Meeting people is a daily part of our lives. Even good chatters can lock up and start wondering what the next topic will be. Have an imaginary list of topics and you'll never get caught in a conversation again. All you need to do is pick an idea and use it during the chat.
Part 1 of 3: Learning the Basics of Conversation Starters
Step 1. Talk about the person
The secret to being a great conversationalist is simply allowing others to talk about themselves. Why? Because this is a subject they know well and probably feel free to discuss. Try these tactics:
- Ask the person's opinion. Tie the question to a situation happening where you are, current events, or any other topic you want to discuss.
- Deepen the conversation with real facts, asking where she comes from, where she grew up, etc.
Step 2. Use different themes for people of different degrees of intimacy
The type of questions you will ask depends on the level of coexistence; you can even get to know each other better through the questions. Here are some openings for two types of people you might want to talk to:
- person who knows well: Ask her how she is doing, if anything interesting happened this week, how are her studies or any projects she is involved in, how are the children doing and even if she has been watching a cool program on TV.
- Person you know but haven't seen in a while: Ask what has happened since the last time you met, find out if she is still working at that same job and living nearby, ask about her children and if she has had others (if that makes sense); ask if you have seen any mutual friends.
Step 3. Remember what to avoid
You know the golden rule - never talk about religion, politics, money, relationships, family issues, health issues or sex, unless with people you know very well. The risk of saying something offensive is very high, so stay away from these subjects; they also carry a lot of emotional charge…
Step 4. Discover interests and hobbies
People are complex, with different interests, likes and dislikes. There are several question types about this and many will automatically take you to the next topic of conversation. These questions can be:
- Do you practice or follow any sport?
- Do you enjoy staying connected to the internet?
- What do you like to read?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- What is your favorite music style?
- What kind of movie do you like to watch?
- What are your favorite TV shows?
- Do you play RPG? Card Game? Board game?
- Likes animals? What's your favorite animal?
Step 5. Involve the family
Your best bet is to talk about siblings and general childhood information (like where they grew up, for example). Always respond enthusiastically, encouraging the person to talk more about the subject. Talking about parents can be sensitive for people who had a difficult childhood, divorced or recently deceased parents; talking about children can be uncomfortable for couples facing fertility problems or disagreeing over whether or not to have a child, or for someone who is desperate to have a child but is not in a good position to do so. Things you can ask include:
- You have siblings? How many?
- (If you don't have siblings) What is it like to be an only child?
- (If you have siblings) What are their names?
- How old are they?
- What does your brother do? Modify the question based on their age. Do they go to school/college or do they have a job?
- Are you alike?
- Do you have similar personalities?
- Where did you grow up?
Step 6. Talk about recent adventures
Ask where the person has been. Even if she's never been out of town, she'll be happy to tell you about places she'd like to go. You can ask:
- If you could live anywhere else, where would it be and why?
- Of all the cities you've visited, which is your favorite?
- Where did you go on vacation? You liked?
- What were the best and worst trips or vacations you've ever had?
Step 7. Discuss local cuisine and drinks
Food might be a slightly better idea, as there is always the chance of bumping into someone who has a problem with alcohol or who doesn't drink. Also be careful that the subject doesn't become a nuisance for someone on a diet or trying to lose weight, the conversation can go the wrong way. Instead, you can ask:
- If you could only eat one meal a day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
- Where do you like to go out to eat?
- Do you like cooking?
- What is your favorite candy?
- What's the worst dining experience you've ever had?
Step 8. Ask about the job
Be careful not to look like a job interview: know how to handle the conversation carefully. If you're quick and pleasant, the chat can get interesting. Don't forget that the person may be studying, retired or unemployed. Here are other subjects:
- What do you do for a living? Where do you study or work?
- What was your first job?
- Who was your favorite boss?
- As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- What do you like most about your job?
- If money wasn't lacking, but you still had to work, what would your dream job be?
Step 9. Find out why the two of you are in this same place
If you've never seen each other before, there are countless unknown circumstances that brought you both to the same event. Ask things like:
- So, do you know the host?
- What is your relationship with the event?
- How do you find time to participate in events like this?
Step 10. Give a sincere compliment
Try to talk about something the person does, not what they are. This will keep the conversation going, as she will likely be talking about an ability of hers. Saying she has beautiful green eyes will generate a “thank you” and end the conversation. Speak with excitement when praising someone so that person will see that you are sincere. Here are some ideas:
- Me I loved your presentation! How long have you been playing the piano?
- You sounded so confident in your speech. How did you learn to give such good presentations?
- Your run was great. How long do you train per week?
Part 2 of 3: Extending the Conversation
Step 1. Keep the conversation light
You shouldn't expect fabulous conversations in the first interactions with someone – the intention is to generate connection and establish similarities. Your best chances are interesting and fun topics to talk about; adding a little (tasteful) humor to the topic can also help the conversation evolve.
- Avoid talking about life problems or negative situations. When a person starts looking at nothing and seems too far away, it is because they are unwilling to deal with bad things in what should be casual conversation. In reality, hardly anyone is.
- Most people try to use polite, interesting and light topics to discuss. A negative comment can tarnish the moment and disrupt the flow of conversation.
Step 2. Make room for silence
Silence doesn't necessarily have to be uncomfortable, it allows you to absorb the other's opinion, or to think about possible issues the person would like to discuss. Anyway, a nice break for both of us.
Silence will become uncomfortable if you become nervous or try to avoid it because of anxiety
Step 3. Share common interests
If you find that you both like to run, for example, spend more time talking about it. However, be aware that you will have to change the subject eventually. A running conversation that lasts longer than 45 minutes will be awkward for anyone.
- Talk about other people with the same interests, or discuss the accomplishments of people you both like. For example, you know who won the last season of series X, but one of you still knows what the winner has been up to since then.
- Talk about new equipment, controls, tactics, trinkets and the like, anything that has to do with your mutual interest.
- Suggest new things that can become common interests.
Part 3 of 3: Extrapolating the limits
Step 1. Open new horizons through hypothetical situations
As weird as it sounds, using “What if…” questions can drastically open up a conversation. Here are some ideas to provoke and inspire fun and philosophical conversation:
- Looking back on everything you've accomplished so far, what was the most important thing to you, or most beneficial to your community?
- If you could be rich, famous or influential, which of the three would you choose and why?
- Is this the best time of your life?
- If you could only have 10 things, what would you choose?
- If you had to choose five foods and two drinks for the rest of your life, what would they be?
- Do you believe in fate or that people make their own luck?
- What would you do if you had an invisibility cloak?
- Do you believe in free will?
- If you could be an animal for a day, which would you like to be?
- What is your favorite superhero? Why?
- If you could invite five historic personalities to your home for dinner, who would they be?
- If you won a million in the lottery tomorrow, what would you spend on?
- If you could be famous for a week, would it be for what reason? (Or, “Which celebrity would you like to be?)
- Do you believe in Santa Claus?
- Could you live without internet?
- What would be your dream vacation?
Step 2. Record the things that go right
Use these “success” subjects at other times and with others while they work.
Likewise, remember conversations that weren't very good and avoid the same topics in the future
Step 3. Read about current affairs
Find out what's going on in the world and talk to the person about what they think of the latest news events (they say you should avoid talking about politics, but if those involved are tolerant or agree on a point of view, it's a good topic to any other.)
Remember funny recent stories that make you and your company laugh
Step 4. Be brief
Knowing good topics is just part of a good conversation. How the conversation is conducted also matters. Get straight to the point, without traveling in mayonnaise.
Try not to ramble on a subject, or you risk losing the person's attention
- Don't just go out asking the questions listed above, this will make the person feel interrogated.
- Consider bringing up a topic about something close to you, rather than a random topic if you don't already know each other.
- Be friendly, don't offend anyone.
- When in a group, include everyone in the conversation; if you start talking to someone and find that others are just silently watching, the situation can get uncomfortable.
- Be bold and creative.
- Listen carefully to others, as their responses can lead you to the next topics of conversation.
- Think before you speak. You can't go back on what you've said and people will remember the conversations they had with you, so don't be rude. (Unless you want to be remembered this way.)
- A good way to keep the conversation balanced and flowing is to rotate the questions and answers. It doesn't have to look like a television game, but it's a nice way to have a good chat without anyone dominating the conversation.
- In a first conversation it is always good to avoid sarcasm, unless the person is; in that case you can have fun and tease her too. Take it easy – too much sarcasm sucks.
- Listen carefully and try to identify yourself. Later Have the person answer a question, try to relate your experience to something they said, or give your opinion, even if they don't ask.
- Read about what's new. Read the newspapers and browse social media to catch up on the day's interesting stories.
- Avoid giving monosyllabic answers as much as possible (such as Yes, not and well), unless you don't feel like talking.
- When meeting someone new, remember the person's name! It sounds simple, but it's much easier to forget. As soon as she says the name, try repeating the name 5 times in a row mentally.