There was a time when I was envious of people who could walk up to a total stranger and strike up a conversation. You’ve seen them, standing in line at the grocery store and before long they are engaged in conversation with the people around them. Intrigued passersby stop for a moment to contribute a few words to the conversation. Pretty soon, it begins to look like a party in the grocery store line. Everybody is laughing and having a good time. These conversation starters have the gift of gab. They may have been born with that talent, and that’s all good. But, how does the average person gain the ability to be a conversation starter, too?
Hopefully, by the time you finish reading this blog post you will have some great ideas to help you develop your conversation starter skills.
Gain The Confidence of a Conversation StarterI use to be filled with anxiety over the thought of starting conversations. If I am being wholeheartedly truthful, I must admit that I was afraid of rejection and criticism. I was afraid people would think I was too presumptuous or nosey. I was a business professional, still, at business meetings and social events I would be that person who stood at the back of the room or sat at the table in the corner. It wasn’t that I didn’t like talking to people; it was just that I didn’t know what to say to start a conversation. I waited for people to approach me first.
I had a desire to come out of my shell and be a conversation starter, so I started attending seminars about becoming more confident in social settings. I started reading books about public speaking, and most importantly, I started applying what I learned. The experience gave me the confidence to be the person who begins conversations instead of being the person who sits in the corner.
In this blog post, I share the important tips I learned to apply when approaching people. I hope these tips help you as much as they helped me to become comfortable starting conversations.
Rules for Starting Great ConversationsAfter gaining confidence, I had to learn the art of conversation. What do I say to people when I approach them? How do I get them to respond?
Before you begin talking to people, there are a few basic rules to consider.
- Watch people's body language to determine whether or not they are likely to be interested in talking to you. If you approach someone and they look away, turn away, or walk away, this is an indicator that they want to be left alone. Likewise, if they look like they are in a hurry, don’t try to stop them to strike up a conversation; they will only resent you for delaying them from getting to their destination. On the other hand, if they make eye contact with you, if they smile, nod, or wave, then it is worth the effort to approach them with light conversation.
- Start the conversation with a question. Ask an open-ended question so that if the person is going to respond, they must respond with something other than a yes or no answer.
- When you ask your question, make your question personal, but not intrusive. Personal would be a question related to what the person is wearing, carrying, or doing. Intrusive would be to ask about their marital status, religious belief, or political preference. Also, make sure you are genuinely interested in hearing the person’s answer.
Nine Conversation StartersA question is the easiest a way to start a conversation. As the person answers your question, you may find points of interest that can feed follow-up questions and tidbits of information that can help you extend the conversation.
Following the rules mentioned above, here are nine conversation starters. These are general questions you can ask almost anyone. Be sure to fine-tune your question to make it relate to the person and the current situation you are in at the moment.
Even if you do not have the gift of gab, these nine conversation starters should help you begin some worthwhile and memorable conversations.
- If you could be anywhere but here, where would you be right now? This question works well when you are standing in a long line at the grocery store. You’d be amazed at the light-hearted responses you get.
- How do you know the host? This is the perfect question to ask at a house party, especially when you don’t know the people in attendance. You will, most likely, learn about the host’s friends, plus gain valuable insight about the host.
- How do you usually celebrate Christmas? This is a great question to ask during special events. You could even ask this question if you are at a grocery store or department store and you see someone shopping for a special occasion. Noticing what’s in their shopping cart, and wanting to strike up a conversation, you could relate the question to the specific occasion, such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, or birthday.
- What is the best thing that happened to you so far today? I like this question because it actually gets the person to think and at the end of the conversation, you and the person you were talking to are a little happier after talking about something positive. You could even extend the question to ask about their week, month, year, or even their last five years.
- What is your New Year’s Resolution? Naturally, this is a great question to ask during the end-of-year holidays. You could ask this question anywhere at any time.
- What brought you here today? Ask this question of anyone at a party or business event. In fact, this would actually be a fun question to ask in a grocery store line. People are obviously there to shop, but the answers they give when asked this question are often fun to hear. Like the time a man was asked what brought him to the store today. He said, "The cat!" Everybody within hearing distance chuckled. Then he pointed to his car parked curbside in the parking lot. He called it a cat because he liked its sleekness. It was a sports car and it was indeed sleek.
- Who are you named after? Before asking this question, always compliment the person on their name. Of course, this question only works if you know the person’s name, perhaps after asking them or seeing their name on a name tag.
- How is your day going? This is such a general question it could be asked anytime, anywhere.
- What do you think about [INSERT TOPIC]? Insert the topic that is pertinent to where you are and what you are doing. For instance, if you are at a sporting event, you could ask about a team, the score, the coach, the crowd, and so on. If you are at a conference, you could ask about the keynote speaker, one of the workshops, or the atmosphere. If you are at the grocery store, you could ask about a food item that is for sale, the long checkout line, etc.
Start Talking!So there you have it folks! Nine conversation starters that are simple to incorporate into your daily, business, and social life. Whether the person you want to talk to is a family member, friend, co-worker or a total stranger. These questions will help you start your next conversation with confidence.
Book RecommendationThere are many books on the market about how to become a conversation starter, but the one I recommend is, “Always Know What to Say: Easy Ways to Approach and Talk to Anyone,” by Peter W. Murphy – a peak performance expert. This book is sold in Kindle, and in this book, the author writes about the fear and anxiety that cause people to avoid socializing. Murphy says that before we engage in a conversation, we need to establish a goal for the conversation.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
“…make a point of having a goal for each conversation whether that be to establish and maintain rapport, discover commonality or to look for shared values and beliefs. When you do this, the conversation will have a direction and life of its own that you simply steer.”
Murphy also says we should pay attention to feedback. We should be able to determine by looking at the person whether or not they are approachable. If you are already engaged in a conversation, watch their facial expressions and overall body language.
I hope you find this book helpful.
Video RecommendationThe following video, with Ashley Weston and Dorian is entertaining and informative. Ashly is a celebrity menswear stylist and her fiancé, Dorian is a former entertainment executive. Both of these celebrities work in an industry that is very social. Being expert conversationalists is a career enhancement tool. Watch, “7 Greatest Conversation Starters That Actually Work,” as they share some effective conversation starters for all occasions.
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101 Conversation Starters. Conversation Starters. https://www.conversationstarters.com/101.htm. Last visited website 12/15/2017.
Charlotte Hilton Andersen. 37 Conversation Topics That Make You Interesting. Reader’s Digest. https://www.rd.com/advice/relationships/conversation-starters/. Last visited website 12/15/2017.
Jessica Stillman. 45 Conversation Starters for the Thanksgiving Table. Inc. https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/45-conversation-starters-for-thanksgiving-table.html. Last visited website 12/15/2017