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6 tips on how to start a conversation with a stranger

Do you have trouble starting a conversation with a stranger? Do you get tonguetied and at a loss for words, after the initial introduction? Here are some tips that you can use to initiate a conversation with people you meet.

You are at a party, and saying your hellos, introducing yourself to the others present there, trying to start a conversation, but failing miserably in your attempts. Do you find yourself in situations where the conversation just does not go beyond the initial hello? Do you have a tough time keeping a conversation moving?

You are not the only one faced with this dilemma. This is such a common occurrence, and more prevalent when you are among strangers. It is rather difficult to begin a conversation with a stranger that you meet at a social gathering. Often the conversation just stalls, beyond the introduction and a few pleasantries. And you stand there feeling a bit uncomfortable at the awkward silence.

Starting a conversation with a stranger is easy if you have the gift of the gab. You will do fine, at any gathering, if you can talk nineteen to a dozen. For most others making meaningful conversation with a stranger, can be a struggle. Making an enjoyable conversation with strangers is actually an art. But, you can pick up the skills and learn how to have an exciting conversation with someone you met for the first time.

Why conversations fail to kick-off

You start the introduction and quickly launch into what you do or how you are connected to the host, all in one breath. And then the conversation dies – there is an uncomfortable silence. A few minutes later the person you were in conversation with politely excuses themselves and moves away. And you are left wondering at what happened.

Here's the thing, you require definite skills to keep the tête-à-tête going, beyond the initial opening lines.

So, what goes wrong? Why do people find it difficult to have a decent conversation with strangers? I'll show you some tricks that work. Here are a few secrets that can help you deal with such awkward moments.

Introduce yourself

Start the conversation with an introduction of yourself. That is the key to beginning a conversation. Let the other person know who you are, give them your name. Tell them why you are there – if it's a conference, you can add if you are representing your company or if you are just another invitee or if you are one of the speakers. Keep it short and relevant. Don't brag or drag.

Get the other person's name and use it to address them, when you respond. That is a good starting point. The next challenge is to keep the conversation going. By this time, you know why the person is there, ask them if they have attended similar events prior to this one, and how was their experience. This smart tactic can get the conversation going – you are asking the other person to tell you a 'story'. You can take a casual introduction into a stimulating conversation. Just learn to interject with the right questions at the right time. It will take a bit of practice, but it will be worth all that trouble.

Don't share all the information

Don't give out all the information, that there is to share, at one go. You are conversing with a stranger, remember; so, don't feed all the information with the introduction. Move slowly, and reveal yourself in layers.

When you say something, they'll probably respond with similar information. You simply want your thoughts to coincide. As the conversation proceeds, you can reveal further layers or focus on just one commonality that you share and ask a relevant question. Talking about all the connections can be your misdoing.

Don't look for answers

Conversations can just drop dead if you put across questions that can be responded to in monosyllables or have short responses. Good conversationalists don't ask questions; they ask for stories.

Your conversation partner tells you that they attended college with the host. Take a cue from that to build the conversation. Try something like, "What was the best part of college life?" or "That's wonderful. You must have been great buddies. Any interesting anecdotes to share?"

You engage the person in a conversation, by asking them to share a personal story, about a memory they hold dear. In doing so, you portray yourself as a genial person and good company.

Don't begin your questions with how, where, what, when…instead phrase the question in such a way that it says, 'tell me'. The person will be compelled to share their thoughts and keep the conversation going. When you phrase the question with a 'tell me' you give the impression of being fascinated with the exchange of experiences.

Gauge the atmosphere

It is easy to break the ice, and once done you can steer the conversation towards other things. But, you still need to tread cautiously.

Always be alert, you don't want to cross any (undefined) boundaries. Take cues, is the person comfortable talking about incidents. If they are opening up to you then you can freely ask more 'tell me' questions. If you find them clamping up, it's time to change the subject.

Put the other person at ease

You may not be the only uncomfortable one, the other person may also be feeling awkward. So, ease up a bit, and put on a smile, maintain eye contact as you speak. Offer to get them a drink/refill or get the waiter's attention and ask them to serve your conversation partner.

Follow this up with the open-ended questions. Don't fill them up with info about yourself' instead give them an opportunity to speak about themselves.

An example of an open-ended question can be asked when the waiter arrives with the drinks or snacks, ask the conversation partner, if they've tried it drink/food and what do they think about it. State your preferences and keep the conversation going.

Sharpen your conversational skills

You will always find opportunities to sharpen your conversational skills; make the most of these opportunities. Talk to people at social events at the office, college or wherever it is that you spend most of your day. Every chance you get to converse with people is an opportunity to learn how to make good conversation.

Also, practice making small talk with everyone that you meet. The neighbour that you see each time you step out of your home or the guy who delivers the grocery, the executive at the bank…the list is endless. But, each time you speak to someone you become more confident and more adept at making conversations with strangers. Make it a habit to talk to people, push yourself, but do practice the skill of talking.

Hope these secrets help you start a conversation with strangers. Good luck with your endeavours.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

Follow Juana or read 609 articles authored by Juana

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Author: Natarajan31 Aug 2018 Member Level: Gold   Points : 6

A great write-up for people, who struggle when thrown into a group of strangers at social occasions, dinner events during academic meetings, conferences etc.

It is imperative that we learn 'pacing our conservation', learn to quickly assess the other person's mood and then accordingly carry on with the conservation.

I find nursing a glass of drink and slowly wandering around initially helps me to get a hang of the people and the party/event mood. It would be wise to respect the person's personal space, watch our body language and try not to get too close so that we alarm or make the other person feel very uneasy.

In the efforts to make a conversation, one should resist the urge to pass comments or make personal remarks about the host, a common person, a person of the opposite sex or a senior official. Such things to prop up a discussion doesn't reflect well on the person making these remarks and would backfire if it reaches the person who is being commented upon.

Some have the notion that a drink or two helps to loosen up the person and lets them enjoy the party. One should be cautious lest they go overboard and spoil the party atmosphere.

Author: Sheo Shankar Jha01 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

It is indeed a nice representation taking into account all such points which could have offered one a lively discussion. Apparently, it appears simple but to implement the same in the practical dimension calls for proper representation of the facts, patience, good ideas of the topics being discussed with all the figures and facts devoid of deviation from the different sources etc. You have to watch the temperament of the listener as to how far he is engrossed with your utterances. Take a pause in between so that your deliberations does not appear boring to your partner. Hence you should be sensible enough to understand the traits of human beings.
Generally alertness in the participation would speak highly of your personality. It cannot be practised all of a sudden. You may watch the news on TV channels as to how the great persons are conversing and apply the tips in your conversation. One thing is clear that you should shed your negative thoughts prior to beginning a conversation.

Author: Reena Upadhya01 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 7

It is a very nicely written article. Striking a conversation with a stranger can be difficult especially for individuals who have shy personalities. All the tips mentioned in this article are icebreakers. If followed correctly, they help to strike a good conversation between two people or a group.

Eye contact-
Making an eye contact is very essential before beginning a conversation. There is some commitment when eye contacts are made. It depicts interest and develops a bond between two individuals even before they speak anything. If the other person does the same, it is very likely that both of them will engage in a good conversation.

A smile is another gesture that should be displayed before beginning any conversation. It is a gesture that carries a lot of warmth and friendly feeling. What can be more pleasing than making an eye contact and displaying a warm smile before the introduction is made?

Small talks-
Small talks are the best when trying to strike the conversation with a stranger. Do not speak for too long and make the other person uncomfortable. Never inquire nor ask anything personal. Best small talks can be about making a few comments about the rain, weather, plans, traffic etc. The rule is to keep it as light as possible. Conversation with a stranger should always be casual.

How about a compliment?
Conversation can also begin with a compliment if in case you are attracted by something in them. It can be the dress they are wearing. It can be their hair, skin, eyes, smile, and anything that interests you. Keep in mind that it should be genuine. They will feel good about it only if you are speaking the truth.

Look for a common belonging-
Try to find a common interest. It is the best icebreaker. If two individuals share a common interest they can speak for hours together without getting bored. Best way to know the common interest is by asking them about the hobbies and sharing them regarding yours.

Author: Umesh02 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

To start a conversation with a stranger is not a cup of tea for everyone especially when the stranger turns out to be a reserved person.

There are some people who do not like that their privacy be intruded by others. They will never encourage you to talk to them. They may even treat you shrewdly and sternly to nip in the bud the very beginning of the conversation.

Still, there are methods to deal with such situations, sometimes may be a bit aggressively. One thing is to find out about the person indirectly by his appearance or mannerism and then move your trump.

People sometimes start like - "Excuse me Sir, are you in the IT industry?" or "Travel has become so inconvenient nowadays" or "These people will never improve" etc.

These are some taglines which sometimes work like a magic potion. With experience, one can get a hold of things and can start a conversation even with the most difficult person.

Author: K Mohan04 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 1

We always feel at ease and are comfortable while talking with known persons and friends. But the real catch is to initiate talk with strangers and yet feel comfortable with discussing various issues. Normally we find such situation during long distance train travel wherein the opposite person seems to be advancing to talk and we avoid. Nevertheless the conversation can be started with self introduction and then going to deep discussion on current issues. And if the children from both sides are present, the talk would be initiated and continue on them. Within some time, the relations become more comfortable and even personal things would be discussed.

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