There are times when we might need a little help in starting a conversation. A new person, situation or period of awkwardness may require us to dig deep and find a few words with which to appropriately fill a silence and introduce something positive to discuss.
Or we may want to start a conversation with someone new, a stranger perhaps. It's often the case that once we've broken the ice we discover that the other person also felt self-conscious about where or how to start.
Here are a few tips for when you're wanting to start a conversation;
- Smile, be friendly and welcoming. Reflect on previous positive conversations you've had with others and remind yourself that you can do this. Breathe and relax. Being tense can be misconstrued and come across as negative or disinterested, so influencing how you're perceived.
- Notice how others converse, how they start their conversations. Pick up a few tips and 'borrow' the things you like, that you've seen work well for them.
- Keep up-to-date with popular culture, what's happening locally, the TV shows that 'everyone's' talking about. These topics can offer safe, common ground, the basis for great conversations with plenty to talk about. Be ready to join in with opinions and comments. And they make a change from the weather!
- Open questions can be good ice-breakers. 'What brought you here', 'what do you think about..' can prompt ongoing dialogue and enable you both to relax. Closed questions which elicit only a 'yes' or 'no' response can be tiring and stifle any desire to attempt further conversation. Show willing by being prepared to contribute, add value and help the conversation progress.
- Why not make pleasant observations about interesting passers-by? Most people enjoy people-watching and good-natured comments can be a fun way to pass some time. Maybe invent outrageous stories about the people you see, why they've come to town, what they're doing next! A little harmless banter can be good fun!
- Be prepared to share something of yourself, so that it's not all one-sided. Make an effort to contribute and do your bit. Even be vulnerable and volunteer a little about your finding it hard to start a conversation. Use humour and be self-deprecating. 'I don't usually do this', could cause you both to laugh and make for a great start. You're unlikely to be on your own in how you feel!
- Be interested in knowing about the other person. Listen to what they have to say but be sensitive about asking questions; 'how', 'why', 'what', 'when', can be non-pushy ways of following up on something that's been said, as can, 'tell me more about that'. But remember too, it's a conversation not an interview.
- Don't take things personally. If someone's offhand or disinclined to talk it's unlikely to be because of you. They may be busy, preoccupied, stressed and have a lot going on their life. They may not want to disclose personal stuff. Respect their space. Not every interaction will be a success.
- Be aware of how much time you have available to talk and maybe volunteer that from the outset, so that when you need to leave you can do so without any awkwardness or embarrassment on either side. Otherwise, ending a conversation can be quite uncomfortable.
And remember that sometimes companionable silence can be enough, it can be friendly and satisfying too. Not every moment has to be filled with words. We can be happy to chat, but also equally happy to sit together.
Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.
She's author of 3 books, 'Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact', '101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday' and 'Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain', all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.
To order a copy or for more information, help and free articles visit http://www.lifestyletherapy.net