“Ideal conversation must be an exchange of thought, and not, as many of those who worry most about their shortcomings believe, an eloquent exhibition of wit or oratory” – Emily Post
Starting a conversation to get to know someone or break an awkward silence can be very stressful.
To start a conversation when you have nothing to talk about, use these guidelines:
1) BREAK THE ICE
- Look approachable
- Tell the person your name
- Offer your handshake
2) REMARK ON THE OCCASION or LOCATION
Look around and see if there’s anything worth pointing out. Use the context ! E.g:
- So, what brings you here?
- Such an incredible place isn’t it ?
- How’s the wine?
- How’s is the food?
- How do you know the host?
3) ASK OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS
People love to talk about themselves and it’s your place as the conversation starter to get them going. They are 2 types of questions:
Open-ended: “What sort of books do you like”, what did you study at university, which is your favorite season, Why? What are you doing right now ? What are the places you’re usually going to?
Closed: DO you like books? Have you been to university? Is spring your favorite season? DO you come here often …?
It’s obviously better to ask open-ended question to allow the conversation to keep going on other topics.
4) KNOW HOW TO COMBINE GENERAL REMARK AND OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS
The best thing is to combine General remark and Open ended question to avoid awkward/out of place questions, eg: “This is a nice Handbag, where did you get it?…
This keeps the conversation light and simple which is specifically useful for people who are still getting to know one another better.
If the person you’ve just met has started talking, follow his cues to keep the conversation going smoothly.
Use active listening to reflect what they’re saying and to summarize their possible feelings.
Use words such as “See”, “imagine”, “feel”, “tell” etc.. to encourage the other person to keep painting a descriptive picture as part of their conversation.
Keep the conversation going
Keep the conversation going and avoid lulls or directionless chitchat:
- Have any big vacation plans coming up?
- Tried any new restaurant lately?
- Working on any personal passion projects?
- What is your favorite restaurants around here?
- Keeping up with ___ sport recently?
- Did you see that viral article about___? It’s all over social media today!
Stories are incredibly powerful.
When you tell a story, your brain syncs up with you listener
Stories capture imagination
No one has heard your stories before. Since they are unique to you they cause sparks that make you memorable.
When you answer to a question, try to use anecdote!
WARNING: Stories are great but, don’t be a conversational narcissist. Make sure you do equal talking and listening by asking for their stories as well.
You know when you ask someone a question and they answer but, don’t ask you back? Like you ask, “Where are you from? “And they say “Paris” and… then silence. We expect reciprocity in conversation.
When someone asks you something, ask back.
If I told a story, ask for theirs.
If you tell a joke, ask if they have heard any good ones recently.
Stop using social scripts!
Have more quality conversation than quantity conversation.
It’s refreshing to talk about more meaningful areas of our lives.
Talking about life view, ethic, projects and principles allows to create a deeper connection with your interlocutor and will create great conversations.
Everyone wants to feel important!
If you try to make someone feel important by valuing their opinions, time or feelings and being interested, YOU will be attractive and interesting to them.
If you are interrupted in the conversation by someone else, try to let the other person finish his conversation before responding to the other. It’s a mark of respect and will be really appreciated by your interlocutor.
6) HOW TO EXIT A CONVERSATION
Sometimes, the art of last impression is just as hard as nailing the first impression. Exit gracefully with the following sentences for example:
- Future mention: Well, I can’t wait to seeing you at that event next month, I’ll email you!”
- Try a joke related to the topics you discussed
- Have to see that!: I’ll send you the link I told you about !, was great talking to you !”
Conversation is the heart of connection. Be interested, abandon social scripts and dig deep with people you meet.
Hope these tips to start a conversation will help you for your next networking event or any other new connection you’ll have ! 🙂
Thanks a lot for reading and let me know what you feel about this in the comments !