TryDay: How to Start a Conversation
I love a good try at something- so I'm hoping to have some fun with Fridays by calling it TryDay - because that's supa fun, right? Right.
So, here's our first topic of conversation: How to Start a Conversation! (Why does that make me so happy that my first conversation is how to start a conversation?) Is it hard for you to start conversations? Is it hard for you to STOP starting conversations? (I'm looking at you, lady who keeps stopping me in the hallway.) For some it can be difficult or anxious - but trust me, it's a learned skill, just like anything else is! One thing: this list has to do with people you don't know - this is not about friendships where there is a foundation to start from. But how do you know taking the risk to start a conversation with someone won't lead to a friendship?? Try it!
How to Start a Conversation
1. Actually, don't always start a conversation: Read the room, people. Work is work. Church service beginnings are church service beginnings, mothers in grocery store lines with small children can be at high stress, people who are walking very quickly to get somewhere...all these spots? Not necessarily spots in which to begin a conversation with someone. If someone is in a rush or needs to go, don't get all hurt by that, just know that it's not always the right time for a twenty minute chat (where you're taking up 19.87 minutes of the chat talking about yourself.)
2. Which leads to my second point: Say hi. That's it. HI. Move on. And saying hi? Number one way to make friends: Hello. Hi. I see you. You are here. You look fun, I'd like to get to know you. Please move so I can reach the coffee machine. All things you can say with a simple smile and hello and NO WORDS. Funny how smiles work. You've now started it! Next time you see them, "Hi", comma, ...slight pause... and then, be adventurous and add a question! Wow, you go, you sweet talker, you.
3. Have questions ready. There's a new coffee shop opened by our house and I've gone three times so far, and the thing I notice is their questions to us as we sit waiting for our order: "Any big plans today?" "What's something fun you've done today?" I'm thinking it's a marketing ploy, but hey! It's working! So have those questions ready - here are some ideas:
-Have you been here before?
-Any ideas for fun places to try around here for lunch/dinner/coffee?
-How long have you lived here? Where did you move from/grow up?
(If the conversation goes longer....)
-What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
-If you could have any job, what would it be?
4. To continue the conversation, don't shut the person down. Here's an example of what I mean: A lady I hardly knew asked me about my makeup. I answered with where I got the makeup, what the store name was and how much I liked the brand, etc. Her response? "Oh, I don't spend money on makeup, I barely wear it and just grab something at the drugstore where it's cheap."Silly example, but it completely shut me down along with a side of guilt that I am so foolish with money and completely shallow as a person (okay, maybe she didn't exactly say that....but...)
If you ask a question of someone, allow them to answer, and then let that answer be, or follow up with how great their answer is! In the example above, she could have answered, "Oh, I've never been to that store, thanks for the tip!" Simple. And in this case, she was the one who had asked - I hadn't brought it up. This is a basic example, but oh, please make sure you don't shut people down -it actually can be terribly hurtful if it's a personal or deeper topic.
5. Don't always answer with your own story. Oh my word, conversation killer, right? Listen to the story. Then, ask a question about it or follow up with a "I'm so sorry you're going through that." Maybe, just this once, don't share your own way-you're-amazing-because-you-suffer-so-much.
6. Give a compliment. Who doesn't love a compliment? "You did a great job in your lecture today, can you help me understand your second point a bit better?" "I follow you on Twitter and think your topic is interesting - thanks for doing that work!" "How did you get into [whatever the talent is]?" A person I hardly know gave me a compliment this week in front of a group and it totally encouraged me. And what exactly did it cost him? Nothing. Zero. Give a compliment!! Hand them out like they're free samples from the bakery. Who doesn't like some sugary goodness??
6. And the final tip? Practice being friendly. To the grocery store worker who's been standing on his feet for hours: "How much longer do you have on your shift?" To the person standing beside you on the train: "Hi." To the older lady entering the restaurant in front of you: "I like your pretty dress." A lot of times conversations might not fit the situation but being friendly always works and a smile always fits.
Are you a good conversation starter or does it make you feel super awkward and self-conscious? What's your favorite go-to question?