Starting a conversation is difficult for most people. Here’s some key pointers to get your next conversation smoothly underway:
1) Smile. We know it’s simple, but Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People recommended smiling because of its power.
When a stranger approaches us, our minds use nonverbal signals like facial expressions to analyze if the person is a threat. A smile communicates you are a friendly and safe person to talk to.
2) Ask open-ended questions. If you don’t already know what an open-ended question is, it’s a question that elicits a response beyond yes or no. It puts bait on the ground for any shy creature to devour. Open-ended questions are a great way to start a conversation and get the person talking without you having to say much. Close-ended questions on the other hand, can be answered with a yes or no, and kill a conversation quicker than it began.
You can ask good open-ended questions by thinking about the room your conversational partner has for a response. Begin your questions with “What” and you’ll have the person talking with little effort. Examples include: “What brings you to this event?” “What’s the meaning behind that necklace?” and “What do you like about this party so far?”
3) Be funny. Don’t become a comedian, but a little humor is magic to any conversation. Humor quickly builds rapport with people. It connects people together.
Humor is very objective, but it helps to know that most humor in conversations is not funny. Notice what you and other people laugh at to see most stuff isn’t even funny. How can this be?We laugh in conversation mostly due to a release of tension. Humor isn’t an emotion, but a release of emotion. Look at what you joke over, learn from it, then replicate it.
4) Make people comfortable. Your smile, open-ended questions, and humor will make people comfortable, but use this fourth tip to put all three pieces of advice on steroids. Going into a start of a conversation with the intent to make people comfortable brings with you a sense of friendliness people pick up on. It’s hard to describe, but do what you can to release people’s discomfort.
If a person seems irritated when you approach them, there’s no point ignoring it. Use it as a conversation starter. Comment on it and ask if there’s something you can do for the person.
Here’s one simple example: “Hey. I noticed you were annoyed about the store being sold out of chicken. I was after some as well. What’s some good substitutes?” Merely addressing the issue can make it vanish instead of having the problem simmer throughout the conversation because you failed to face it at the beginning.
If you begin with a smile, ask an open-ended question, say something funny, and make people comfortable, you’ll be surprised at the effect your social skills will have on people. It will seem like magic.