“A real conversation always contains an invitation. You are inviting another person to reveal themselves to you, to tell you who they are or what they want.”
Every person in your life past, present and future was, at one point in time, a stranger to you. You knew nothing about them and they knew nothing about you.
In order to make new connections of any kind you need to be able to start a conversation with a stranger. Now, there are different categories of strangers, from ones in public places to others that you know of but haven’t yet met. I’ll be focusing on the strangers that we have things in common with.
This can be someone you meet at work, in a class you’re taking, or any other place where you share a common interest; like in our #teamtall facebook community for example, where you already know that you have at least one thing in common. Maybe you recently joined #teamtall, you might have been to one of our global gatherings or you could be thinking about going to the Tacos, Tequilas & Tall Girls dinner in Arizona next month – all with the hope of meeting new friends and making meaningful connections.
Any place where you share a common interest with the people around you, is a fantastic place to meet new friends. Already knowing that you have one thing in common with these people, makes it much easier to begin and continue a conversation. And this is how it starts…
Conversation Starter #1: Introduce Yourself
It doesn’t have to be the first thing you say, but you will want to introduce yourself to those around you because you have a reason to want get to know them.
If you’re in #teamtall it’s an easy one because we want our members to thrive as part of this friendly and supportive community so we regularly post, encouraging new members to intro themselves and ask questions.
Let’s say you’re at a business conference and you have all taken a break for lunch. You can easily walk up to someone who is attending the event and introduce yourself, asking them a question about the day or about the topic of the event – not interrupting them if they are engaged in another conversation, goes without saying! For example, you might open with: “Hi, I’m so and so. How are you finding the event? Do you think you’ll be able to put any of these ideas into practice?”
It’s also a good idea to get as many clues about the person as you can. Look for name tags, job titles and body language cues. It doesn’t have to be work related though – you could open with “Hey, I noticed…” combined with a couple of questions. After they respond, you can then introduce yourself with “I’m so and so by the way, Nice to meet you! Have you met many other people here yet?”
Conversation Starter #2: Ask Questions Related To The Common Interest
Asking people questions about the common interest is a great place to start. You already know that they are interested in the topic and you are at the same place – likely wanting to learn, connect or talk about that topic, which means you have a really good reason to bring it up.
In certain situations you may only be around these people once, but it still makes sense to meet them because you are there to meet and interact with other people. Even if that’s not the specific reason that people are there, it is still common to talk to the other people about your common interest.
In other situations you are likely to see or interact with people many times after the initial meeting. When this happens it makes sense to get to know the people, since you will be around them multiple times in the future. This includes work related events, the #teamtall community or other interest groups that meet every so often.
It may be common for people to connect online and meet up when they have a shared interest but don’t assume that it will just happen. You need to take action and be the first to speak. When you ask questions, take interest and actively listen to their answers.
Remember to ask open ended questions—and avoid yes / no answers yourself. Also go for depth on interesting topics, don’t be afraid to ask more questions or to stick to one topic if it interests you. By discussing the common interest, you’ll build that all important rapport which will move the conversation further but if you want to compliment someone at a conference, do it! If you want to ask them a question that’s unrelated to the common interest, go ahead!
Strangers in public are pretty difficult to turn into friends – although the social interaction can really enhance your day and add to your overall happiness! However, strangers that you meet in common interest areas are great candidates for future friends, especially if you are joining some type of team or group that you will connect with on multiple occasions.
With the right mindset you can really improve the way you begin a dialogue. Don’t expect all of your conversations to turn into friendships but know that the more conversations you start, the better you will get at it and the more opportunities you will have to make deeper connections.
Tall Guides Takeaway
If you feel awkward asking personal questions, use your environment and surroundings to create conversation. Comment on the venue, the food or location. Instead of the standard “How are you? Where are you from? What do you do?” openers (*suppresses yawn) these a try…
- Tell me about you – what’s your story?
- What personal passion project are you working on right now?
- What was the highlight of your day today?
- What does your name mean?” (If they say, “I don’t know,” reply with, “What would you like it to mean?”)
- What are you looking forward to this week?
- How are you feeling about being here? (If their response is a negative one, reply with “If you could teleport by blinking your eyes, where would you go right now?”)
Any and all of these will work for you because most people are so relieved to have you start and continue the conversation instead of them!
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”