Sometimes you might find yourself in a situation where you want to talk to people but it just seems too awkward to walk up and introduce yourself. Don’t worry though, everyone has been there and you will find that it’s not too hard once you have a few tricks that will make starting a conversation much easier.
1. Give the other person a compliment.
Compliments may see tricky at first glance but there is a right way to do it. Pick something the other person is wearing, shoes are the default option because they work for all genders, and tell them you like them. Other clothing items will also do; the point of the compliment is to show you admire a choice they made, and not they physical appearance that they have no power over.
Do: Focus on their colour or texture or some feature that you’d also like to have in your clothes.
eg. Your coat looks very warm; that’s prefect for this weather. Your style is very sophisticated.
Don’t: Avoid things that sound like flirting or are overly vague.
eg. That’s a very sexy dress. You look beautiful.
2. Ask about the other person’s commute.
Everyone commutes and everyone is willing to talk about it. Asking about another person’s commute is a great way to show interest in their daily life and also to get them talking. You can start with today’s commute and then ask if they have any funny stories from other times or what’s the craziest thing they have seen in the tube on a Saturday night.
Do: Comment on their story, laugh or ask for more info.
eg. I can’t believe this happened. Have you had that before?
Don’t: Avoid monopolising the conversation or starting a monologue about your commute if they don’t seem interested.
3. Ask about their choice of drink or food.
If you are in a bar or restaurant, talking about the food or the drinks is a good way to start chatting. Ask what the other person is going to order of they are already having something ask if they recommend it to you. Then ask about other drinks or foods they like and go on from there.
Do: Share information about your interests. This is where you check if you have things in common.
eg. I like pizza too. What toppings do you put on?
Don’t: If they like something that you don’t, try to avoid saying you hate it as that can block the conversation. Instead say you like something different more.
eg. I’m not a huge fan of coconut. I prefer pineapples instead.
4. Talk about the location you are in.
It is quite common to meet new people when you go to a new place, where you may have not been before. Start the conversation by asking if the other person knows the area. If they know the area you can ask for recommendations for other places that you can go for food and drink, shopping or how easy it is to commute there at night. You should get a good conversation going and pretty good information about the location. If you know the area and the other person doesn’t share with them your favourite spots and tell them what they need to try. Then ask which area they know well and continue with the information exchange. If neither of you knows the area start speculating what kind of places you expect or hope to find.
Do: Make sure you keep the conversation going.
eg. I actually know this great pub… Any other bars you’d recommend checking out? I hope there’s a restaurant nearby, I could do with some food afterwards; what are you planning for dinner?
Don’t: Avoid voicing negative opinions about the location; the other person might like it and that will kill the conversation.
eg. This is a right dump.
5. Learn to pick up visual queues
Sometimes people will have things on them that might point you to some of their interests. Keep an eye out for those and once you recognise something use that as a way to start a conversation.
Do: If someone is holding a book in their hand or has big headphones around their neck you can use that as a way to find out about their interests in literature and music; not while they are actually reading or listening though. T-shirts with logos or film and tv merchandise is also a great way to start talking about those topics, especially if you are fan.
eg. I love your Batman top; what did you think about Batman V Superman? I read this book last month, how are you finding it so far?
Don’t: If you know nothing about the topic it’s best to avoid it.
eg. What book are you reading? I never read anything.
These are all tried and tested methods we use when we meet new people and want to make friends. While most people will have used them unconsciously from time to time, it’s always good to be aware of them, especially when you’re shy or find it hard to talk to strangers. After a few tries you will see that most conversations will start almost identically and you’ll be so used to the initial exchanges that you will transition into full conversations without even realising it.
Want a chance to try these out? Put them to good use at your next citysocializer social.