How to Talk to Anyone and Start a Conversation

It is that time of year when there are more parties and social events than usual. Do you have work functions coming up? Have you been invited to a party where you hardly know anyone? Many of you will be looking forward to these occasions, yet for others, these are the sort of situations that cause stress as they start fretting about what they’re going to talk about.

It is often said that communication is an Art. We are not all blessed artists though. We weren’t born knowing how to speak, it is something we have to learn. The same goes for talking to people. As children we are told not to talk to strangers and as adults we are expected to say at least a few words in order to be polite. Whilst some could have a conversation with a wall, others struggle to know what to say. Sparking up conversations is not an easy feat. Making small talk can be difficult even if you’re an extrovert and it is particularly difficult for introverts. Here are some tips on how to enjoy making small talk.

Safe Topics of Conversation

There will be times when you meet and are expected to socialise with somebody who appears to have nothing in common with you. So what do you talk about if at first glance there is no common ground? There are a few universal topics of conversation that everybody should be able to partake in.

The Occasion
Talking about where you are and why you are there seems like a great first step. If you are at a work function it is also a good opportunity to find out more about what the person does. Talking about a person’s occupation is a sound starter. If it is something you are familiar with then you can add your comments and if it is not then it is a perfect opportunity to find out more. If you are at a social event you can ask how they know person x or y.

Weather
This is probably the number one topic that people who don’t really know each other will talk about. Even family and friends talk about the weather! You can say anything ranging from “Can you believe this weather?” to “I think we may be getting snow this year” or even “Wouldn’t it be nice to be in Hawaii right now?”

Current Events
Make small talk about the news, sports, your community, a TV show. Just be sensitive to the fact that some people are very passionate about sport teams or particular individuals. Try and stay away from potentially controversial topics such as sex, politics, religion and race as this may end up in a fiery exchange of words.

Recreation
Ask people about their interests and hobbies. This is a pleasant topic as people like talking about things they enjoy. If they don’t have anything to say you can always ask if they’ve seen any good films, plays or concerts recently.

Holidays
Recent or upcoming holidays. Find out if the person likes to travel. Have they been anywhere recently? Do they have any trips planned? What is their favourite foreign city? You will find that in general people like to share holiday stories, good and bad.

General tips:

Most people love to talk about themselves so all you need to do is get them going. Remember:

  • Avoid closed questions starting with ‘are’ or ‘do’ as these tend to lead to yes and no answers.
  • Questions starting with ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘who’ ‘where’ are opened ended and lead to fuller answers.
  • Keep the questions light and non intrusive. If the person is not being responsive continue to ask questions.
  • Greet people with a smile and look them in the eye. It may be hard at first but self confidence is a learned skill and an important part in starting a conversation.
  • If all this fails you still have a couple of options:
    1- Just let it go. Politely excuse yourself and move on. You can’t connect with everyone.
    2- Check the person for a visual clue that may give you something to talk about. It can be a watch, their clothes, shoes, a gadget, anything really. The main thing is to remember to say something positive and complimentary!

    Conversation topics are easy to come up with when you have a genuine interest in the person you are speaking with. If you like people and are willing to listen to what they have to say you will enjoy it. On the other hand, if you are forced to talk to someone and have no desire to do so, at least you have some topics you can refer to!

    I hope you find yourself having some interesting conversations. Just remember that interesting is a relative concept… I would love to hear about any memorable conversations you’ve had with strangers.

    Resources:
    Photos provided by Flickr users DailyPic and assboch

    One Response to “How to Talk to Anyone and Start a Conversation”

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