You enter a room full of people with unknown faces. They seem to be concentrated with each other’s presence. They did not even notice that you are there. How will you start a conversation?
You admire a person from a distance. Popular and known, you find it intimidating just to be near that person. Suddenly, this person is in front of you, smiling. How will you start a conversation?
Starting a conversation is a fear experienced by many people. Once in a situation where a person must start a conversation, he feels like hiding or vanishing into thin air. Even though how prepared a person was, words don’t seem coherent enough to be uttered allowed. The chance is lost forever so never hesitate to start one.
When you start a conversation with strangers, think that they may be feeling apprehensive too. Being the first to start, you are the one breaking the ice. All they need to do is respond so start the conversation on a positive note. Observe your surroundings - the people around you, the outfit, food, weather, the place itself - and find a common topic. Be friendly. Give compliment sincerely. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Start with close-ended questions so it will be easier to solicit an answer. If a positive reaction is received then take it as a hint that the person is willing to converse with you.
If at first you get a negative response, do not be blunt about it. Act as if you did not notice it. Some people need time to get accustomed to your presence. They did to condition themselves that you are talking with them and not to the other people around. If the answer is too negative then let go of the topic but do not respond harshly or rudely. Show that you respect their decision. Give them time to think.
After receiving a positive answer, a few more close-ended questions will be fine. Be sensitive. Observe how the response is being delivered. Show genuine interest to the answers. Listen attentively and respond accordingly. If you feel that the response is positive, you can start asking open-ended questions. Do not start topics about religion or politics. These two subjects are very controversial and arguments may arise because of conflicting ideas and perceptions.
Talk about some personal information like your favorites but do not monopolize the time. Talking only about you might bore the other person. You should show that you are also interested in getting to know him better by asking relevant questions. A light and wholesome joke can lighten the mood but it must be delivered correctly as it may offend the other party.
Job and workplace are good subjects. You might find common friends in the process. Build trust and respect. Do not share office gossips as it may illicit a negative reaction.
Again, observe whether the other person is still interested in continuing the conversation. End the conversation with a positive note expressing your interest in having a future conversation again.
When in a group, involve the whole group. Do not isolate a single person but when a person is speaking, look at him and give soliciting response like a nod or a smile. If you have some distracting mannerisms, minimize or try not to show them. It can be irritating to other people that they may respond negatively.
Talk with confidence but do not overdo it. You might end up looking boastful. Do not whisper with the people beside you when someone is talking. If you are knowledgeable with the subject at hand then speak up. If you have questions, voice them out. These are the chances you should not pass to start a conversation.
Should we fear the thought of starting a conversation? Should we treat it as a scary experience? I say, there is no reason to fear starting a conversation. The feeling of being rejected leads to that fear. The more often you start a conversation, the lesser the fear. Practice good conversation skills with your family, friends and people in your community.
We are not born talkers. As we grow older, it is the constant practice that makes us good conversationalist. The more practice we have, the better our conversational skills will be.