How to start a conversation with anyone and have amazing conversations
Have you ever wondered how to start a conversation with a stranger?
Do you have trouble talking to people you just met?
Do you run out of things to say mid-conversation?
Is it hard to wrap up a discussion and say goodbye?
For some people, the art of conversation is an inborn talent, but for many others, conversation is a difficult and awkward part of daily life. For those who weren’t born with the gift of gab, there’s good news -- conversation skills can be developed and mastered, even if they don’t come naturally to you. Conversation is a skill that can be practiced and improved, and it only requires a different approach than you can easily learn. We will show you how!
Conversation skills make life easier in many ways. Anyone with excellent conversational skills seems more charismatic and interesting, and if you can develop your own, it will help you form new friendships, nail job interviews, get dates, have fun at parties, and get along with your relatives. Good conversation may be the most important skill to master in life.
As you work on your conversation skills, you’ll get more and more opportunities to practice, and you’ll become increasingly better, faster. You’ll start to get invited to more social events, where you’ll have the opportunity to practice on more people. You might start to get more dates, where you’ll be able to practice getting to know someone new. It may soon become a fun project that compounds to improve your life in many ways.
Improving your conversational skills involves these key aspects:
- Talking and Listening: The best conversations are made up of a give-and-take between both people. Good communicators listen attentively to the other person so that they can respond with appropriate and engaging comments.
- Non-Verbal Communication and Eye Contact: In a conversation, your words are not the only form of communication. You talk with your hands, eyes, body language, and the tone and inflection of your voice.
- Attention and Enthusiasm: To keep the attention of your audience, you must convey energy and enthusiasm when you speak. Keep your audience engaged with continued personal interaction.
- Perception and Viewpoint: Your audience will interpret your words based on their own perceptions and past experiences. Consider your particular audience and how they are likely to interpret your message.
This article will show you exactly how to start a conversation, keep it going, and then end it at an appropriate and comfortable time. You’ll also learn the 5 secrets to making any conversation effortlessly successful!
Pay close attention to what the other person is saying so that you can respond with appropriate comments and follow-up questions. Showing interest in what the other person says will make them feel important. Listening is perhaps the most important conversational skill of all.
How to Start a Conversation
Introduce yourself to people you don’t know
A natural way to start a conversation with someone you don’t know is a basic introduction:
- "Hey, my name's Adam. Nice to meet you."
- "Hi. I'm Amy from (some company)."
- “Nice day we are having today isn't it? Oh, by the way, I'm Sarah.”
Ask the person how they ended up in the same situation as you
If you’ve met someone in a shared circumstance, you already share a connection with them just by being in the same place. You can easily use this as a way to start talking to them:
- "How long have you been working with this company?"
- "How do you know everyone else at the party?"
- "Did your company send you to this conference for training too?"
- “Did you have as hard a time as I did getting tickets to this event?”
Comment on the situation
You have found your target and want to get them talking about where you both are and what you are doing:
- “There sure are a lot of people at this event today.”
- "That class was pretty interesting, huh?"
- "Wow, it's so hot out today. Can you believe how humid it is?”
Ask a question
When meeting someone for the first time, you should be conservative in the questions that you ask, but most people will be receptive to a general friendly question:
- "Do you know the caterer for this event?"
- "I missed the first part of the lecture. Do you know where I can get the handout?”
- "Do you know when this place closes?"
- “I wonder who the DJ is for this event.”
Ask them a question about themselves
Questions about your audience can get them engaged with you right away:
- "So what are you taking in school?"
- "What do you do in the company?"
- Where did you go to college?”
- "What do you usually do on the weekend?"
Engage with your audience by asking questions and following up with your own comments. Dig deeper than simple Yes/No questions.
Make a statement about the other person
An observation or compliment about another person is a quick way to start a conversation, and most people will find it flattering:
- "I like your (shoes, hat, purse, shirt). Where did you get it?"
- “I really like your hairstyle/makeup/etc.”
- “I noticed your car and I’ve actually been thinking about getting that model. Do you like it?”
Ask a question or make a statement about a current media topic.
- "Have you seen (new popular movie)? What did you think of it?"
- "What do you think of (the latest development on a popular TV show)?"
- "I'm thinking of seeing (new popular movie). I saw the trailer for it. It looks awesome."
- "So I heard (something happened on a popular TV show). I think it's crazy that (character) is doing that now.”
Make a statement about yourself
Once you’ve met someone a couple times, you can give them an update about your current situation.
- "I'm really glad to have finished my final test for this semester."
- "I just got home from visiting my parents this weekend. They were..."
- "I just found out I'm picking up an extra shift for the next two days.”
- "So I heard back from my friend who's traveling in South America..."
Once you’ve established a connection with someone, ask them for an update on their life
- "So how was that trip to see your folks?"
- "How's school treating you? When do you finish up the semester?”
- "How was your daughter’s piano recital?”
- “How is the new baby doing?”
Ask the other person to do something simple for you
Asking for a small favor is a common way to break the ice or interact with someone in the same area or situation as you.
- "Do you have a light? / Do you have an extra smoke?"
- “Could you save my chair for me? I'll just be up for a second."
- "Should we exchange numbers in case we miss each other tomorrow?”
Ask them if they want to do an activity together
Finding a nearby activity partner is a great way to jump in.
- “Are you waiting to play with anyone? No? Want to play after these people are done?"
- "Want to dance?"
Simple greetings such as "Hello," "Hey," "What's up?" or "How's it going?"
Even though this is the most basic form of breaking the ice, it’s also successful in many situations:
- Get the conversation open to continue with follow up questions.
- The person looks friendly and like they want to talk to you.
- You're both not rushing somewhere else and want to chat.
How to Keep the Conversation Going
Now that you have gotten started and have your audience’s attention, it is important that you work on sustaining the dialogue to keep them engaged.
A general goal of making conversation is to connect with people by talking about something you’re both interested in. Ask routine getting-to-know-you questions until you hit on something you both want to talk about.
After the initial greeting, continue with some getting-to-know-you questions such as:
- "What do you do for work?"
- "What classes are you taking this semester?"
- "Do you have any kids?" How old are they? Girls or boys?"
- "How do you know Martin?"
- “I see you were talking to Bill. How long have you known him?”
These questions are common and predictable, so they’re low-effort and provide a cushioning period in which nervousness can dissipate. Play along and answer the questions that they ask you in return. Practice your listening skills so that you can give good answers.
- Even if the question is something you’ve been asked a million times, give the person a full answer because it’s the first time they’ve heard it.
- Avoid Yes and No responses. Give a little more detail than you normally would, which will help give the other person more to follow up with.
- As soon as the other person mentions something interesting, respond to it with questions or comments of your own.
- Whenever you can, find a hobby, activity, or some other commonality that you can use to lead the conversation in a more interesting direction.
Compliment something they’re wearing, ask a question about their family, or show interest in their career and hobbies.
Be willing to take the lead
If neither person is willing to take the lead, the conversation will die quickly while both people are waiting for the other to direct. If you want to develop your conversational skills, this is a great opportunity to step up.
- If you’re the first to as a getting-to-know-you question, you’ll be able to use one that you’re comfortable with and know you can answer yourself.
- Be willing to (politely) change the subject if you're on a topic that doesn't seem to be going anywhere.
- Be willing to do most of the talking until the other person becomes more comfortable.
These ideas are more advanced, and you’ll feel more comfortable with them as your skill level increases. Give them a try if you find that a conversation is fizzling out.
How to Think Of Things to Say When Making Conversation
Once you’ve started a conversation, you’ll need to keep it going. The following are suggestions on how to sustain a conversation with additional ideas or how to lead the conversation in a certain direction.
Short Term Approaches
Don't filter yourself too much when thinking of something to say
Often when in a conversation, people will filter out too many ideas and end up with nothing. You may stop yourself, thinking, “No, that’s too boring,” or “No, that’s too out of the blue.” This leaves you standing there silently while the situation becomes more and more awkward. It also steals away the passion and energy of the interaction. It’s usually in an attempt to sound smart or funny, but it robs you of the opportunity to sound sincere. Instead of censoring yourself too much, just spit out some ideas that pass through your head and see what happens.
Don't fret about saying generic things
We’ve all heard many time that we shouldn’t bore people with clichéd, unoriginal comments. Sometimes we get this message to the point that it paralyzes us in social situations. Yes, an overuse of puns and clichés can be annoying, but don’t let the fear of it paralyze you in conversation. Many clichés and metaphors are simply common ways of getting an idea across and will go unnoticed in everyday speech.
Elaborate on the things you have to say
When it’s your turn to talk, say more than “Fine,” or “It was good,” or “Yeah.” The more you offer, the more your audience has to connect with and respond to. Give you opinion, talk about what you did over the weekend, or tell a funny story from your life.
Pay attention and keep up with the conversation
It's always easier to come up with things to talk about when you really follow along with what everyone else is saying. When multiple people are talking, there are many more chances for you to respond or interject your own thoughts and ideas. Make sure to listen carefully so that you can identify those opportunities.
Prepare some topics ahead of time
Keeping up with current events and trends, such as political news or popular music, provides you with lots of topics to refer to. But only focus on those that you genuinely find interesting -- it’s important to stay true to yourself.
If you have nothing to contribute, ask questions instead
You might find yourself in a situation where someone is talking about something you have no prior knowledge about. If that’s the case, don’t try to bluff your way through it. Instead, ask questions about it so that you can learn more. They will appreciate how you’re showing interest in what they’re saying.
Finding common ground is the best way to start talking to someone and to initiate meaningful conversation.
Long Term Approaches
Get comfortable talking to people
If talking to people makes you feel anxious or insecure, you'll have a more difficult time simply because of your nerves. The best way to overcome this apprehension is to talk to people more frequently. Practice the skill.
Become more comfortable around certain types of people
We all have people we would rather not deal with for one reason or another, and certain types of people may make you nervous, unsure, or uncomfortable. Work at overcoming those apprehensions by forcing yourself to approach those who make you feel uneasy.
Learn to relate to a wider variety of people
It’s a fact of life that some people are just very different, with different life experiences, world views, opinions, and priorities. These differences can be fascinating, but they can also make it more difficult to relate, and you may feel like you have nothing to offer. Being well versed in culture, news, events, and hobbies outside of your own is a great way to be able to relate to a wider variety of people. It can also be immensely helpful to make an effort to put yourself in their shoes. If you try to understand the world from their point of view, you’ll be much easier to talk to, and you’ll learn something in the process.
With these tips and ideas in hand, you can sustain conversations and keep the momentum going. Good conversation is dependent upon mutual respect, engagement, interest, and feedback.
How to End a Conversation
Conversation Ending Basics
There are a few common reasons someone may want to finish a conversation:
- They have to see to their responsibilities and job duties
- The conversation is slowing and it’s time to end on a good note
- They're just not in a chatty mood and would rather not talk
- The person they're talking to isn't responding
The way someone may need to finish the conversation also depends a bit on the context:
- Running into someone while at work
- Chatting with someone at a party or networking event
- Talking with someone while on the phone
- Bumping into someone out in the community
- Sitting with someone on public transport
And how they end the conversation may depend on the context and the people's relationship with each other.
- If you already know the person, a quick, "I gotta run. I'll catch you later." will be acceptable in most situations.
- If you've just met the person in a social setting, something like, "It was good meeting you!" will do the trick.
When you start talking, try to figure out how long they can talk
It is easier to find a way to end your conversation when you have an idea of how long you have to talk. For example:
- If you start a conversation with someone running errands, they're probably not going to have a lot of time to talk, and will need to continue their shopping.
- If you're talking to someone on a work break, you have a limited time before you both need to be back at your desks.
- If you’re making a phone call for the purposes of speaking to a business, the call should usually be brief and only long enough to take care of the issue at hand.
- If you're chatting with someone at a party, you’ll have more time but shouldn’t monopolize their attention.
- If you end up sitting next to someone on the bus, there may be limited time before one of you has to get off at your stop.
It's okay to end a conversation quickly and cleanly
Sometimes people feel that they should end a conversation with a grand revelation or bold farewell. Most of the time this isn’t really necessary, and the conversation can be ended quickly and cleanly. Below are several different ways you could end a conversation.
Just wrap things up like normal
- "I gotta run. Good talking to you."
- "Well, I'm gonna go. I'll talk to you later, and feel free to call me if you need anything."
- "Alright, that sounds good. Take it easy.”
"Anyway, I'll let you get back to it..."
- "Anyway, it was good seeing you. I'll let you get back to your shopping."
- "Anyway, I'll talk to you more later. I'll let you get back to your work."
- “Anyway, I need to head back to the office. Keep in touch, ok?”
- “Anyway, I'm sure you have things to do. We'll continue this talk later.”
Use a practical reason to end the conversation
Day to day
- "It was good talking. I gotta finish these errands then pick up my kids."
- "Sorry I can't talk longer. I have a lunch date to get to.”
- "Let's talk more at lunch. I have a presentation to finish before 11:00."
At parties / bars / networking events
- "I've got to go find my friends."
- "I'm going to go grab another drink."
- "If you'll excuse me, I just saw someone I've need to catch up with."
- "I just have to head to the bathroom. I'll run into you later maybe."
- "I just got here so I'm going to mingle a little for now.”
Use non-verbal cues that show you're ready to end the conversation
- Standing up if you've been sitting down
- Starting to move towards the door or some other exit
- Glace at your watch or check your phone for messages
- Starting to give quicker, shorter responses to questions
- Looking more frequently at what you should be getting back to doing
- Shifting on your feet and looking around the room or area more often
Make a statement to summarize, then say you've got to go
- "Yeah, that movie's going to be wicked. I'm really looking forward to it. Anyway, I should get going. Nice seeing you!"
- "Wow, a lot's been happening in our families, huh? We'll have to talk more soon. I just noticed my friends have arrived. I'm going to say hi to them."
The only way to become a better conversationalist, get over your fears, and become more conformable approaching people is by practicing! Keep things simple without trying too hard to be funny or creative. Being yourself works best.
Sometimes you can exit a group conversation without having to formally bow out or say your goodbyes. Don’t just up and walk away, but stand and gesture to the exit or the bathroom and then slip away. You can also just give an acknowledging nod and a quick wave and then head off to whatever you need to get back to doing.
It can be confusing or unclear when someone ends a conversation with something along the lines of, "We'll talk soon," or "I'll get back to you about it later," or "Let's hang out and catch up more." Sometimes they literally mean these things, and sometimes they're just saying them as niceties. It's not necessarily that they dislike you or are being deceptive, but it can be a friendly way to end the conversation by including the opportunity to talk more at a later date.
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