How to Start a Conversation With Anyone
Tips and tricks you can use at your next networking or social an event
I recently attended a friend’s wedding in Oregon. The venue was fantastic, and I met a lot of interesting, fun people. I walked around making small talk with people I didn’t know, and it was a blast!
While talking to a friend and his girlfriend, a fascinating question came up.
She asked, “How do you start a conversation with anyone? I get so nervous when meeting new people.” I thought about that question and realized that not everyone could walk up to others and start a conversation.
In fact, for a lot of people, these events are a source of anxiety and worry.
I then remembered that I have also, at times, felt that sense of stress when attending these events.
I want to share a few strategies I use when meeting new people for the first time. Before I dive into the tips, let’s investigate why this is a common issue many people face.
“An estimated 12.1% of U.S. adults experience a social anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.” - National Institute of Mental Health.
That 12.1% is approximately 40 million people in the U.S alone! In other words, one in ten people suffers from social anxiety at some point in their life. That is not a small number, and when experiencing any form of stress, the most challenging part of doing something is just starting it.
You can reduce some of that anxiety and worry by simply taking a breath, maybe exercising before an event, and having a little script on interacting with others in a relaxed way.
Here are my top four pieces of advice to start and keep a conversation going.
Give a Complement
The simplest and most effective way to speak to someone you do not know is to give a compliment. Think about it, who doesn’t like a compliment. It is a way to non-invasively start talking to someone and gives you both something to talk about.
Ask Them about Themselves
Now that you are talking, you have two options. Continuing with the conversation or politely saying it was nice to meet them and moving on.
Think of it as a game you choose your adventure, there is no right or wrong path.
You may be wondering why wouldn’t introducing yourself be first? It can go first, but this is not optimal when meeting new people in a stressed state.
Since most people are filled with anxiety when meeting someone for the first time, learning or remembering a new person’s name right off the bat can be challenging, if not impossible.
Asking for their name after talking for a little while can help you to remember it!
All you have to say is, “I apologize. I just realized I hadn’t introduced myself yet. I’m Travis, what is your name?” obviously, do this when they ask you about yourself, not in the middle of their sentence.
If you say something awkward, don’t worry. I have had my share of embarrassing moments, and they pass. But If you find yourself in that situation, let them know you are nervous. Most of the time that is all you need to, and you’ll move past it and keep the conversation going.
Most importantly, Have fun.
These tips are mean to help start and keep a conversation going.
Remember, there is no perfect blueprint for every interaction. You will find you click with some people better than others. In those cases, the conversation might just come naturally. I try to focus on learning and having fun when meeting other people, which calms my anxieties.
I hope these tips help!
Thanks for reading this article! Be sure to follow me on Twitter to get the latest tips, tricks, and news about programming, tech, and soft skill development. Leave a comment below if you have any questions.