Whether you’re a shy person, get tongue-tied, or just have no idea what to say when you’re standing face to face with a person, learning to start up a conversation and keep it going is an easy art to master.
Why would you want to start a conversation? There are many reasons you’d want to become better at conversing with others. You could land a better job, get a raise, make friends, go on more dates and tremendously boost your self-confidence in the process!
How do you start the conversation? This depends on the situation and the people involved. For simplicity sake we’re going to talk about one-on-one conversation, whether you meet someone that seems interesting while you’re riding the subway, in an elevator, at the supermarket, or sitting on the plane beside you. No matter how nervous or clueless you feel you are, the first thing you want to do is make eye contact and smile.
Does the person reciprocate? This is a major clue as to whether you should keep moving forward with a conversation or leave the person alone. If they smile back and say hello, start off by asking a mundane question such as, “What do you think about this weather we’re having?” Or choose to mention something you noticed about them such as, “I see you have a Mac computer there, how do you like it?” Try not to ask a question that would receive a simple yes or no answer. You’re trying to start a conversation here!
If the person seems closed off, just let it go and chalk it up to experience. You’ll find though that most people will be friendly and eager to talk with you. That’s one of the misconceptions many shy or introverted people have, they think they’re bothering others or that the person won’t want to talk to them. In reality, most people are social and friendly—if you know how to start a conversation!
If they respond positively move to the next phase which is everyone’s favorite. In fact, this is something almost nobody can resist—talking about themselves! One of the fatal flaws I see daily when watching and listening to people is that they yearn to interact with others, but they don’t gain their attention because they don’t allow the other person to talk about themselves. Trust me, become a great listener, ask questions about the person, and you’ve got it made!
What types of questions should you ask? This depends on the environment you’re in at the time. If you’re at a sporting event you can ask the other person what other teams they like and why, and if they’re into any sports. If you’re at a motivational seminar and strike up a conversation, ask the person why they came and what they hope to get out of it. If you listen closely you’ll gain valuable information about the person and be able to come up with more questions to ask. Slowly but surely they’ll start revealing personal information about themselves and once they do, their mind and emotions will form a bond with you. It’s like unraveling a ball of string. Slowly, but surely, just keep pulling on the end.
Starting up a conversation is actually more difficult than keeping one going. Just remember to approach the person with a genuine smile, look into their eyes, ask a simple question, and see how they react. if they seem open then ask a question related to something you notice about them then move on to other questions. Soon he or she will feel they’ve known you forever!