Always wondered what to say to that special someone? Or felt speechless when seeing your neighbour in the elevator? Be it at a party, on dates or at work, life presents you with countless opportunities for conversations. Mastering the art of small-talk is an essential skill which you will need throughout your life. We have come up with several tips to start a conversation that are sure to help you in any scenario, whether it is during an elevator speech or when simply chatting up your friends!
Before even starting to speak, it is essential to understand what the purpose of your communication is? What do you want the recipient to understand? Failure to establish the communication outcome will derail your conversation as you will tend to go off-topic and lose the attention of the listener.
The key lies within asking yourself the question; what do you want your audience to think, feel and do? There can be countless types of communication outcomes, with the most common being persuasion. Staying on track towards getting the result you want from the conversation is the essential element in preventing yourself from going off-topic and uninteresting.
What do you want them to think, feel and do will get you through any situation!
While it may be okay to share your opinions on contentious issues such as politics or gender equality with friends and families, you should DEFINITELY AVOID talking about this in a formal setting or at work!
Although the content to start a conversation is often open and free-flowing, we should avoid putting our listeners in difficult situations that may rile them up emotionally. Doing so would show that you have ZERO contextual knowledge and makes you a terrible conversationalist. Here is a list of sensitive issues which you may want to avoid unless you have strong, informal ties with the speaker:
The only situation when these contentious topics are available for discussion arises when you are aware that your audience is comfortable in doing so. The advice is to avoid them altogether as these topics can be polarising, and you may end up angering or drawing unwanted attention.
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This unspoken, nonverbal form of communication focuses on physical behaviours instead of words to carry a message. Whether you are aware of it or not, actions speak louder than words and the body language is a very important way of sending a message.
Some may tell you always to maintain eye contact with the person you are talking to. Let’s face it, staring into the eyes of the person you are talking to for anything longer than 7 seconds is downright creepy and should be avoided.
Maintain eye contact to showcase that you are respectful and attentive but do not be afraid to look away every once in a while!
Pro tip: In presentations or public speaking, a common technique is always to look slightly above the eyes of your audience rather than directly. This helps you to maintain eye contact while preventing yourself from getting distracted by what the audience is doing.
The hands are usually used to direct the attention of the audience. While they can be a great boon in a conversation, they can also be a major distractor. Ideally, try to keep your hands above your hips and minimise movements with them.
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Nobody wants to talk to a grouchy, frowning person, especially when you are trying to start a conversation! If you can establish yourself as someone who exudes positive energy, you are already one foot in the door towards having an excellent conversation.
Practice smiling by looking at yourself in the mirror, do you look awkward or natural? If celebrities and actors/actresses spend countless hours practising and showcasing their pearlie whites, we are confident that you can spend some several minutes in a day to obtain that million-dollar smile.
Observe the person and find what you have in common, formulate a question around that commonality
“Hey, I like your <something>, where can I get it?” Identify a particular product they are wearing and ask them about it! It could be a phone model, shirt, jeans, watch, you name it!
Give him or her a compliment to engage them and continue the conversation. Observe their nails, hair, shoes or something outstanding and build on that!
“Hey, do you know where can I get the best <something>?”. You can ask about food; where to get the best pizza, dim sum, etc.
“What brought you here today?”. This is useful, especially when you trying to start a conversation at a particular event or place of interest.
With these five conversation starters, we are sure that you will be able to up your small-talk game and become a more charismatic person who everyone loves talking to!