“How to start a conversation?”
This is a question thousands of people search for on Google and think about daily. It’s a common question and obviously, an important skill to learn because it can be helpful in many situations such as getting a job, a significant other, and building friendships.
Without learning how to start a conversation, life would be pretty boring. We’d all be standing in a corner awkwardly trying to chat with one another. We’d also be a bit lonely and depressed. That’s serious!
So we want you to make friends and to feel confident when starting a conversation. It’s why we created this post about how to start a conversation, using 15 charming tips.
#1. It’s easier to start conversations in places you feel comfortable.
Now, let’s say you’ve started socializing and you’re having more conversations and it feels pretty good. However, maybe you’re not connecting with people and the conversations are still boring or not as good as you think they can be.
A question you should always be asking yourself is, “where’s the best place to meet people?” Or, “Where do I thrive the most?”
Don’t drag yourself to places you feel uncomfortable talking. So, ask yourself where you thrive the most? What moment or place was easy and felt natural to socialize in? Think about it.
Knowing where you feel comfortable talking to people can be key to socializing more comfortably and starting great conversations.
#2. Look good by being prepared before the conversation even starts
Before a conversation starts, you need to think about what you’re going to say. Even if you’re a good conversationalist, social interaction is easier and can help reduce anxiety, and make you more confident, if you prepare.
Four ways you can anticipate, plan and prepare for a conversation:
#1. Understand who your audience is. Once you understand this, you can think of specific questions to use or how to approach people.
#2. Rehearse your approach and the questions you’ll ask.
#3. Practice and then practice more. Before you go out to happy hour, practice in the mirror what you’ll say. What people forget is how their body language and face look. If you have a resting face or bad body language, it can contradict what you’re trying to communicate. Even go as far as video recording yourself so you can look at yourself and make improvements.
#4. Just do it. Be ok with making mistakes because you will improve your conversations by being in more social situations. Put in the repetitions.
#3. How we look matters. Be aware of your face, energy, and what the body says.
As we’ve been saying, knowing how you look can affect how a conversation starts or if it even begins.
If you’re not smiling, or making eye contact you’re giving off the vibe that you’re not open to talking. What is your body language saying to people around you? If you’re unsure, ask a friend to give you an honest answer.
If someone is showing one of the expressions below, they’re likely disengaged, disinterested or unhappy.
Intense facial expressions (a resting, very stoic face)
Body turned away
Eyes down or glazed over
Instead, attempt to use positive body language which shows people you’re open to having a conversation or being approached.
Align your body with the person you’re talking to or want to chat with
Make eye contact
Mirror the person’s body language
Subtly match the other person’s body language and movements.
If they cross their arms, cross yours too. If they lean back or forward in their chair, do the same. Remember to leave a few seconds between the other person’s movement and yours.
Once you feel like you’ve engaged and caught the attention of someone through body language and mirroring, walk over to them. Say, “Hey, I love your shoes! I’m Joan.” Or, “Hey, I’m Don, I just wanted to introduce myself.” Or, they might come over to talk to you to start the conversation.
Be sure to mirror throughout the conversation too.
image: science of people
#4. Start conversations that feel less risky by having “mini conversations”
Short conversations, aka, “mini conversations”, is a conversation you can start that is short, easy, and small moments where you don’t have to say too much. These conversations can also boost your confidence.
So, if you’re at the grocery store bagging your groceries, ask the cashier how the day has been? Or, if you’re at a wedding, grabbing a drink at the bar, ask the bartender what they recommend. Lastly, I’m sure a lot of us drink coffee or tea, mention something (weather, etc) to the barista when waiting.
“Hey, the coffee you’re making smells so good!”
These are short, easy conversations anyone can start. And with consistency, you’ll make a friend, especially if you go to the same bar or café every week. You’ll start to see the same people and have more conversation.
However, many people think conversations should be long and in-depth, but there are different types of conversations. And these are considered “mini”.
Once you feel these conversations are getting easier, start to build yourself up to more challenging social situations or attempt longer discussions.
When learning how to start a conversation, this is a great way to slowly build up to bigger social events. So, take your time, warm up the social muscles, and move on to the next challenge when ready.
#5. Learn to become a professional observer.
You can start a conversation almost anywhere, especially if you can get creative in the moment.
When you’re walking home or you’re standing in line at the store, think about how you can start a conversation.
What do you see?! What do you observe?! What can you talk about in your setting?
Use what you observe or notice you can use as a conversation starter.
“Oh, nice shoes” “Hey, isn’t the food great?” “What a beautiful view.” “I love your makeup!” Etc, etc, etc.
The next time you’re in a room, remember to notice the environment and details.
Practice here! What do you see below in this picture you can talk about if you were at this party? What would you talk about? Try it!!
#6. Create conversations by asking for suggestions
We’re all out in society in some way, such as getting coffee, washing our car, buying new jewelry, or a new pair of sunglasses. We’re doing something where we can ask another person’s opinion to start a conversation.
You can use this strategy in almost any situation. If you want to test it out, try it today if you feel comfortable.
People love to share a suggestion. They light up and are very happy to offer what they think is best.
The power of asking someone for help (aka a suggestion or advice) is great because it creates bonding. This is known as the Franklin Effect. When you ask someone for help it makes them like you and want to help you more.
If you’re getting a coffee at your local coffee shop, and you’re craving a muffin, ask them what they suggest. “Hey, your muffins look delicious. Which kind do you suggest?”
99% of the time people will be happy to help and offer their suggestions. Mainly because most people are nice and also love to help.
Examples of things you might ask include:
“I see you’re reading every day at lunch. I’ve been meaning to pick up a book. Can you suggest a good book?”
Food can be a great topic to ask for suggestions for.
Have you tried any new restaurants lately? I’m eager to try something new.
What do you recommend to cook for a date night?
What books do you suggest?
Do you have any ideas for good work lunches? I’m out of ideas and I’m sick of sandwiches.
#7. Smile, then look for a reaction.
When you’re in a room with people and you see someone you’d like to talk to try to match their body language by mirroring. Walk near them and try to make eye contact. Once you do, smile.
If they smile back and make eye contact with you, this is a non-verbal invitation to start a conversation. The other person is giving you consent to spark up a chat.
If you can get the sense from their reaction that they’re open to saying hello. Then go for it.
A simple, “Hey, I wanted to come over and introduce myself, I’m John”, is enough to start a conversation. From there you can use small talk strategies and dive into open-ended questions.
#8. Compliment someone’s accessories or clothing to start a conversation
A lot of conversations are started because someone sees something they like. A shirt, a pair of shoes, a hairstyle, or a tattoo. These are all great intros to starting a conversation. However, be aware of the moment is right to approach someone.
But if you’re sitting with a group of friends and one of them wearing a cool necklace, mention it. People love to be complimented and noticed so start a conversation by making them feel good.
“Hey, I really like the design of your necklace. It’s very unique.”
Be sincere and honest when offering the compliment and about the accessory or “thing” you’re acknowledging.
#9. Talk about a feeling, thought, or experience
We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve felt emotions or feelings. Sad, happy, stressed, passionate, etc. Basically any type of feeling. If you’re in a social situation and mention a thought or feelings you’re experiencing in the moment if you’re near someone you’d like to chat with.
Of course, remember body language and cues. If you think it’s appropriate to express yourself, talk about it. Try to keep it positive too.
“Wow. I just had a great call with a customer.”
“I’m so excited for the weekend!”
“I’m so happy it’s Friday!”
“Mondays are so tough. How’s your day going?”
The list can go on and on. It’s a matter of how confident you are. Also, this can be used when talking with friends or people you only see in passing.
When making a comment as the examples above do, it usually prompts additional questions from people. Or, it allows you to express yourself further and provides opportunities for people to listen. A great scenario for a conversation.
#10. Impress people by using your memory to start a conversation. Check-in and follow-up.
How to start a conversation with memory?
Well, if you’ve already had a past conversation with someone and see them at another social gathering or in passing at work, you can bring up a past conversation. Think of it as a “follow-up conversation”.
If you can remember a fact about the person or any of the topics talked about when you last chatted, it can impress people and most importantly, help start a conversation.
For example, if you talked about a weekend trip they were planning you can ask how it was or progress on the planning. Maybe they mentioned work related topics. If yes, bring it up. They’ll feel like you listened and care.
“Hey, nice to see you today! How was the trip you planned for this weekend?”
“Hey, I wanted to check in to see how that presentation was?”
#11. Wear a conversation item. What you wear can help spark conversation
If you don’t mind a little attention, you can wear an item such as a hat, shirt, necklace, shoes that gives people a reason to start a conversation with you. Just be ready to chat about your conversation item, be confident to talk about yourself and keep the discussion flowing.
Think of something you have you think will peak people’s interest and likely spark conversion. Look around to see if you have something unusual to wear.
A few examples are:
A bright red coat
An interesting coffee mug
Show your tattoos
Army boots or cool yellow heels
Band t-shirt or any funny t-shirt
And anything you can think of that will get a positive reaction.
#12. Ask for a favor or help. Even if you don’t really need help
Asking for a favor can begin a conversation because it makes the other person feel good about themselves and if it’s something they can easily provide, they’ll probably be more than willing.
Asking for help can help you start a friendly conversation, but make sure the favor isn’t anything out of the way but an easy task.
“Do you know where the event is?”
“Do you mind if I borrow a pen?”
“Can you take a look at this to see if it makes sense? My editing isn’t great.”
“Hey, can you show me how to …”
“What do you think of [insert here], I can’t decide. Thoughts?”
#13. Bring up a mutual experience or friendship
Make it a point to start a conversation with the experience or friend you have in common.
For example, mentioning a mutual friend. Naming someone you both know will make the other person believe you’re a part of their extended social circle and someone who they should get to know.
“Hey, I remember you worked on John’s team. Do you still work with him on projects?”
“I remember you mentioned you’re passionate about traveling. I’m heading to Italy this summer, have you been?”
#14. Being vulnerable can help start a conversation
Many people are a bit nervous when socializing and feel uncomfortable. However, sometimes a quick way to start a conversation is to express vulnerability. This means, exposing some of your feelings.
For example, when at happy hour, you can mention to the person next to you, “I don’t know anyone here. I’m a bit nervous. How’s your night going?”
Most people are more likely to connect with you if you’re sincere, authentic, and imperfect like we all are.
#15. Be random. Walk up to someone and say, “Hey! I’m … and … ”
Sometimes saying anything or just a “hello” with a little bit of confidence does the trick.
Most people think too much about what they’re going to say and what people will think. But, we guarantee most things you say, even if it’s random, will be good enough to start a conversation.
But, you can also be strategic in how you approach someone.
First, try to relate the conversation to what’s around you.
Second, make the question about the person.
Third, have several conversation starters ready to ask and see what works best.
This can work. And, with all you’ve learned above, approaching a stranger can become easier.
Here’s more about how to start a conversation with a stranger.
A few things to remember on how to start a conversation
You’re not alone.
Many people have social challenges and it’s ok to make mistakes. It’s about learning and improving.
You don’t have to be funny or clever to start a conversation.
Start by introducing yourself, it shows friendliness and the willingness to make the first move. People will respond to this.
You won’t connect with everyone, even if you’re nice and do all the right things.
This is common and it’s unrealistic that you’ll connect with everyone. Consistently go to social events and eventually you’ll meet people who are compatible with you.
What you can do right now?
If you really feel like your social skills keep getting worse, ask a friend. Talk to a close friend about the feelings you have about how you feel when you socialize.
Prepare more when you go out to socialize. Joining our community and Download our Tool Kit for free (mini-course, social blueprint, and more)
Check out our course, Next Level Conversation.
We think if you join our community, take our course, or just read a few more blog posts, you won’t be saying, “I don’t know how to act in social situations”. But you’ll feel more confident and know what to say.