It’s hard to introduce yourself to strangers if you’re not a social butterfly. Luckily there are lots of tips to break the ice around new people and help alleviate social pressure.
Ultimately, the best way to get another person talking is to ask them questions about themselves. If you can, try to tie the question in to an already-existing conversation. Avoid yes or no questions because a simple one-word answer doesn’t encourage conversation. The best questions follow a statement about you. A good example is, “I like your earrings. Where did you get them?” or “I’m enjoying “The Goldfinch” audio book. Are you reading anything right now?”
Fish around for common interests
Everyone has something they like to do for entertainment, and it’s just a matter of fishing around until you find out what they’re interested in. On the flip side, you should make it easy or apparent what some of your interests are early on. You can do this by carrying or wearing paraphernalia pertaining to shows, books or movies that you enjoy. A sports team jersey can inspire conversation, whether it’s in mutual support of the team or team rivalry. Don’t be discouraged if your first fishing attempts for a common interest don’t go anywhere. If they reply with something like “Oh, I don’t read,” follow up and ask if they’re a movie person instead.
Compliments are like spice; using a little goes a long way. It’s also better to compliment someone based on something they have control over. This makes the difference between a creepy, “You’re cute,” compared to a more acceptable, “I like your earrings; where did you get them?” It shows that you’re interested in their style and tastes, and there’s often a story behind their choice of hairstyle or accessories. Done right, this will often lead to a full-blown conversation. Make sure you don’t overstep your bounds, though. If you know have no interest in earrings it will be obvious, leading to an awkward silence.
Talk about travel/where you are now
Many people love to bond over where they’ve been or give travel advice. If you’re not from the same area as your office, then advertise that fact to others. Say where you’re from and ask them the same question. If they’re a local, you can start a number of conversations by asking for advice to get across town or the best donut shops around.
If you find out someone is taking a family trip to Paris in a month and you’ve been there before, ask them if they know their way around. If it’s their first time visiting, people are usually open to traveling advice like the best attractions to visit or the perks of riding a bus versus the subway.
Even if we don’t think about it, the subtle cues of body language can have a huge impact on getting a conversation going. Simple things like looking someone in the eye or nodding your head periodically with your head slightly tilted shows that you’re interested in what they have to say. Another giveaway of your intentions is the position of your feet while you’re standing. If they’re pointed away from the person you’re talking to, it shows that you’d rather be somewhere else.
The best piece of advice is to remember that lots of people will be just as nervous or awkward about breaking the ice as you are. The worst thing to do is give up on meeting new people when a conversation starter dies out. If it’s obvious someone isn’t interested in talking to you, then move on to someone else and let it go. With perseverance and positivity, you’ll soon find yourself breaking the ice with ease.