Have you ever cautiously approached a table full of fellow professionals at a lunch meeting, petrified to introduce yourself and chat them up? Or walked tongue-tied into a social gathering, facing a sea full of unfamiliar faces? Don’t fret, because we have some proven ways to break the ice and be that smooth talker who befriends strangers anywhere he or she goes.
What To Say First?
The easiest way to drum up the courage to start a conversation with a stranger is by simply introducing yourself. Social life expert David Morin says a straight forward “Hi, I’m David. How are you doing?” will work wonders in enticing the other person to engage in a friendly chat.
Make An Observation
You can extend a compliment about the social event you’re at, the person’s outfit, hair, the guest speaker at the lunch meeting, whatever compliment you think would be pleasant and well received by anyone, Morin noted. But don’t go overboard with your praise. Do not use subjective words that aren’t appealing to everyone.
Inquire About The Person’s Presence There
You can ask how the person knows other people present and why they’re attending the event, but don’t come across as nosy. Are they employed by a business that is in the same industry as others at a lunch meeting? Are they friends with the host of a party? Morin recommended keeping the conversation flowing with this subject.
Focus On Your New Friend
Be sure to not only start a conversation with genuine questions, but to keep the focus of the conversation two-thirds on your new acquaintance and one-third about yourself. Ask him or her where the person lives, if they like it, etc. You never know, you just might find some common ground with this subject. But don’t worry if you don’t share a lot of similarities; it isn’t necessary to narrow the window of newness between you and this stranger. Also, be sure the conversation doesn’t sound like a job interview with you grilling your new acquaintance, Morin said. Keep the tone conversational, light and casual, where it flows easily between the two of you. Be sure to share snippets about yourself to counterbalance this person’s bits and pieces he or she is offering to the conversation.
Work Or School
This is usually a great subject to start a conversation with, Morin emphasized. Strangers often will chat quite a bit about where they work, what they do, how much they enjoy their job or career, or where they attend school and what they’re studying. Don’t focus too much of the conversation on careers, though, unless you’re at a work function, because that line of conversation can dry up quickly. But you might find mutual interests and speaking about something familiar often puts people at ease.
Avoid Current Events
While some individuals enjoy chatting up the latest happenings and big news, some people aren’t comfortable talking about these heavier subjects. Morin said it also can cause a conversation to take a wrong turn if a controversial or sensitive subject crops up.
How About Hobbies?
If you start a conversation revolving around a stranger’s interests and hobbies, you may tap into a vein that starts him or him talking for some time. Morin said there’s potential for more gently prodding questions, such as “How did you get started?” and “How do you do that?”
So the next time you find yourself in a room of strangers, find someone who looks open and friendly, walk up, extend your hand for a handshake and simply say, “Hi! We haven’t met yet.” Then confidently steer the flow of conversation between the two of you. You just might find yourself networking with a key player in your profession or making a new friend.