Most of us have often been in situations where we don’t know how to start a conversation with a stranger or are at a loss for words.

Well, guess what?

Here we are with 10 tips and secrets that will not only give you the confidence to make that lasting first impression but also take your social skills to the next level.

Follow the tips in this guide so that the next time when you walk through that front door of a local bar —instead of pondering upon different ways to start a conversation, you know exactly what to say!

#1. Memorize at least 2 to 3 conversation starters. (Examples included)

The “Forgetting Curve” shown below highlights how easy it is for us to forget new information. Over time we forget all kinds of things, especially when it’s something new, like learning how to start a conversation.

You can’t hit the rewind button or take notes. But you can always prepare.

However, you can challenge your memory to remember at least a few openers to use in different social situations. We want to make it a bit easier, so we gave you a bunch of examples below. 

memorize conversation starters

For most people improvisation is not easy. That’s why you should memorize at least a few conversation openers which will give you enough time to ease into the conversation, relax, and build your confidence.

These openers will ease your way into starting a conversation and are perfect for almost any situation, even with strangers.

 

● “Hey, how are you? I’m Ray. So, how do you know the host/location?”

This opener is one of the traditional ones and never gets old. Moreover, you can also tailor it to best suit your scenario.

 

For example, if you’re at a networking event or at a friend’s party, you can start your conversation as:

● “So, how long have you been a part of this organization?”

 

Or, if you’re at a Happy Hour event, you can say…

● “Hey! This is my first time coming to one of these meet-ups, have you been before?”

 

This next opener is another great way to start a conversation you should have on your MUST use list.

“Hey, that looks, great! Do you suggest any drink/food?”

Here’s why…

Oftentimes you are in a situation where the person you want to approach is either holding a drink, some food, or is in the middle of an activity.

 

Or, if you’re at a museum, this how you should start a conversation with someone:

● “What do you think of this painting/photo?”

 

If you notice someone reading a book, you can say:

● “Hey, how’s that book? Any good suggestions? I’ve been meaning to buy a new book.”

Secret tip: If you can’t remember an opener, have a look around you and pick something to talk about. For example, a picture or plant, anything to kickstart your conversation. We talk more about this later. 

So now if you’re wondering how easy life could’ve been if there was one universal conversation opener that you could use to start any conversation, well here it is …

 

● “Hey, what are your thoughts about …?”

This opener right here can be used in almost any conversation with anyone and anywhere, no matter who they are…

 

Also, another great thing about this opener is that it’s very easy to memorize, making it one of the most effective way to start any conversation. Have a look at these examples:

● “What are your thoughts about the band?”

● “What are your thoughts about the restaurant? It’s really nice huh?”

● “What did you think about the speaker?”

#2. Asking for advice, a suggestion or recommendation as a conversation starter.

Who doesn’t like expressing their views or advice?

Obviously, if you give anyone this opportunity, not only would they feel flattered but also more than willing to start a conversation.

Everyone loves giving suggestions and recommendations because it makes them feel important, happy, powerful, and needed.

Research says that when someone helps another fellow human, it can promote physiological changes in the brain linked with happiness.

So, feel free to take advantage of this opportunity and start a conversation by taking opinions.

conversation openers

Here are 5 examples of how you apply it in your dialogue:

● “What do you suggest I get for lunch here? There are so many good options.”

● “I’m new to this area, do you have any suggestions for things to do or places to visit this weekend?”

● “I love [insert topic here] what do you recommend for books?”

● “I’ve been researching places to travel to, do you suggest any interesting places you’ve been to?”

● “I’m going to a wedding in two weeks and don’t know what to wear. Any ideas?”

#3. Start your conversations by giving praise or complimenting apparel, or personality.

People dress to get noticed and just imagine how good you would feel if a random person comes up to you and compliments your apparel or personality. Wouldn’t you want to talk more to that person or get to know them?

This is exactly what this opener is all about.

It will not only give you a lead at starting your conversation but also make you more appealing and aesthetic at the same time.

Secret Tip: Instead of complimenting someone’s physical appearance such as eyes, smile, or body. Highlight their personality. This could be their purse, shoes, jewelry, style of clothes, hat, jacket, laugh, or sense of humor.
compliments to open conversation
Complimenting someone shows that you’re genuinely interested in them and if you want to go a step further, try to start your conversation by giving a compliment unique for that specific person you’re talking to. It will give you a head start.

For example:

● “The way you carry yourself is truly admirable.”

● “You have a great sense of humor, and I can count on you to give me a laugh.”

● “Hey, I really like the color of your earrings, it really suits your outfit!”

● “I like your jacket. It looks warm, especially for the winter months in NYC. Where did you get it?”

#4. Watch out for clues to thread your conversation.

This conversation opener here is an extended and improved version of the opener described above.

Take it this way: The opener given above was for beginners and here is the reinforced version which requires some practice but nevertheless you can pull it off quite easily.

As we all know, people love telling you what’s on their minds. So how about we use it to our advantage in starting our conversation. However, in this case: Listening is the key.

listening more during conversation

These 3 examples are open-ended questions that should help you discover clues:

● “Hey, do you know anything about [any object, thing, place nearby], I was wondering if you could tell me more about it?”

● “What are your thoughts about a perfect date?”

● “What do you think about this neighborhood? It’s cool right!?”

These are examples based on a shared experience, such as a popular topic, event, or location.

Again, engaging someone at the start of a conversation with these types of questions will help you discover clues within the conversation.

Next, you thread the conversation, by asking follow-up questions, which will help you to extend the discussion even further.

For example, if you ask, “What are your thoughts about the neighborhood we’re in?”

And they say,

“I love it. Especially the different cultures and art are shown throughout the area.”

What are the clues they mention? “Culture and Art.”

Use these two clues to extend or open up the conversation even further. This is threading the conversation.

Since the clue is “culture and art”, your next question can be: “I love art! Have you been to any of the museums here in the city?” 

And they, say, “Yes! I’ve been to most of the museums in the city.”

Next, an open-ended question such as, “What were your favorite exhibits?”

Think about different ways of how you can turn a simple conversation into a web of different conversations. This will help you get to know someone on a deeper level and you’ll never run out of things to say. 

#5. Mention an Awkward first date story or what we call the “Office Gossip”.

 

gossip and conversations

“Conversations thrive on ordinary topics,” says Gus Cooney, a social psychologist.

A study says people bond over first-date horror stories or awkward high-school memories, instead of the uncommon story of trekking across the Amazon Rainforest.

In social interactions, it’s better to initialize your conversation by aiming for relatability and not impressiveness.

“As social creatures, we’re hardwired to gossip”

Moreover, when learning how to start a conversation, believe it or not, research has shown gossip can promote cooperation by spreading positive and important information.

For example, a colleague completed a project on time and under budget, you say:

“Hey great job with the project, I heard you came under budget. People say you’re great with time and resource management.”

Positive gossip can be extremely useful when starting conversations too. So, the next time when you start a conversation, talk about a mutual situation you’re both a part of and which you can bring up at the moment.

“Gossip is a social skill – not a character flaw”

Here are 3 examples:

● If you’re getting out of a meeting of any kind you can say:

“What did you think of the meeting?” Or “What are your thoughts on what Derrick said?”

● If you’re at a friend’s party and you see someone drinking a glass of wine or any type of drink, you can say:

“Hey there! What do you think of the wine? I’m really liking it.”

One of your co-workers received a promotion. You can mention that you heard about it:

“Hey, I heard about your promotion! Congrats! I think it will be a perfect fit, especially since you’ve got amazing analytical skills.”

#6. Channel your inner Sherlock Holmes by being more observant.

look around to start conversation

Ask yourself these questions:

What do I see?! What do I observe?!

Now use what you have just seen to be a jumping pad in starting your conversation.

For instance, have a look at these samples where keen observation can be an excellent way to start a conversation:

  • “Oh, nice shoes, the color really compliments your outfit!”
  • “Hey, isn’t this food a bit spicy/saucy?”
  • “What a mesmerizing view! I can stare at those waves/mountains/birds for hours.”
  • “I love your makeup!” etc.

No matter where you are, there are always things around you, which you can comment on, for example:

  • Music
  • Food
  • The lights
  • People around you
  • Random objects etc.

Even if you are stuck in an elevator with someone, you can comment on the music and how slow or fast the elevator is moving.

Challenge yourself to pay more attention to details around you.

As a practice, just look around right now.

What do you see? Use them and try to come up with some openers that you can start a conversation with.

#7. Bring up any Newsworthy topic in your conversation that people can relate to.

start conversations with gossip

Check Google trends for topics.

Nowadays, people love discussing current issues happening in their neighborhood or even around the globe. You will often see strangers engaged in a series of intense discussions with each individual trying to dominate the other with his/her views regarding any political or generic issue.

Where this can be a good way to initiate a conversation, the key here is to be patient, easygoing, and not too critical.

We all gossip about the things happening in our community such as local events, celebrities, or just random news happening throughout the world.

How about using them to start our conversations?

Here are 3 light-hearted news openers you can share to break the ice.

● “What do you think about NASA landing on Mars?”

● “Wow, I just can’t believe all the insane news headlines today. Have you heard it?”

● “I read there’s a new farmers market on 14 street. I missed it this weekend and I’m dying to go get some fresh food. Have you heard about it?”

#8. Everyone’s Favorite Topic is themselves. Use the T.A.T method to start your conversation.

Talking about our own beliefs and opinions, rather than those of other people, stimulates the meso-limbic dopamine system, which is associated with the motivation and reward feelings we get from food, money and sex.

So, to start a conversation, ask people their opinions and interests. Talk About Them!

get people talking to start conversation

There’s no mystery that everyone’s favorite topic is themselves and if given the chance they would love to open up and share what’s going on in their lives.

So, when in doubt, start your conversation by asking them a question about who they are and what they’re doing. Trust me, it always works!

When learning different ways to start a conversation, remember that 99% of people like to talk about themselves so use that to your advantage.

The most common complaint people have after a conversation, is “I wish they would’ve asked me more questions.” This is where this approach comes in handy. The T.A.T method means Talk About Them which compels you to explore the other person.

Who are they? What do they do and why are they there?

On average, people spend 60 percent of conversations talking about themselves.

Why? Because it makes their brain feel good.

Any basic question or compliment that gets someone to start talking will work. Have a look at these 5 simple comments which work…

● “I love those shoes, I can tell that you have good taste, don’t you?”

● “What brought you here today?”

● “Which cologne is that you’re wearing? I can’t get over with the scent.”

● “Hey, do you mind telling me what would you do if [mention anything]?”

● “I love your dog. What kind of dog is this?”

Anything to get the discussion flowing and builds momentum is what you should try to do when using the T.A.T. method.

#9. Practice conversations in low-risk situations.

For most people, the hardest part in starting a conversation is not knowing exactly what to say at a specific moment. They are blanked-out in terms of words and ideas. This is where confidence comes to the rescue.

One of the best ways to build up confidence is to start short, low-stakes conversations.

Social Situation #1: Start conversations with Servers and Baristas:

Servers and baristas are paid to be friendly, so take advantage and practice. Instead of ordering your “usual”, smile and ask:

  • “Do you have any suggestions for hot tea?”
  • “What’s your favorite dish on the menu? ”From here, you can either order their suggestion or not:
  • “That sounds good, I’ll give it a try”, or stick to your usual order.
  • “Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll have to try that next time.”

Practicing social situations is so important. 

practice conversations skills

Social Situation #2: Start conversations with Checkout Clerks:

By taking a few extra seconds to make a genuine connection, you stand out because most people avoid making any small talk to a checkout clerk. Since the bar is set very low, make an attempt.

● “Do you get any special discounts as an employee?”

● “I come here every week to buy groceries, do you have any suggestions on what to buy for food?”

Starting your conversation with even a simple genuine question like, “Hey, how’s your day going?” can be impactful because a checkout clerk probably doesn’t get asked very often.

They might open up for more conversation or just simply respond, “It’s good. How are you?”, which you can still count as building your conversation muscles.

Remember when learning how to start a conversation:

● Try creating a question based on the scenario.
● Listen to their response and respond in an easygoing manner.
● Low-stake environments will give you valuable practice to apply to high-pressure social situations.
● Keep the tone light and keep moving on if you feel rejected.
● Pay attention to positive moments so you can validate your behaviors.

#10. Brainstorm ONE but easy to remember engaging Story.

start conversation with a story

Have I mentioned that storytelling is a real deal maker if you can nail it right?

If not, then here it is! Believe it or not, in today’s world there is nothing more tempting than a well-crafted story considering that you time it perfectly on the right spot.

As a brain teaser, create a story and test it on a friend, family member, or even a coworker and ask them how would they feel if you started a conversation with them for the very first time using this story?

Use this feedback to polish your story and now it’s time to use it on a stranger.

When you start the conversation, try your best to cut out the rambling and jump to the good stuff of your story. It’ll keep your audience engaged and omit boredom.

Conclusion

With this, we come to our conclusion. If you follow this guide closely it’ll be a life savior for you at times where you need it the most.

Remember that starting a good conversation doesn’t rely on just one approach. By experimenting with these tips, you’ll be able to map out your own methods for starting a conversation that will be unique to you.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Listening is also really important in a good conversation. If you have got a person to open up, it’s probably a good idea to listen to them till they finish instead of raising counterarguments.

Ask questions, be confident, and don’t let your shyness or social anxiety define your limits. With some practice and close association with this guide, you’ll soon be a master at starting conversations.

Lastly, there is no “perfect line” to start a conversation because there’s no such thing as the perfect opener. It is you who can make any opener the best or the worst.

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