How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Have Better Conversations

Practice makes perfect

Key Takeaways

  • Amazon Alexa has a new feature that gives you small talk tips and allows you to practice how to have a great conversation. 
  • The feature can give people a confidence boost in upcoming social gatherings after a year without them. 
  • Experts say we still need to shift away from our reliance on technology and get used to in-person interactions again.
Someone talking to a smart home device in their living space.

RossHelen / Getty mages

If you are out of practice talking to strangers about the weather, your smart home device can help give you some conversation confidence, but don't forget to practice on actual humans. 

Amazon Alexa-enabled smart home devices now provide simple tips and tricks on engaging in small talk, since Amazon said we're all probably out of practice because of the forced social distancing of the past year. Experts say the new feature could help make some introverts more comfortable in engaging in conversation. 

"For somebody who lacks confidence, this may give them a touch of confidence since they're being told skills that they can take out there, and I think that's a good thing," Debra Fine, a conversation expert and author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, told Lifewire in a phone interview. 

Small Talk With Alexa

Your smart home devices can tell you the weather, buy groceries for you, schedule meetings, and more, but now you can practice your small talk skills with one, as well. Amazon said Alexa-enabled devices could provide tips like asking follow-up questions, using your surroundings, and utilizing a technique known as "mirroring" to encourage other speakers to talk more by simply saying, "Alexa, help me small talk." 

The tech giant added this feature after a Harris Poll survey of more than 2,000 adults was conducted on behalf of Amazon devices. The survey found that more than half said the idea of small talk with strangers makes them nervous, especially after the pandemic.

"I think you will regain confidence one step at a time by just making yourself go to functions, parties, and family gatherings and earnestly investing time in conversing with people."

Fine said that since most of us have been using technology more to communicate over the past year, this Alexa skill could be a good stepping-stone into re-entering the world of in-person communications.

"A lot of people say they now have social anxiety about mixing with people again, whether it be at the water cooler and or at social events, weddings, etc., and that’s what this Alexa thing is all about: to give people that competence for when they have to go to a party or there's something for work," Fine said. 

Fine added that having a good conversation doesn’t have to be rocket science—if a smart home device can do it, so can you. 

Human Interaction Over Technology 

Even if you find talking to your smart home devices useful, Fine said one-to-one human interaction will always be better than technology, and warned you should be careful relying on smart home devices to replace real human skills. 

"I don't think [using technology] is authentic," she said. "I think the real key to being a great conversationalist that [Amazon] didn't put out there is that it's up to us to assume other people's comfort." 

Fine explained that it’s up to each person in a conversation to make the other one feel comfortable, in addition to acting interested in what they have to say. 

A wooden drawing model of the human form standing with it's hand on top of an Alexa Show with

Jan Antonin Kolar / Unsplash

"We were lazy before the pandemic, and now we're lazier than ever because we don't even have to answer [a question]," she said. "The only time I have to answer a question is when you use my name, but you don't even have to remember my name anymore with things like Zoom."

She said Alexa’s conversation tips are useful, but she has a few to add to keep in your back pocket during your next gathering, including being a good listener by giving verbal cues and playing the "conversation game."

"Always be prepared to answer 'How have you been?' or 'What’s new with you?' with a one-sentence response, and the other person can either play off that response or move on."

Overall, while Alexa’s latest skill is a neat feature, it’s still missing one thing: human interaction. If anything, Fine said to take whatever you learn from Alexa or your other smart devices and apply it to real-life situations. 

"I think you will regain confidence one step at a time by just making yourself go to functions, parties, and family gatherings and earnestly investing time in conversing with people," she said.

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