The toughest moment, in a social setting, is starting a conversation with someone you don’t know. For many people the thought of going up to strangers and making small talk can be daunting. Here are practical tips that I have learned over the years that will help you get started and add confidence in your ability to chat with anyone.
How to start a conversation
1. Ask for information
It is easier to start a conversation with someone if you have something in common. The easiest way to find something that you share is by asking for information. For example, if the person has an interesting tattoo ask them where they got it; if they are drinking out of an exotic coffee mug ask them what it’s like living/working abroad; if they have a funny t-shirt on asking them what makes it so funny.
2. Listen for topics
One of the most intimidating things about starting a conversation is not knowing what to say. Luckily there are certain questions that can immediately get people talking, these are called openers or icebreakers. An opener is an innocuous question that immediately gets the other person talking, think of it as a door opener.
People love to talk about themselves, when you ask someone questions they are sure to divulge information that can lead to more in-depth conversations down the line. For example, You could say “Hi I’m Ryan nice to meet you, where are you from?” or “How do you know everyone here?”.
3. Get the other person involved
You can make someone feel awkward by cornering them or talking with them for too long, so it’s important to get the other person involved in the conversation as soon as possible. One of the most effective ways is to ask open questions like “What do you think…?”, “How do you feel…?”, or “What’s your favorite…”
4. Keep an open body language
When starting a conversation it is important to keep an open posture. This means standing with your shoulders back, chin up, and a big smile on your face. People will be more inclined to engage with you if you look approachable.
5. Be self-aware
The most important thing to remember when starting conversations is that people want to have fun. You can find out what they are interested in by observing them and keep the conversation going by sharing bits of information about yourself too. People are soon drawn in when you are honest, have a sense of humor, and don’t take things too seriously.
6. Don’t feel like you have to be perfect
The best conversations are relaxed and natural, everyone has an off day when it comes to starting conversations, but that’s ok. The most important thing is that you open your mouth and start chatting to someone new; practice makes perfect.
Smiling is the simplest way to make other people feel comfortable around you, and the best way to start a conversation. Smiles are infectious, if you smile at someone they will immediately be put at ease and want to talk to you. Plus it feels great, so why not spread some happiness?
8. Have fun
All these tips come down to one thing, making starting conversations as easy as possible. No one wants to go up and engage in small talk with someone who looks like they don’t want to be there, so relax and enjoy yourself. Socializing is an amazing experience that everyone deserves to enjoy; by following these tips you’ll soon have a group of friends around every party.
9. Use icebreakers for small talk
When you want to start a conversation with someone I find it’s best to use an icebreaker. An icebreaker is a simple question that allows the other person to open up and share something about themselves. You can think of icebreakers as a way to get the ball rolling, if you’re at a party they will allow you to meet new people and if you’re in a social situation they will help break the ice.
10. Be respectful
Remember that everyone deserves respect, regardless of how much they talk or who they are talking to. Listen carefully and don’t interrupt when other people are speaking, this is considered very rude in most societies so just let them finish. Show the other person that they are important, don’t dismiss their opinions or thoughts, if you disagree with them come back to it later when everyone has calmed down.
11. Don’t rush things
It takes time to build trust so take your time getting to know someone. Genuine friendship cannot be rushed into, just slow down, take your time and enjoy yourself.
12. Remember you are not alone
Most of us have had difficulties in social situations before so don’t be embarrassed, everyone has felt awkward at some point, it’s part of being human. Everyone has something interesting to say just take your time finding it out, starting conversations is no easy task but with practice, it will become second nature.
So keep it simple and start practicing these tips for starting a conversation today. You will be happy that you did when you realize you can talk to anyone, anywhere!