How to Start a Conversation with Anyone Confidently

Starting a conversation can be intimidating, especially if you are not naturally outgoing or talkative. However, initiating and carrying on a conversation is essential in both personal and professional settings. Knowing how to start a conversation is crucial whether you want to make new friends or network with colleagues.

It’s important to have an arsenal of tips and techniques to help you confidently start a conversation with anyone. It’ll boost your quality of life and open doors to opportunities.

Why Small Talk is Important

Some people hate the idea of small talk and consider it to be awkward, meaningless, and superficial. However, small talk can help you build rapport, network, and connect with someone. It’s an easy way to break the ice and get to know someone.

Small talk is a good conversation starter, allowing you to find common ground with others. It can lead to deeper conversations and stronger relationships. Plus, it shows you are friendly, approachable, and interested in others.

9 Tips on How to Start a Conversation

hotel manager shaking hands with guests
Image Credit: Rawpixel via Depositphotos.

1. Be Approachable

One of the first steps to starting a conversation with someone is ensuring you are approachable. This means having open body language, keeping a conversational tone, making eye contact, and smiling. People are more likely to want to talk to someone who seems friendly and welcoming.

Staying relaxed can also help. Try to avoid crossing your arms or keeping your hands in your pockets. Take a few deep breaths and focus on being present in the moment.

2. Study Ahead of Time

If you know you will be attending a networking event or meeting new people, take some time to research topics that may interest the people you’ll be talking to. This can help you have some go-to conversation starters and show that you are genuinely interested in getting to know them.

3. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Instead of asking yes or no questions, try asking open-ended questions that require more than a one-word answer. This will allow for a more in-depth conversation and show that you are genuinely interested in what the other person says.

Questions are a great icebreaker, especially when asking for help or an opinion.

4. Listen and Show Interest

Being a good listener is one of the most important aspects of starting a conversation. Pay attention to what the other person is saying and ask follow-up questions. Showing genuine interest in their words will make them feel valued and more likely to continue the conversation.

5. Use Observations

Observational comments or questions can be a great way to start a conversation. For example, if you notice someone wearing a shirt with your favorite sports team logo, you could ask about their interest in the team. Or you can say something about them, complimenting their hair or fashion. This shows that you are paying attention and can lead to a common interest.

6. Learn to Read Social Cues

Learning to read social cues, such as body language and tone of voice, is important. It’s best to stop talking and move on if your conversation partner seems uninterested, uncomfortable, or finds the conversation boring. On the other hand, if they seem engaged and interested, you can continue the conversation and ask more questions.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Yourself

While showing interest in others is essential, sharing a little about yourself is also okay. This can help create a sense of connection and balance the conversation. However, avoid dominating the conversation or spending the whole time talking about yourself. Make sure to give the other person a chance to share as well.

8. Practice Makes Perfect

Starting conversations may not come naturally to everyone, but practicing this interpersonal skill can help improve your confidence and ability. Start by striking up small talk with cashiers or people waiting in line to build your conversation skills. This will help you get more comfortable with approaching and talking to strangers.

9. Keep It Simple

Don’t stress too much about starting a small conversation with someone. Remember, it’s just a simple interaction and not a make-or-break situation. Keep the conversation light and casual, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s okay to talk about the weather or other generic topics to get the conversation going.

Classic Conversation Starters

Female Friends Meeting In Cafe
Image Credit: monkeybusiness via Depositphotos.

Icebreakers are always a great way to start a conversation when you’re unsure what to say, whether with a stranger or someone you know. Ask questions or make a statement with these classic conversation starters that can help get the ball rolling.

Introduce Yourself

  • “Hi, I’m [your name]. What’s your name?”
  • “I don’t think we’ve met yet. I’m [your name].”

Ask About Their Day/Weekend

  • “How was your day/weekend?”
  • “Any exciting plans for the weekend?”

Ask a Question or for Help

  • What do you think about this event?
  • How did you hear about the event?
  • Can you recommend a good restaurant in this area?
  • How do you know the host of this party?

Make an Observation or Offer a Compliment

  • I love your shoes, where did you get them?
  • That’s a beautiful painting; who is the artist?
  • Your dog is so cute; what breed is it?
  • That was an excellent presentation; how did you prepare for it?

Recent Events

  • Did you watch the game last night?
  • Have you seen that new movie everyone is talking about?
  • Have you tried that new restaurant that just opened up?
  • Did you hear about [news event]? What are your thoughts on it?

Mention a Shared Interest

  • I noticed you have a pin of my favorite band on your bag. Are you a fan too?
  • I saw you at the gym yesterday. Do we go to the same workout class?
  • You mentioned traveling in your bio; where is your favorite place you’ve been to?

General Crowd-pleasing Icebreakers

  • What’s exciting you lately?
  • If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  • What’s your favorite thing to do on a lazy Sunday?
  • Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of work?

Ask About Favorites

  • What are you reading right now?
  • What’s your favorite book?
  • What vacation would you like to take again?
  • What destinations are on your bucket list?
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
  • What is your favorite animal?
  • What’s your biggest regret?
  • What’s your favorite memory?

Conversation Starter Examples

pretty young woman extending handshake
Image Credit: via Depositphotos.

Not all conversation starters will work for every situation or lead to a good conversation. Here are some examples of using the classic conversation starters in different scenarios to start talking and keep a conversation going.

At a networking event or conference

  • “Hi, I’m [your name]. What brings you to this event?”
  • “I saw your name tag and noticed we both work in marketing. What kind of projects have you been working on lately?”
  • “How did you hear about this event?”
  • “What do you do [or specialize in]?”

At a party or social gathering

  • “Hey, we haven’t met. I’m [your name].”
  • “I saw you talking to the host earlier. How do you know them?”
  • “Do you have any fun plans for the weekend?”
  • “What are you doing after this?”

Waiting in line or at a coffee shop

  • “Excuse me, do you know how long the line usually takes here?”
  • “I love your bag; where did you get it?”
  • “Do you have any recommendations for drinks here? This is my first time.”

Blind date or first date questions

  • “So tell me about yourself. What’s your job like?”
  • “I saw on your profile that you love hiking. Where is the best place you’ve hiked?”
  • “What do you like to do in your free time?”

Talking to kids or teenagers

  • “Do you have a nickname?”
  • “Do you have any favorite hobbies or activities?”
  • “What do you like to do after school?”

Common Conversation Killers to Avoid

business woman gossiping in modern office
Image Credit: VitalikRadko via

In addition to knowing how to start a conversation, it’s essential to know what not to do to keep a decent conversation going. Here are some common conversation killers you should avoid:

  • Asking closed-ended questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”
  • Constantly talking about yourself and not giving the other person a chance to share
  • Interrupting or not actively listening to the other person
  • Bringing up controversial or sensitive topics without knowing the other person’s stance
  • Being overly negative or critical, including gossiping about others
  • Using insensitive or inappropriate humor

General Topics to Avoid

Topics that are generally best avoided when you strike up a conversation include:

  • Politics
  • Salaries/benefits, particularly with coworkers
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Controversy
  • Gossip

Topics that are generally safe and easy to talk about include hobbies, sports, entertainment, family, interests, travel, food, and current events, as long as they are not controversial or sensitive.

What if the other person is not responsive to my conversation starters?

Sometimes, you have nothing but positive things to say, but people don’t want to get into conversation. Don’t take it personally. You never know what someone else may be going through or just having a bad day. Try changing the subject or asking open-ended questions to encourage them to share more about themselves. If they still seem uninterested, ending the conversation and moving on gracefully is okay.

How to Keep the Conversation Going

Starting a conversation can be nerve-wracking, but with some practice and the right approach, you can easily break the ice and have a great conversation. Remember to listen actively, ask open-ended questions, and avoid sensitive topics. Most importantly, have fun and be yourself!

JayDee Vykoukal

JayDee is a mom, writer, and Doctor of Physical Therapy. She’s passionate about helping women live their best lives through community and education. Outside of her work as a health and mom blogger, she loves traveling the world and exploring the great outdoors with her family.

Leave a Comment