The way you start a conversation depends on the event. Whether it's a work event, a bar, or while out running errands we've got your first line covered.
The Schmoozy Work Event
You’re at one of those business functions in a Marriott hotel, wearing a “Hello, my name is …” name tag. You don’t know a soul in the room, since the rest of your colleagues are MIA, so your options are to mingle (and network) or pass the evening in awkward silence.
If you can’t find a work-related topic to start a conversation about, a good standby is commenting on your shared immediate surroundings with the person with whom you’re trying to speak. It’s not inappropriate to turn to someone you don’t know if you’re commenting on your wobbly chair leg or the quality of the hors d’oeuvres you’re both eating.
Remember that very few people actually enjoy these functions, so making a joke about the uncomfortable circumstances can forge an instant bond between the two of you. You can try something like “Well, it’s been a productive evening. I’ve eaten about forty-two crab cakes. You?”
Of course, if you don’t trust your sense of humor—I’ll admit that mine flops as often as it flies—play it safe by simply admiring a piece of jewelry or an accessory (like a watch or scarf) that the person is wearing and asking where he or she got it.
The Blind Date
Conversation skills are really put to the test on a blind date, where the stakes are high, you don’t know each other, and you have plenty of hours to fill. Remember that everyone’s favorite topic of conversation is himself, so ask your date questions about his interests (without grilling him about them) to see if you two have anything in common. Ask him about his pop-culture favorites, foods he likes, trips he wants to take or has taken, hobbies, and his hometown. But avoid any discussion of religion, sex, politics, or exes, at least on a first date.
Ditch Your Entourage
When we were in junior high school, we all hung out in groups and eventually graduated to making out in basements. But now that we’re grown-ups, it’s time we learned how to approach people on our own. You can use the shared-observation tactic from the work party (above), or try this line if you see someone in a group: “I’m flying solo tonight. Would you mind introducing me to your friends?”
If you’re shy, working up your courage to utter this one might require an extra glass of wine, but it’s simple and direct, and many people find that refreshing.
Another trick to use at a bar or party is the yawn check. If you think someone might be checking you out but aren’t sure, try this: Yawn, then check to see if he yawns, too. If he does, you got him. Yawns are contagious, after all, so if he’s yawning, it means he was gazing your way.
Just do what feels comfortable. If you’re feeling really confident, let it show. Head straight for that guy checking you out, flash your vixen eyes, and say, “Buy me a drink?” Confidence is so sexy, you’ll knock him off his feet. Anything you say after that will be stunning.
Pick Up Eggs, Milk, and Mr. Right
My friend Sarah says you can’t meet good people in bars—not the people with whom you’d really have a solid relationships. I think she has a point, but it’s not like you can just walk up to someone in a grocery store or at the library and strike up a conversation … or can you? Why not? Hey, if he thinks you’re crazy, at least you never have to see him again.
So, you’re at the supermarket. You see a Brad Pitt or George Clooney type in one of the aisles. You approach him and ask, “Excuse me, do you know where the organic tortilla chips are?” He smiles and tells you, mentioning that he really likes the brand you’ve mentioned. You reply that you need them for a party you’re having this weekend, and if he doesn’t have any other plans …
Small Talk, Big Results
Nothing’s worse than an awkward silence, but with these conversation starters, you’ll be able to avoid the aching void in any situation. Not to mention that you’ll have the confidence to approach anyone you find attractive. Just remember: having the right words is key, but what’s really important is to smile, relax, and just be yourself.