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10 of the Most Effective Ice Breakers for Starting Meaningful Conversations

10 of the Most Effective Ice Breakers for Starting Meaningful Conversations

Whether you want to start a conversation with a new guy or girl you find attractive or you want to get a training session off to a great start, a good ice breaker can help you make a memorable first impression. It can turn that first encounter with someone new into something wonderful that blossoms into lasting friendships and valuable partnerships.

A bad ice breaker, however, can be a recipe for disaster. It can spiral out of control pretty quickly and at best be a terrible waste of time or worse an embarrassment for everyone involved. So, how do you start a meaningful conversation with someone new and avoid embarrassments or awkward moments of silence? Where do you begin?

Tips for initiating a Conversation

Understand that it is normal to feel a bit nervous when approaching someone new. Everyone gets a little shy at first; after all, you don’t know what this other person is like. The person could be a grumpy, mean guy, but the only way to know for sure what the person is like is to get over being shy and approach them. That person might turn out to be the nicest, kindest person you ever meet.

Start by filling your idea vault with possible ice breakers to start a conversation and follow-up questions to sustain the conversation. Listen attentively to the other person’s responses because this can make or break your follow-up questions. To help you out with ideas for starting a conversation, here are ten of the most effective ice breakers you can use in different scenarios to get a conversation off and running.

1.  “How are you doing today, miss?”

A genuine hello accompanied by a heartwarming, three second smile is one of the most basic, highly effective ice breakers there is. Often, we brush simple things aside as being too simple not realizing the simplest things can have the biggest impact in life.

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Think about the people who say “good morning” or “howdy” to their neighbors. This simple greeting is usually followed up with “how are you” or “how are the kids?” Before long, the two parties are talking about their families and even favorite sports teams.

2.  “Nice earrings!”

This comment represents a classic technique that is quite effective for starting a conversation. Regardless of whom you are talking to, saying something genuinely nice about their outfit, accessories or even mood will usually be received well.

The person receiving the compliment will thank you and possibly say something nice about you in return. In doing this, a dialogue begins. Keep the dialogue going by asking a question like “Where did you buy the earrings? I really like them.”

3. “Does this shop always have such long queues?”

Simply commenting on an unpleasant or uncomfortable situation that you both experience in your immediate surroundings is another effective strategy for starting a conversation. You can comment about a long bathroom line or wobbly waiting-room chair.

By focusing on an unpleasant situation that you both find yourselves in and subtly complaining about it, you cleverly suck the other person into an unwitting pact that unites both of you against a common enemy.

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4. “Chicago really is the windy city!”

Yes. Talk about the weather. It may sound clichéd, but it works wonders in real life. People talk about the weather all the time—It’s a topic everyone has an opinion on. Think of how you have an opinion about what dress or fashion choice is right for different weather.

Once the person responds, you can ease into the conversation with “small talk” like, “The wind is so strong; it nearly blew me over!”

5.  “Oh, did you hear about…”

Kick-start a conversation with a description of an interesting, entertaining and/or funny story. Get right in to your story description and then allow the other person to make a remark or share an opinion of the story.

If your story is interesting enough, there really is no telling where it could take the ensuing dialogue and for how long you could stretch the conversation once your new friend gets on board.

6.  “What kind of drink is that?

People love eating and drinking. If the person you want to start a conversation with has a nice-looking drink or a delicious-looking burger, comment on how delicious (or not delicious) the burger is. Alternatively asks her what kind of drink she’s having.

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When she replies, follow up with something like “Do you really like it?” or ” Can I buy you another?” Introduce yourself and don’t forget to flash your best charming smile.

7.  “That’s a lovely name; are you named after someone?”

This works especially well in a workplace setting, business meeting or conference where people are wearing name tags. If she has an interesting name, walk up to her and say something like “Camille, lovely name. What’s the origin of the name?”

She’ll probably be excited to tell you about her French name and before you know it, a conversation has ensued. If her name is ordinary or common, however, you might not find too many interesting questions to ask.

8.  “Hello, do you work here?”

This also works well at a workplace or business setting where people are wearing name tags. Even if you know the answer, ask whether he works there anyway. If you know some people who work at his company or retail store, mention them to him.

Follow up with related questions like “What do you do here?” “Have you been working here a long time?” “Do you like it here?” “What’s your favorite/worst part of your job?

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9. “People call me David, but you can call me TONIGHT.”

Okay, telling a joke is easier said than done. Jokes can be tricky, but they’re some of the best conversations starters you can throw at someone new. They help the other person see a witty, fun and likeable side of your personality.

That said, unless you’re really confident about your joke-telling skills, it’s probably a good idea to avoid them or start with a self-deprecating joke. You can’t possibly offend yourself, can you?

10.  “Excuse me, I just thought I should come over and talk to you.”

Sometimes the best and most fun ice breaker is honesty. Walk up to her and just be honest. Tell her you want to talk to her. Point out how awkward and funny the situation actually is for both of you and that you are trying to make the best of it.

Honesty really can be the best policy. Who doesn’t love a refreshing bout of honesty, any way?

There you have itten of the most effective ice breakers you can use to initiate a meaningful conversation with someone new.

Over to you now. What are your best conversation starters? Do you have any tips you can share?

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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