When meeting new people at a private or public function, we are naturally curious about them. We to want to get to know them and are anxious to make a personal connection. Often, we can be “overly friendly,” and cause hurt feelings, awkwardness, or the impression that we are just plain nosy. Here are a few tips to easily and comfortably open a conversation:
- Avoid questions that are too personal.
Always start slow with innocuous questions. How do you know our host? Have you heard this speaker before? Then segue to more personal questions. It is totally natural and acceptable to inquire if someone is married or has children. Children are the safest topic. Every one asks about each other’s children. Most people with children want the opportunity to brag about them. This is often a great conversation starter, and an easy way to get to know each other. However, as easy a topic as children are, remember that it is totally inappropriate to ask why someone does not have children. This could be a painful, embarrassing or contentious subject.
Never ask, refer or imply anything about money, income or social status. You will appear shallow and tacky.
- Don’t gossip or say anything negative about anyone.
Be sure to keep your comments positive. Compliment the speaker, host/hostess and other guests. Even if the program is horrible or the chicken is truly rubber, find something nice to say.
- Don’t use foul or abrasive language.
Even if you think you’re being funny, people will think it’s in bad taste. Don’t tell jokes until you’ve established a rapport.
- Think of something to talk about other than the weather.
Talking about the weather is the safest and most common starting point for a conversation. It’s also the most boring. Try looking around you and comment about the décor or the speaker’s topic. How interesting the host is. How beautiful the sky was last night. Try just about anything other than the weather.
- Try to be an engaged listener
Be interested and listen more than you talk. Give non-verbal clues like a nod to show you agree or are actively listening. Respond to your conversation partner, but don’t overdo it. You’ll seem fake. Act as you would when talking to an old friend. Interested but not overwhelming.