Look, we’ve all been there...
You see someone...and you wonder how to start a conversation with them.
Then you feel it…
Your mind starts to race - maybe so fast that it starts to go blank.
“What should I say?” “No, that’s stupid, no one says that!“
And by the time you psyche yourself up to start the conversation, the other person has ordered their tall Americano and sailed out the door.
Ah, such is life, you tell yourself. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
With the right gameplan, you could be chatting up tall Americano right now and making a new friend.
I know...easier said than done.
Learning how to start a conversation and developing a gameplan to help you practice and grow your newfound skills takes effort, know-how, and guidance.
Luckily, you’re in the right place.
Simple Beats Complex!
When my clients ask me how to start a conversation, my first response is this:
While what you say first IS important, it’s not as important as what you say second.
In fact, for most of my clients, the best conversation starter is: “Hi, I’m [Your Name].”
I know, I know...
It feels almost too simple. But it’s often how we follow up that first statement that makes or breaks the interaction.
In this article, you’ll learn:
Quick Conversation Starters:
If you’re nervous or feel awkward about putting yourself out there, it can help to have a few good conversation starters in your back pocket.
I’ve divided these up by situation to make it easier to browse. Look them over and choose the ones that work for you.
Remember - it’s all about being approachable and genuine!
Don’t put too much pressure on these first few moments. It’s less about what you say than about how you say it.
How to Start a Conversation at Work
Work functions can be a special kind of hell for some of my private coaching clients.
It’s all the social pressure of being at a party - but it’s mandatory.
And you’ll be seeing these people every day afterward.
All of these conversation starters are light, work-appropriate, and should get a meaningful conversation started when you follow them up with interested questions:
How to Start a Conversation at a Party
Parties are supposed to be fun! (Who knew?!)
But for many of my clients, parties bring social hesitation and fear.
Talking to strangers - or even friends you haven’t seen in a while - can sometimes feel overwhelming and impossible.
But with these conversation starters up your sleeve, you’ll be the life of the party! Or at least the life of your corner of the party.
How to Start a Conversation at a Meetup or Class
Meetups and classes have the benefit of being structured.
Everyone signed up to be there and came specifically to gather and learn or do something together.
This takes a lot of the pressure off you because you know the people around you signed up for this!
Try some of these conversation starters to pique interest and make new friends:
How to Start a Conversation with Friends
Even once you’ve become friends with someone, you may find that you’re struggling with how to start a conversation.
Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve talked, or maybe you have different things going on in your life now… Whatever it is, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
All relationships take effort and it’s completely normal for there to be lulls in conversation.
Try some of these conversation starters to shake it up:
How to Start a Conversation at a Dinner Party
Dinner parties are great!
You should have at least one thing in common (the host). It’s also a low pressure environment because everyone there has been “vetted”, so there’s not that feeling of interacting with complete strangers.
Simple, All Purpose Conversation Starters
Often, the best conversation starters are the simplest ones.
Contextual Conversation Starters:
No matter where you are, it’s best to focus on contextual conversation starters.
Conversation starters become waaay easier when you’re starting a conversation about the environment or situation that you’re both currently in.
This makes the conversation starter feel natural for both people and leads to a better conversational flow.
Example: Starting conversations in a coffee shop
Example: Starting conversations at work
Example: Starting conversations at a meetup
See how much more natural that feels?
An easy way to start conversations without memorizing a bunch of icebreakers is to become an observer of your surroundings.
Take note of what’s going on around you, comment on it, and invite others to give you their opinion as well.
Boom! Conversation started!
The Anatomy of Starting a Conversation
As I’ve said before, it’s less about what you say than how you say it when you want to start a conversation.
That may sound like a weird thing to say in an article about how to start a conversation, but the lists above are for your benefit.
Having a list of possible conversation starters at your beck and call can make you feel more prepared and more confident.
And confidence is key to pretty much every successful social interaction.
At the risk of sounding like every movie of all time… The magic was in you all along, guys.
So use these steps alongside your chosen killer conversation starter and you’re one step closer to achieving your social goals!
Before speaking, you should be in the other person’s field of view. Simply put, there shouldn’t be ambiguity that you’re talking to them.
Often, this can be accomplished by entering their field of view and making a little eye contact.
*Mask note: If you’re wearing a mask, “warm” eye contact is super important. Smile under your mask until the corners of your eyes start to crinkle. That primes you for warm eye contact.
The first thing you say doesn’t matter as much as the second thing. The first thing can literally be “Hi.”
The second thing can be something specific about the environment you’re both in.
Once they’ve responded, gauge their reaction and take the conversation deeper with a question, or say “Have a great day!” and move on, taking the glow of a successful conversation started with you!
It REALLY can be that simple!
Once we break down what can feel complex and intimidating, notice how simple starting a conversation can be!
Say hi, gauge interest, ask questions or make statements, and move on!
Being Approachable is Key
Starting a conversation is just the beginning.
Once you find an entry point, your focus should be on being approachable.
Giving off the vibe of “Hey this person seems positive and fun to be around” is how you keep the conversation going - and how you get a chance for a second conversation!
How to give off an approachable vibe:
Fixing the fear of starting a conversation:
I'll help you supercharge your people skills so that you can have a more fulfilling career,
business & social life.
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