We are going to go over 10 easy conversation starters that always work. Make sure to read until the end of the article so you can master the art of verbal communication and become a better conversationalist by learning about and incorporating these 10 simple questions that are guaranteed to spark some great conversations in every area of your life.
Conversations are an integral part of our everyday lives. We use them to socialize, communicate our feelings, ideas, thoughts, and moods. We converse in a lot of different ways – via phone, e-mails, text messages, online chat rooms, but the power of face-to-face conversation cannot be overstated. While we talk to someone in person, they hear not only our words – they also pick up on the so-called paraverbal cues: the messages transmitted through the tone, pitch, and pacing of our voices. According to research, paraverbal cues account for about 35 to 40 percent of what is communicated, which means they should be taken into serious consideration when talking about conversation starters. There are also, of course, nonverbal cues – our facial expressions and postures and gestures – which can, along with paraverbal cues, completely change the meaning of a phrase that we are attempting to start a conversation with.
People often make conversational mistakes that make them less efficient at starting and maintaining conversations. Some of those errors can be the so-called errors of commission, which happen when we say things we shouldn’t, and errors of omission, which occur when we don’t say the things we should. Some psychological factors can also interfere with our ability to start a conversation. For example, introverted people are often not the best conversationalists when it comes to communicating with new people. They may display shyness, awkwardness or boredom, which can impede their ability to start and maintain interesting conversations with new people.
There is also always a question of different topics that people can use to start conversations and different tactics they can use to seamlessly incorporate certain topics that can generate conversation. Professor Alison Wood Brooks from the Harvard business school has identified, through her research, tactics people should use more in conversations than they usually do: seeking advice, issuing apologies, revealing personal failures, carefully labeling emotions and asking questions (especially follow-up questions). She also identified tactics that people often use, but shouldn’t: inappropriate jokes in the workplace and backhanded compliments. When it comes to topics of conversation, they can range from general to very specific. For conversation starters, general topics are easier to use, and they usually include topics such as the weather, food, clothes, music, culture, movies, and so on. Specific topics can be used in specific settings or situations. Divisive topics such as politics, news reports, and religion should probably be avoided.
With all of that in mind, let’s start listing the best and the easiest examples of conversation starters that will make you an expert in starting conversations in no time.
1. “How are you doing today?”
This simple and classic question is an undeniably powerful ice-breaker when it comes to starting a conversation. If said with a slight, warm smile and friendly posture, leaning slightly toward the other person in a non-threatening way and showing real interest, it can spark an interesting back and forth with anyone and within any context – with a stranger in the street, a passenger in public transportation, a co-worker in the workplace, a neighbor, a girl you like, an estranged friend or family member. Accentuating “you” in this question shows interest in that particular person, and in this day and age when people are mostly reserved, uninterested in other people’s lives, or just too busy to even have the time to hear the answer to the question, it can pleasantly surprise the person you asked that and make them more likely to want to keep the conversation going.
2. “Do you need some help?”
This is another classic conversation starter, and for a very good reason. It is a polite question that indicates your willingness to provide help to someone who may need it. If asked genuinely, with body language that signals that you are truly interested in helping, it can do wonders for getting into interesting conversations. By accentuating the word „help“ with a friendly facial expression, you will be able to circumvent the awkwardness of the other person thinking that you may be insinuating they are less capable of doing something by themselves. The fact that this seems like an obvious choice for a conversation starter shouldn’t discourage you from using it in an honest and genuine way.
3. “It’s really freezing cold/pouring/sunny today, isn’t it?”
Never underestimate the power of the weather talk. It might seem trite and boring, but it is neutral enough to start a conversation that could go into a million directions, and if asked politely, but with a gentle smile and in a non-generic way, it can make another person feel noticed in a world where people in the streets hardly have the time, energy or will to talk to anyone they don’t have to. It’s also neutral enough to allow people who don’t usually like talking about themselves to strangers to start talking.
4. “Could you point me to a decent place where I could have something to eat around here, please?”
People love talking about food and restaurants. It is a universal topic that can easily spiral into compelling conversations about exotic food, expensive wines, Italian cuisine, and many other topics. Accentuating the word “could“ implies that you are polite enough to decently ask for help, and there’s always a possibility that the person you asked will join you.
5. “Excuse me, I love your jacket – may I ask where you bought it?”
Sincere compliments are always a great way to start a conversation. Compliments about someone’s appearance may prove to be counterproductive, but complimenting something a person decided to wear may be a great ice-breaker to interesting conversations. By accentuating the word “love”, you are letting the person know that you really like their taste in clothes, and who knows? You might have a lot more in common than a sense of style.
6. “Are there any decent movies in theaters?”
This question can be appropriate when you want to start a conversation with a person who might be somehow indicating that they are interested in a specific area of popular culture, such as movies. People tend to associate positive memories with going to the theater to watch movies and are often nostalgic about them. It’s a broad enough topic to get most people involved in a conversation, but can be specific enough to inspire an all-night talk about French filmmaking artists.
7. “Is this club worth visiting more than once?”
If you find yourself in a club, this is one of the questions that can help you get into interesting talks and adventures with one or more people. If asked in a casual manner and framed as your desire to go out and have fun, many people might be up for having fun with you.
8. “How’s that drink/appetizer?”
This might sound like a pick up line, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. The short, direct question asked in a charismatic way can provide a great start of a conversation at clubs, cafes, restaurants, and other places when people just want to unwind and enjoy themselves, possibly with you. More than a few people might find it charming.
9. “Having fun?”
This is another instance of a short and direct opener that, if said in a relaxed, but charming way, can be surprisingly stimulative and engaging as a conversation starter. It sounds bold, fun and tension, and pressure-free and it might result in an unforgettable night (or day). It can also sound like an invitation in a non-intrusive way, which is usually when people actually do have the most fun. Informal, friendly tone and an occasional smile can’t hurt, either.
10. “Can I ask what you do?”
This phrase is casual enough to not make you sound uptight but polite enough to convince someone that you are a decent person worth responding to and possibly continuing the conversation with. Adding the verb “can” demonstrates enough respect for someone’s choice about whether or not to tell you what they do for a living, but not in an overly formal way that would make you seem pretentious and smug. The possibilities for conversation after this ice-breaker are endless, since many people identify with their jobs and love talking about them, or hate them enough to complain about them. Either way, it’s a win-win situation.
Are there any conversation starters you would add to our list? Let us know in the comment section below.