Quick question – What do cocktail parties, first dates and elevator rides have in common? They all lead to awkward encounters with strangers. You know, when you are standing in front of a person you’ve just meet for the first time, and you feel that a moment of silence lasts longer than it should. You smile, take a small breath while your brain frantically searches for something clever to say and… you get nothing.
Starting a friendly conversation on the spot isn’t always easy (especially if you are trying to make a great first impression). But it doesn’t mean that you are restricted to talking about the weather.
Here are 7 unique conversation starters that will help you break the ice, take control of the conversation and avoid long, awkward moments of silence:
1. Find a Common Link
If you are invited to the same party or networking event, there is a chance that you have at least one person in common in the room. Usually, it’s the person, who has organized this event. But rather than asking your new conversation mate “How do you know X?”, be more specific and find something positive to say about the host or the event. For example, two unique conversation starters could be “Doesn’t X always have awesome entertainment/party ideas?” or “I just loved the toast/question that someone (preferably this person) said?” Both of these ice breakers establish common ground and make it easy to keep the conversation flowing.
2. Ask for Sightseeing Tips
If you are new to a city, it’s always a great idea to ask if the person lives in the area and then get some tips on things to do and see. It can be as simple as “What is a good restaurant to go to in the evening?” or as sophisticated as “What are some of the art galleries worth visiting?” The other person will feel helpful by offering some tips and you will get some insider’s advice on fun things to check out during your stay. It’s a win-win!
3. Share a pet or a kid’s story
Nothing helps to establish a sense of trust and to find common ground as a conversation about pets or children, especially if the person you are talking to has a pet or child of their own. “I love this party, but I am a little worried about my dog that I’ve left home by himself. The last time it happened, the house looked like a Miami Vice’s crime scene when I got home”, “These cupcakes are amazing! I’m glad that my daughter is not here. She’d eat them all.” These little conversation starters are personal enough to break the ice and have another person share their own story. After all everybody knows somebody who has a naughty dog or a child with a sweet tooth. .
4. Complement to look good
One of the obvious, yet often overlooked ways to make an awesome first impression is to say something nice about the person in front of you. It’s probably easier to compliment women, but there are some compliments that you can approach men with as well, without giving them the wrong impression. The compliments can be obvious – “I like your tie”, “I loved your speech”, or subtle “Is that the new Samsung Galaxy Phone? I’m thinking about getting one.”
5. Ask if you’ve met before
No, it’s not a pick up line. It’s one of the greatest conversation starters, especially if a person’s face does look familiar to you. For example, at a wedding you can ask, “Are you a friend of the bride? We might have met at one of her Birthday parties.” Just as during a Christmas party at work you can ask, “Do you work in the Marketing department? I think that we worked together on ____ project.”
6. Tap on the power of ‘Did you know?’ question
Sharing an interesting fact with people is a great way to get their attention and make the conversation memorable. Of course, the fact that you are sharing should be relevant to the situation. There is a fine line between sounding geeky and sounding informed and you don’t want to cross it. “Did you know that coca-cola was originally made from cocaine?” is one of those no-no ice-breakers that will get you a weird look, even if you are at a cocktail party.
On the other hand a question, “Did you know that they order these snacks from the small French bakery that makes the best chocolate croissants in town?” will definitely add some conversation points your way.
Think of something that can be both relevant and interesting to the person in front of you. A single great “Did you know?” question goes a long way towards making you stand out from the boring buzz of weather-related small talk.
7. Use your sense of humor
Marilyn Monroe once said “If you can make a woman laugh, you can make her do anything.” This is true not only for making a great first impression on a date.
Opening a conversation with a joke is a fabulous way to establish a positive connection and make a person feel good in your company. So if you have a great sense of humor – why not make it work for you, right? Observation humor and self-irony are the best conversation openers.
Just be warned: if you often get polite smiles instead of laughter and your jokes fall flat, ignore this tip and focus on the 6 unique conversation starters described above!
Are you comfortable making small talk? What ice-breakers do you use to start a conversation?