So you’ve just met someone new! Think of all the awesome possibilities ahead - and it all starts with that first conversation… yikes.
We get it, speaking to someone new can be intimidating. Saying “hi” and introducing yourself is no problem, but after that? What do you talk about? How do you keep the conversation going? What about the awkward silences? Be it a friend of a friend, someone you met online, a new coworker, or the waiter at your local cafe, there are some things that can help you navigate talking to someone you don’t know and getting past the awkwardness of first-time talks.
Starting from the beginning: introduce yourself (if it makes sense for that particular situation). There is no need to pressure yourself to be witty or funny or interesting, just be genuine. If you’re nervous, try to remember not to speak too quickly and be clear with your words. This moment will set the tone for the rest of the conversation so be open and friendly, and make sure to smile.
There’s no need for an “elaborate plan” when starting a conversation, but it’s good to be clear about your goal from the get-go and help the other person understand what your goal is when introducing conversation. Vague statements are confusing and lead to awkward moments.
While talking about the weather may feel boring and cliché, it acts as a great icebreaker because it’s something anyonecan easily comment on. Actually, mentioning anything about your surroundings can easily save you if you can’t think of anything else to talk about.
Here are some ideas to open conversation by commenting your surroundings: ”I love your outfit! Where did you get it?” ”How awesome is this summer day in the middle of October?” ”Oofff, I’m dead. Is the teacher always this tough or was today’s class extra hard?”
Another great way to start a conversation is to ask for information. “Do you know when’s the next bus?” “Can you help me find the way to x room?” “Is there any coffee you would recommend?”
Avoid any topic that is controversial or too personal, this is not the time to introduce it and it may cause the other person to feel uncomfortable about continuing the conversation.
After the ice is broken and the conversation is going, you can introduce more personal topics and start asking questions. Well-measured curiosity is a great way to show interest and get the other person engaged in the conversation. This can be anything from their favorite gym class, their current school project, or their pet. People like to talka bout the things that are most important to them and showing you’re interested in this also shows you care.
Using questions that start with “how”, “what” or “why” can help you follow up on previous comments and make the conversation flow. Because they momentarily focus the attention on the other person, they can also help you cope with the nervousness of a first talk, giving you somenon-talking time to just listen and breathe.
When you give someone the opportunity to talk more, you’re increasing the chances of them connecting and opening up to you. If you’re a naturally curious person, it’ll also be super easy and satisfying to listen to the other person and keep the questions coming.
Questions are also a great way to find things in common, which will lead you to a true exchange - you talk, they talk and you’re able to talk back again because you’re familiar and interested in the topic.
All good things come to an end, even great first-time conversations. It’s important to know when to wrap up a conversation and not get stuck at a point where both people are awkwardly looking at each other without having much to add.
There’s no need to make up a lie about having to go to the bathroom or being late to meet your mom - most likely, when you realize the conversation is over, so does the other person. Just let them know it’s time for you to go on your way and that you appreciate their time and the conversation. If it’s the case, invite them to talk or meet again in the future.
You can say things like “Well, I’d better get back to…”, “Well, I’ll let you get back to…”, “I should get going. It was nice talking to you”, “It was great seeing you. Let’s talk again soon!”.
While talking to someone new can be a bit intimidating, it doesn’t need to feel like rocket science. Relax into it, use the tools you already have and be curious!
Questions will be your best tool to make a first-time conversation flow.