It depends on what you mean by ‘conversation’.
If it’s formal conversations (i.e., interviews, presentations, etc.), then yes, it is predictable.
But if you mean casual conversations and small talk… no, you can’t really predict what’s going to come up. And this is simply because topics can vary when you do small talk… there are just so many things that you can talk about.
But what I do recommend is instead of thinking predictively, think “retrodictively”.
What I mean by this is that if you’re talking to someone about a particular topic, chances are, you’re going to repeat the same thing with someone else. That then becomes the thing that you’ve prepared in your head. Because you’ve done it once, and now you can do it again quite easily this time.
Especially if you’ve taken the time to think about your mistakes in that previous conversation and fixed them ready for next time.
So, don’t worry too much about what topic may come up. Instead, my advice is to look back at what you’ve talked about in the past.
And you know, even if you have no idea what the topic you’re talking about with a person, there are still ways to keep the conversation going.
Here’s an example of this:
When I was in Lisbon, I went to get a beer and I got to talk with this absolutely fascinating Australian guy. He works as some kind of a technical engineer at an oil rig, and he basically works three months on and off at an oil rig. And I know absolutely nothing about oil! I have no idea how it works, how it affects the stock market, etc. But, despite not knowing anything about oil, we still had a very, very long conversation. I mean, it was basically a one-way conversation where I just asked him questions and he just explained everything.
There was no way I could have predicted that conversation. There’s no way for me to guess that I’ll pop out for a quick beer and two hours later, I’ll talk about how the price of oil affects the stock market. It just doesn’t work that way.
So the point of this is, the best approach is to always think about similar conversations you’ve had in the past instead. Again, when it comes to casual conversations, don’t think predictively, think retrodictively.
By the way, if you’re learning English (or want to improve your English more), check out my free daily email to get more English tips to speak better English.
Hope that helps.
Dr Julian Northbrook