Monday, October 4, 2010

Manners Monday: Easy Conversation Starters

In last week's Manners Monday post I included a few topics that you can use when making conversation and meeting new people. The subject title and focus of the post was Conversation Topics to Avoid, as such we spent time going over several key areas to steer clear of. One reader, Nhan, asked if I could list more conversation starters and topics for conversation among other women. We've all been there where we feel as if we're a bit stumped as to what to say to someone or what to ask them without feeling awkward.

Wherever you happen to be and whomever you meet, I think you'll find these tips, topics and questions are easy to begin a conversation with anyone.

Making Conversation Easier

1. Be the Provider- One great way to open the conversation up from the usual pleasantries of asking one another a general 'How are you?' is to provide more information when it's your turn to respond. Say something along the lines of, "I'm good. I just finished a big project at work so it feels good to relax and I'm glad the weekend is here!" This will allow the other person to probe further and ask you what you do or what the project was, etc.

2. Making Introductions-You can make things a little easier while introducing two people who don't know one another. Maybe another lady had wandered over to join the conversation. Instead of just saying, "Lori, this is Jane, Jane this is Lori" you can instead introduce the person you are speaking with and mention something that they're working on or have just finished such as "Lori this is Jane, she just finished her MBA at NYU. Jane, this is Lori, she just moved here from Dallas a month ago". People will be grateful for this because you've just made their life easier and made meeting new people more comfortable.

Safe Topics to Lead With

1. Food- If you are somewhere and you are eating or dining with others, this is a great opener. Maybe you've just started munching on some appetizers at a party. You could say, "Wow, this crab dip is phenomenal. Have you tried it?" They might then tell you they're allergic to seafood or they think it's fabulous too, now you have a doorway to more conversation. You can always discuss what an amazing cook your host is, bringing the conversation back to them which is your common ground, especially at an event or party.

2. New Place in Town- You can always refer to and ask the woman you're speaking too if she's got a chance to shop at the new boutique that opened, able to dine at a fabulous new restaurant that recently opened, popped into the newly built grocery store or if she's seen the new theatre that just opened, etc. This might in turn lead to discussion and open your eyes to new places that you were unaware of too.

3. Hobbies- What we do in our downtime really allows others to learn more about who we are. Jobs can be out of necessity but our spare time truly reflects what is important to us. It's a good place to begin. You could say, "The fall always gets me excited for cooler weather, staying indoors to scrapbook/craft" You could then ask the other person if they too like to craft/scrapbook. If the answer is no, you could then ask what they like to do in their spare time. You never know, you might just meet someone who loves a niche hobby just as much as you do.

4. Current Events/News- The daily news provides a lot to talk about. Whether you read the paper, read a local paper or get your news online, it's good to stay connected with what's happening and you'll always have something to talk about. Try to avoid tragedies in favor of the bazaar and upbeat. You don't want to leave someone you just met feeling sad or bad after talking to you. You could casually begin with, "Did you hear about the woman here in Orlando that won $250 million dollars?!"  then follow up by sharing what you'd do if you had won. Now that you've shared a little, ask her, "If that were you that won, what would you do with the winnings?" This will also reveal a lot about the person you just met.

5. Travel- Whether you're well traveled and have visited many countries yourself or enjoy road trips to new states or cities, travel is always a great topic. Everyone has their own opinions and experiences, and many funny stories result from these stories often times. You can also share the 5 places you want to see in your lifetime and why and ask the other person theirs. This can also open up conversation about where the other person was born and raised and where they hope to retire one day, etc.

6. Career- Once you are feeling more comfortable with one another, and the other person brings up work, you could ask them how they got into their particular field. You can also ask them how long they've been doing what they do and how they enjoy it. If it's something unique or they are self employed, you can ask if they attended special classes, which school they went to or if they are self-taught, etc.

7. Children- Like careers, it's best to allow the other person to bring it up as to not probe someone you just met too much. Once they mention their daughter, you could ask how old she is, what she's interested in, etc. People love to talk about their children, especially moms so this is a great topic and if you don't have children yourself you can relate to them by speaking of your siblings who have children, or a friend etc. It's a great way to learn new things about motherhood too.

8. A Genuine Compliment- Since these topics are for women, I'd be remiss to mention a genuine interest or compliment towards the person you've just me. Maybe she's got a great handbag, cute pair of shoes, fun shade of nail polish or she happens to be very fit. Feel free to compliment but be sincere. Everyone loves a good compliment and who knows, you might just find out where she got that great jacket.

How do I like to chat with someone new? One of my favorite questions at events is 'How do you know the host?' as it immediately makes you both feel a bit connected since you already have something in common-a friend. I don't think people should be defined by their work, so instead of asking others what they do, I like to ask them about what they like to do for fun. This is generally more lighthearted and eliminates any negative thoughts of work. Especially in today's economy, you don't want to remind someone about the fact that they are unemployed and make them feel uncomfortable. Another great question is to ask the person, "Do you live around here, or downtown, or near (wherever you are)?" You might learn something interesting about your own or another part of town. Some of the most basic questions are the best, because they don't feel contrived.

The most important thing to remember is that the other person that you are speaking too generally feels a bit awkward about meeting someone new too. They're also thinking of how they can keep the conversation going or how to approach you to chat and meet someone new. Just be yourself and remember what conversation topics to avoid also, and you'll feel confident and comfortable.

What are your favorite ways to begin a conversation with someone new? I'd love to hear them!

Let's Socialize!

 As always, thanks for reading! 


*image credit


  1. Lovely post as usual Karla. Full of such great advice.

  2. I am surprised that you still remember my request :-). Thank you, Karla for your advice, which is very useful. It helps me realize that while I have a lot of topics to talk about, I often forget them and just keep my mouth shut. I will try talking about current events/news and travel in my future conversations with new people. I especially like your "Making conversations easier" part as I have also noticed that it is hard to keep talking to someone who says "Well, I'm so tired from a long long working day and the paper... I just want to sleep..." So I will try to avoid expressing my tiredness and boredom in conversations.

  3. Great advice!

    My boss just asked me this exact same question. He didn't want to bring up work or vacations etc to people who may or may not be affected by the economy. I gave him some of your suggestions and one more. Sports! People love to talk about the locals teams.



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