There are so many situations where success hinges on our ability to have a conversation with people we've just met.
While social butterflies might feel more comfortable striking up a conversation, we introverted folks sometimes need a game plan!
Regardless of how you feel about social situations, follow these tips to become a great conversation partner!
1. Plan Ahead If You Can
There are some situations where you know that you will be meeting new people ahead of time, like:
Some things you might want to think about before your meeting:
What sort of relationship do I want with this person?
What conversations or questions could I bring up based on what I know about them?
Is the situation we're meeting in more casual, or more formal?
2. Mitigate Social Anxiety
When meeting new people, there can be a lot of fear and pressure that you might not be able to think of anything to talk about, or that you'll be judged for being awkward.
The truth is that most people feel this way.
If you have time before your meeting, incorporate some stress and anxiety relief techniques like deep breathing to calm your nerves a bit.
3. Pay Attention To Details
Look for details around you and respond to them if you're trying to think of things to say to someone. For example, you might talk about:
The environment you are in
Something you notice about the person, like a cool piece of clothing
What you and the other person are doing — for example, if you are at an event together
The reason you two have met
Be an active listener by picking up on the details of what your conversation partner is talking about. Respond with ideas and questions that build off of what they've already said.
If you're at a loss, you can ask them general questions about themself or ask their opinion on something.
People like it when others show interest in them!
4. Look For Common Ground
Find things that you and your partner share in common. This will make the conversation more engaging and interesting to everyone involved. These commonalities can be a bridge to even more conversation.
Some potential things you might have in common include:
Liking/disliking the same seasons or types of weather
You can also bring up current events to find more common ground.
However, avoid controversial topics until you know someone a bit better. Someone you're meeting for the first time might feel defensive or put on the spot by a divisive political issue.
What conversation starter could you avoid when you're talking to a potential networking contact at a conference?
Their favorite presentation so far
The freak storm on the first day
The speaker with divisive opinions
The contents of the lunch buffet
5. Remember That A Conversation Takes Two
A conversation goes both ways. If someone isn't receptive, don't beat yourself up about it. They could be in a bad mood, or they could even be an unpracticed conversation partner!
However, if you do enjoy your conversation, make sure to reach out after the conversation is over to let them know you had a good time and that you valued the things you talked about.
With a little bit of planning and practice, you'll be having great first conversations in no time!
Take these steps to prepare for the next conversation you have with someone new:
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This Byte has been authored by
higher education instructional designer