The goal of all conversations is connection.
Whether we’re delivering a speech, making small talk, or telling jokes, the objective is always to find some common ground to stand on. Human connection is arguably the most important part of life. Without forming bonds, life is meaningless.
The great rapper Jadakiss once brilliantly said, “I’d rather be broke together than rich alone.”
I think most people resonate with that sentiment. Money is important, but it’s useless if we don’t have people to share it with. This is why connections are important. Forming those connections always starts with a conversation.
Despite its importance, starting a conversation is difficult for many people.
Social Media Helps People Connect Too
However, it’s a big mistake to be afraid of making the first move and waiting for someone else to do it.
The good news is that even if you’re shy and have difficulty connecting with people in person, you can use social media to start conversations that lead to connections.
As reported in a new Tendermeets article, it is easier than ever to find a lover in this modern world with everyone being just a click or a swipe away. Even if you’re just looking to find like-minded friends, the following tips will also work to build your platonic social network as well. If you want to know how to start a good conversation, just follow these steps.
Body language is the secret of communication
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” - Peter F. Drucker
If you can read body language, you have an incredible advantage in social situations. Whether it be talking to a group of people or having a deep one-on-one conversation, your communication will always excel. Why is this?
In 1971, Professor Albert Mehrabian published *The Silent Message, *a book covering Mehrabian’s communication research. He discovered that body language carries approximately 55% of the information conveyed in communication. Tone of voice accounts for 38% and the words used are only responsible for 7%. (Source)
This means that if you can’t read body language, you’re missing at least half of what a person says to you during a conversation.
It should be no surprise then that your body language is very important when it comes to starting a conversation. You need to be able to both read body language and display body language that signals you are open to the possibility of small talk.
Instead of keeping your head down and protected, you should have your shoulders back, your head held high, and a small smile on your face. Think of this as keeping your body in an “open” position.
This position makes you more inviting. If you’re introverted and shy, it’s crucial that you keep an open demeanor so people want to start a normal conversation with you.
Before someone says a word to you, they’re judging your presentation. How you hold yourself is responsible for your first impression. Good body language makes you attractive. Bad body language makes you repulsive.
The rules are similar for extroverts.
The only difference is that an extrovert has to put much greater emphasis on reading the body language of the person they want to talk to. Not only that, but they have to listen to the tone of voice.
A complete treatise on how to read body language is beyond this article, but when talking to someone, ask yourself: “Does this person look or sound comfortable?”
Your main goal is to make them display body language of comfort and interest. The worst thing you can do is make a person close off themselves and their body to you.
Whether you’re introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in between, the rules are simple. Look like someone who is:
- Pleasant to talk to
- Interested in making new friends
- Able to string together a few words to form a sentence
The goal is to be open and receptive rather than closed and repulsive. If you keep this in mind, your tone of voice and physical demeanor will reflect that state of mind.
*Bonus points: Keep your hands out of your pockets and definitely not behind your back like you’re in the military; that counts as closed body posture.
Build empathy and make the person feel like you care
“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care” - Theodore Roosevelt
When people feel like you care about them, they start to care about you. They care about where you’ve been, what you’re doing, and how things make you feel. A conversation between two strangers starts to sound like the reunion of best friends.
A powerful way to start a conversation is to make the person feel like you care.
Don’t talk about yourself or your problems. When they’re talking, don’t even think about how you’ll respond. Simply ask open-ended questions that give the person an opportunity to open up. When awkward silences and pauses show up, only then do you reply with your own perspective and thoughts.
The objective isn’t to barrage a person with questions about their favorite things. Constantly asking question may seem like you’re showing that you care, but it just comes off as awkward and obtrusive.
Think about how many times you’ve talked with your best friends and it was just a one-sided barrage of questioning. This has likely never happened to you. You don’t want the interaction with you to be someone’s first time experiencing this interview-style questioning either.
My Awful Experience With This Conversation Technique
Just recently I was in an Uber, and the driver tried to start a conversation, but he couldn’t figure out that people don’t respond well to an unending barrage of questions. I tried to be friendly with him, but the conversation felt so contrived, awkward, and forced.
There was no flow to the conversation because this guy didn’t actually care about anything I had to say. I knew this because rather than elaborate, dig deeper on ideas, and offer his experiences to build rapport, he just followed up with more questions.
I’m not saying that it’s not a good idea to talk about yourself.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ask questions.
I’m just saying that you should never forget why you ask the questions in the first place. Position yourself to go deeper and build an empathetic connection.
You have to show interest and then build a connection. Most people love to talk about themselves but they love even more to make new connections and feel understood.
Intimate Superficiality And The Dance of Conversation
Think of a conversation as a delicate dance.
For every open-ended question you ask, listen for activities that you have in common or experiences you resonate with. Whatever resonates, share your thoughts/experiences with it, but don’t focus on yourself. I call this “intimate superficiality”.
This is a great way to talk about something you’re passionate about with someone else who is passionate about it, but not hijack the conversation and make it about yourself.
For example, I love cats. If you mention that you have cats, I listen to the context in which you bring them up. Maybe you mention your cats are black. In response, I show you pictures of my black cat and I tell the story of how I named him. Or I mention how cruel it is that people get black cats from the shelter for messed up rituals on Halloween.
In the first example, I used a personal story that revolves around the topic, but it allows us to connect on the superficial commonality of us both having black cats. In the second example, we connect over knowledge about the thing that we have in common. In both cases, I’m not the subject; the thing we have in common is.
Follow-up questions will arise naturally and before you know it you’ll have a full-fledged conversation going.
Humor is a great conversation starter
“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.” –Maya Angelou
Laughter and smiles are universal. Comedian Victor Borge once said, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” If you grasp the implications of this beautiful poetry, then you know that nothing is a better conversation starter than something to laugh at.
Laughter is bonding. If we ever doubted this before, there is some fascinating research that empirically proves what we’ve always intuitively suspected.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina have shown that the more we laugh together, the more similar we feel to one another.
Laughter makes it easier for us to connect and find common ground. If you can make a person laugh, they will be much more eager and willing to talk to you. The challenge, of course, is how to make people laugh.
Learning how to make people laugh is a topic that is beyond this post, but there are some great resources out there. However, I can still give you three quick tips that will improve your sense of humor and conversational skills:
- Comment on things that you personally find funny
- Before you make fun of another person, learn to make fun of yourself
- Be irreverent but not disrespectful
- Find the humor in little things in life
These tips also work to create dating and pick-up opportunities.
If you can mix humor and intrigue in your conversation, you don’t need to have underwear model looks to meet women.
Instead, you can make women interested by leading the conversation, maintaining eye contact, and presenting great body language. Combine all of this with great humor. Old school pimps and players on the street call this “having a mouthpiece”.
If you have a good mouthpiece, you can open up many dating opportunities for yourself, even if you aren’t the best-looking guy.
Warning: you don’t want to tell off-color jokes to someone that you just met.
However, a little self-deprecating humor shows that you’re self-confident enough to poke light fun at yourself. Be careful with this as well. You don’t want to come off as a clown monkey who’s speaking on command. That behavior reeks of insecurity just as much as the person who takes offense at every little jab thrown their way.
If you can make a person laugh, then you can get them to open up to you. Sometimes the most powerful conversation starter is just commenting on your environment in a light and humorous way.
Asking for help skips the small talk
“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”–Mandy Hale
Before you can start a conversation, it helps if you have someone’s attention. The problem with most ways to grab attention is that they’re obnoxious. If you don’t want to be obnoxious, then you need to find another way.
You should always look the part of someone who looks like they’re going to offer great conversation. This means dressing well, grooming, and personal style.
Dress like a man
Conquer mediocrity, kill complacency, feel better about yourself, and show up better to the rest of the world by learning how to dress intentionally.
If you’ve decided you’re sick of not dressing like the man you know you are, that you’re tired of people not taking you seriously before you even have the chance to open your mouth, that you’re done dressing like an overgrown child, this program is for you.Learn more here
Once you have those things down, then comes making sure your body language is on point. If you’ve taken care of your presentation, and you’re still looking for a great “conversation starter”, then I suggest asking for help.
We’re all familiar with the innocuous question “What time is it?” and then trying to awkwardly transition into follow-up questions from there. That can work, but it’s far more effective to put yourself in places where you’re the student and you can be instructed. This means joining groups, taking classes, and learning new things.
This is more of a permanent method to start a conversation but more than that, it’s a great way to start a friendship.
Whether you’re at work or at school, you can ask anyone to explain anything they know and you don’t. It can be as technical as a math problem, as benign as directions to a place, or common sense as figuring out an app on your phone. These all give you an excuse to get a conversation going and it’s easy to follow up from there.
When all else fails, give a compliment
“I can live for two months on a good compliment.”–Mark Twain
Sincere flattery never hurts your chances of getting someone to talk to you. Giving a compliment accomplishes 4 things that make it easy to get a good conversation going:
- It makes someone feel like you care
- To be effective, it requires strong body language and good eye contact
- It’s an easy segway into interesting conversation surrounding what you compliment
- It makes a person smile, which has a bonding effect similar to laughing
When in doubt, you can always start a conversation with a compliment.
Sometimes, that can be as simple as telling someone that you really like the shirt that they’re wearing, then posing a follow-up question about where they got it or how much it cost.
If you’re giving the compliment with a romantic intention, you can focus on things about a person’s innate appearance or characteristics that you like. In this category are things like physical features and tone of voice.
This may seem like an odd way to start a conversation, but you’ll immediately know if the person has any interest in talking to you.
A Summary Of The 5 Simple Ways To Start A Conversation
- Learn to read body language
- Make the person feel like you care
- Have a sense of humor
- Ask for help
- Give a compliment
Starting a conversation doesn’t have to be difficult.
Whether you’re trying to make a new friend or lover, you’ll have a much better chance by following these tips.
Once you’ve got the conversation started, the rest is up to you.