Shy people do not find starting a conversation is a skill that comes naturally. Overthinking a subject will lead to a natural reticence to engage with others. How do you change this mindset? Preparation and practice. Remember, starting a conversation is the first step to interesting dialogue and will not be subject to scrutiny by others. Here are some great starters for different situations:
These questions can be asked to most people in most places
1) Do you have any pets? What are their names? This is an icebreaker that immediately puts people at ease. Pets are very dear to pet lovers’ hearts and will make them feel warm and fuzzy.
2) Do you have any plans for the weekend? Share any plans you have for your free time. You may find a mutual love of hiking or fishing and this can lead to plans in the future. You may also get some great ideas for new experiences you can try yourself.
3) Are you working on anything exciting lately? This is an alternative to “What do you do?” and allows the person to answer with enthusiasm.
4) Having fun? Enjoying yourself? This is a lot friendlier than a simple “How are you?” You will also seem invested in their enjoyment and prepared to contribute to their experience.
5) What is your favorite way to spend your time?
All these questions allow the person answering to elaborate and share positive aspects of their life.
Work appropriate conversation starters
The most successful professionals also know how to be likable. The workplace can sometimes be an intimidating place to strike up genuine conversations. Here are a few suggestions to help you interact in the workplace:
6) I’m a little nervous about the new software. Have you used it yet and how did you find it? This is a productive and personal way to engage with others. Showing your personal feelings make you more approachable.
7) Where is the best place to grab some lunch? Asking about food is a perfect conversation starter. We all eat, and we all have opinions about certain outlets. Asking a colleague could even lead to an impromptu lunch invitation. You will never know if you don’t try! Opening a conversation can lead to so much more and can make your workplace a much more social arena.
8) What is your dream job? You could maybe throw in the phrase “if money didn’t matter” and open a great conversation about dreams and aspirations. You could also ask if they are working for love and satisfaction or merely for the money.
9) How do you get along with the other people who work here? Okay, this can be perceived as gossip, but other people do love sharing their relationships, and possibly frustrations, with others. This is a great way to learn about the person you are talking to and how they fit in with work.
10) What is the favorite part of your day? This is a nice opener for all types of work. Hopefully, they will share a positive part of their workday and not reply with “going home!” If you love working in the morning when the office is quiet, you can ask if they have ever tried coming in early and enjoying the peace.
Media related openers
Have you noticed that wherever you go people are talking about TV shows or films? There is a modern culture that encourages people to share their thoughts on their favorite characters and how they feel like they know them. With so many epic TV shows and films appearing weekly the subject is inexhaustible.
11) What is your guilty secret regarding TV/film/book? Everybody has one and can normally be cajoled into revealing it. Maybe share your love for reality TV or another genre that is slightly cringe worthy. Maybe you will bond over your love of Twilight!
12) What TV show or movie have you watched more than once? You could also share that you have watched Game of Thrones 3 times already as it’s your favorite.
13) What is your favorite movie of all time? Do you have a top 3? Make sure you have your top 3 movies in mind and be ready to share the favorite aspects of them.
14) Who do you love music-wise, at the moment? This is an interesting one! We can bond with others over TV and film but if a musical connection is established it can be deeper. Research has shown that the bond will be based on certain values and can lead to stronger friendships.
15) If you could bring back one TV show that was canceled what would you bring back? Everyone has that one special show that was taken away from them way too early. Expect passion and strong opinions but also a lively discussion. Personally, don’t get me started about the travesty that canceling Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was!
Using the surroundings around you to trigger conversations is often forgotten when searching for topics. Too often you can be searching your brain for stimuli when the perfect way to restart a conversation is staring you right in the face.
16) Where did you get your cool boots/watch/earrings? Commenting on a piece of clothing or accessory helps to get a rapport established. Always be sincere and only comment on stuff you genuinely like or the conversation could turn awkward.
17) Why are you here for this event? Establishing why you are both there will help establish a relationship. You may be mutually helpful to each other if the meeting is in a workshop environment. Once you know a little about each other you can explore mutual friends or experiences.
18) Have they changed the décor since I was last here? If you find yourself in a place that you haven’t been for ages and something looks different then ask someone about it. Simple right? What do you think of the new décor? Do they share your thoughts? This is a great subject to involve others in and before you know it a lively group discussion is taking place. Who caused this debate? You did!
19) What is the nicest place you have been to in spring/fall/winter/summer? Use the seasons to direct your opening gambit. If you are surrounded by crisp dry leaves and pale sunshine, then ask about fall and what the other person loves about it.
20) What is the most beautiful place in your area? People can be very passionate about local beauty spots and will wax lyrical about them. You have also touched upon a positive aspect of their life and this will reflect in their answer.
Approaching a potential date
These openers are designed to give you an opening to ask for a date. They can also be used to make friends if adapted slightly.
21) Hey, you have a (insert similar interest)? Me too, what do you like about it best? Finding something that you have in common is known as a similarity attraction effect. Shared interests are a great starting point for striking up a conversation.
22) What are your friends like? Asking someone to describe their close circle of friends will tell you a lot. If they are gregarious and mention multiple male and female friends, they will be more likely to accept a casual date. If they have few friends but are super close to them, you may have to work harder to penetrate their inner circle.
23) What is your favorite place to eat? As with the work inquiry, one of the best ways to initiate a “date” scenario is to discuss a venue first. Knowing their preferred eatery will also take the awkwardness out of any potential first date.
24) What would you do if there was a Zombie Apocalypse next week? Not exactly a traditional opening line but you will be amazed at the amount of detail some people have thought about. You are showing your sense of humor and slight wackiness! Prepare for some raucous conversation as you discuss your strategies and getaway routes.
25) I went to the coolest bar last (insert the closest holiday). Are you doing anything fun for the holiday this year? Use any holiday you like. Valentines Day, Easter Sunday or Halloween. It doesn’t matter. Opening a conversation about plans is a great way to make new ones.
Remember, a good conversation starter will be the strongest weapon in your social armory. If you feel uncomfortable asking direct questions, try starting with a statement about yourself. For instance, “I love listening to the Foo Fighters, I would love to see them live. Who do you listen too, and have you ever seen them in concert?”
Shyness should not be a barrier to excellent conversations. Practice these openers and concentrate on keeping awkward silences at bay. If you feel a subject has been covered then use another opener to steer it in another direction.