method of inclusion and facilitation works great even if you’re in a group of friends you don’t know.

You can just point in someone’s direction and say “You said before that you wanted to go to a café rather than a restaurant. How do the rest of you feel about cafés?”.

Other ways to include people are to pick up on if someone got interrupted or wasn’t heard:

“Rebecka, you were saying something before, you had an idea regarding the camp site?”

“John said something great before you arrived, Liza. He said that[…]”

If someone’s trying to join the conversation, you want to include that person whenever there’s a chance. I like to summarize the current topic and follow up with a question.

“We’re talking about movies from the nineties. Do you remember if Die Hard is from the nineties or eighties?”

Now, the person you included will get a good feeling about you from the get-go.

[You might also want to check out my guide on how to find friends who are more like you.]

When I started off using this method of inclusion and facilitation, I could sometimes over-do it. If you only communicate by including others and summarizing the conversation, it gets artificial and weird. More isn’t always better.

Instead of trying to maximize inclusion, it’s enough to remember to include and summarize whenever it fits the situation. And then, you can share your experiences, stories, or opinions. Because you included other’s before, they’ll want to listen to you and make sure that you’re included back in the group.

Have you used this method? Do you perhaps know someone who’s good at including others? What’s that person’s conversations like? Let me know in the comments below!

David Morin is the founder of SocialSelf. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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  1. I like this pattern, the only case I am annoyed is when people switch to small talk related to origin. It is not about the “hurdle model”, now proof you not the stereotype. But it seems people when they talk about origin they have to through on you all possible stereotypes they know, it is really hard to steer this type of individual/group conversations (e.g. ah you are from China? I heard you eat dogs, ah you are from Italy, I had an icecream in Florence 10 years ago?…

  2. I run a large group on meetup. I found this very helpful, especially about using ppls names. This will be handy bc often when I would ask the group as a whole for feedback noone says anything and I would get frustrated. I put alot of work into organizing our events and always like to get suggestions so members feel included (this also cuts down on complaining although I’ve learned you cannot possibly please everyone…I’m very much a ppl pleaser so I take complaining personally). With larger groups, ppl talk over eachother. There are times when I try to get everyones attention or try to join in a conversation and everyone continues talking. After a couple tries I would shut down, feeling that what I had to say wasnt important. As a leader, I try VERY hard not to show my insecurities (I smile and act bubbly even though inside I’m analyzing everything). Does anyone have any suggestions?

    • I’m interested to hear how it goes with using people’s name to get their attention.

      One thing that helped me was understanding the chaotic nature of group conversations. People get ignored, interrupted, and talked over all the time – it’s usually nothing personal and a natural occurrence in a high-energy group conversation. The person that speaks the loudest is usually the one who gets the word.

      So when you really have something important to say, use both your body language and your voice to make yourself bigger. And don’t take stuff too personally in group conversations. Maybe this article could be relevant to you:

  3. This is so true, my cousin does the exact same thing. Funny how I never noticed it before either haha. But how do I practice this without coming off as weird and trying too hard?

    • I think it gets easier if you’re actively taking part in the conversation. As long as you don’t try to include someone out of nowhere you will be fine. And remember that messing up a bit from time to time is how we learn.


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