Starting a conversation
As you start a conversation, make the initial greeting brief and friendly; and always incorporate inviting body language. Smile, it’s a powerful greeting in itself. A smile will not only make you more approachable, a happy person exudes confidence and leaves a great impression!
If you’re in a group setting, wait for an appropriate opportunity to jump into the conversation. Refrain from interrupting a conversation as the entire rhythm of it can be altered if your timing is off. Wait for a low point in the conversation, or when someone excuses himself, to add to the discussion.
When starting conversations, pose open-ended questions that elicit a response longer than one or two words. Opening with “How are you?” is certain to prompt a familiar reflux response like “Good” or “Fine, thanks” –and then, you’re dead in the water! How many times have you actually asked that question and actually considered the answer? Next time explore using a question such as “What exciting project are you working on now?”
Exiting a conversation
We’ve all been in situations where the conversation becomes uncomfortable or tedious and you find your mind drifting to find ways to exit (quickly). First and foremost, always be gracious, even when you’re “stuck” in a conversation with someone.
As with joining group conversations, in order to make a “gracious” break for it, wait for a pause in the discussion in order to make your move. Start with “Thank you,” and extend your hand to offer a “goodbye” handshake. Smile (always!) and then offer your exit (or polite excuse). Something like “It was lovely meeting you. I have to run. It’s been great chatting with you.”
If you would like to build on this new relationship, ask for their business card or offer your business card and invite the person to connect with you. Whether you’re off to another engagement or trying to escape a tedious conversation, always use common courtesy and common sense!
Not everyone is a natural born talker, but practice really does make it easier to tackle engaging in conversation with new people.
Are you nervous starting conversations with new people? We would love to hear your experiences!