Practical Communication

How to Start a Conversation: 5 Easy Techniques That Will Work In Any Situation

In last week’s post concerning office holiday party behavior, one of the recommendations was to engage at the party– to put yourself out there and get to know some new people.

However, many people hesitate to do this because they just don’t know how to start a conversation.

Here are some tips for striking up a conversation with a stranger wherever you might be- whether at a work function, social function, or even standing in line at the grocery store.

1. Introduce yourself. This is one of the easiest ways to get a conversation started. Simply getting up the nerve to walk up to someone and say, “Hi, I’m Amy.” You might also consider adding some additional information. For example, if the event is a work function, you might mention what you do or what department you’re from. If it’s a neighborhood or community function, you might mention where you live, or your connection to the community group.

2. Refer to the event. If you’re standing around and someone you’d like to speak with is standing next to you, you might say, “There sure are a lot of people here,” or “They really did a great job with the decorations (or food).” Any type of positive comment can help break the ice. However, never start off with a negative comment, if you think the food is bad, keep that thought to yourself. You never know, the person standing next to you might have been the one to make it.

3. Ask people about themselves. People like to talk about themselves, therefore, a simple question about what they do for a living, where they work, or what they think about the event, will generally get them talking and a conversation started.

4. Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions encourage people to elaborate, whereas closed-ended questions will result in a one word or yes/no response. Rather than asking, “You volunteer at the animal shelter, right?” instead ask, “What is it like working at the animal shelter?”

5. Provide a sincere compliment. A compliment about holiday earrings, an attractive tie, or a unique watch will put you on the other person’s “nice” list quickly. Then, you can always follow up with questions that ask for more details about the item, such as where it came from, how long the person has had it, etc.

Finally, remember that these tips will only help you get the conversation started. You need to be able to keep the conversation going by being a good listener, opening up about yourself without becoming a “stage hog,” and showing sincere interest in the other person.

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