The Best Conversation Starters

There are many conversation starters that work. In fact, I believe you can start a conversation with almost anything.

I recently started a conversation by asking a person if they know how to stop hiccups, because for some reason I had begun to hiccup. It all went naturally from there simply because I was curious, talkative and genuine.

However, the best conversation starters don’t just work, but they work incredibly well and no matter who the person you wanna talk with is, they will rarely fail you.

The best conversation starters are the ones you can rely one to start the conversation, engage the other person and make an impression, and they also making it easy to keep the chat going from there.

Based on my experience as a social confidence coach and a passionate about social dynamics, I concluded there are 4 qualities that the best conversation starters all have, and these 4 qualities are what makes them so great.

  1. They are personal. Forget about commenting about the weather and stuff like that. Go with conversation starters that relate to the other person. That way you get to learn something about that person, they’ll engage in the conversation more, and you’ll have more paths to take the conversation on from there.
  2. They’re not too personal. At the same time, it’s not the best idea to start a conversation with a person you don’t know by asking them something very personal, like “Do you have any insecurities?” That’s too forward and it has more chances to inhibit the other person rather than make them to open up.
  3. They reflect a genuine interest. Never ask or comment about anything you don’t really care about. Because if you don’t care about it, chances are you’re not gonna know how to keep the conversation going from there, or you’ll take it on a path that doesn’t really interest you.
  4. They are delivered with confidence. If you are self-assured when you start a conversation, you will make a good impression and suck the other person into the conversation. Confidence is like a magnet and it’s one of the best qualities you can convey to others from the get go.

That’s it. Not all conversation starters fit these criteria, but you can find many of them that do.

My advice is to go from here and come up with your own conversation starters based on these 4 criteria. It would be ineffective and condescending of me to actually tell you what conversation starters to use.

The best conversation starters vary based on your real interests. I will give you some examples though of conversation starters that I use and work really well, just for inspiration.

“How was your day/evening/weekend?” I love to ask people about this and learn about the things they’ve done recently. I try to relate what they say and also talk about the things I did, and the conversation moves on from there.

“What do you do?” I’m always interested in what a person does for a living and I often ask about this. In my experience, it’s an awesome conversation thread to go on with most people.

“That’s a nice shirt/suit/pair of glasses. Where did you get them?” Since I’m interested in style, I like to notice cool things in other people’s appearance and comment on them. It’s pretty easy for me from there to make the conversation take off.

As you can see, every conversation starter is a good match with my interests, and it’s also personal, but not too personal. This is the recipe I encourage you to follow.

Also, always keep in mind that when it comes to making conversation, the way you talk is often much more important that what you actually say. If you are confident and at ease, people will love talking with you and what you say becomes secondary.

If you lack conversation confidence, check out this presentation right now. It’s a presentation I created that shows you precisely where conversation confidence comes from and what are the steps to developing it. I’m sure you’ll find it very useful.

Equipped with the best conversation starters, you will stand out from the pack. You will find it easier to make conversation and astonish others. You will have that extra leverage that can make your social life infinitely better.

How to Improve Your Conversation Skills

Small but significant improvements such as getting good conversation starters can noticeably enhance your social life. However, it’s important to realize that they’re not in and of themselves a complete solution.

Working as a communication coach, one thing that became obvious to me is that most people who could benefit from learning how to start a conversation effectively also have other sticking points in the area of conversation skills they need to address.

Once they learn how to start a conversation, they need to learn how to keep it going, how to make small talk, how to express themselves authentically or how to create a connection with others. They often need to work on their conversation skills as a whole.

If this is the case for you, it’s time to consider going beyond conversation starters and figuring out the best ways to improve your conversation skills. Here are the methods I believe to be the most helpful:

1. Go Out, Get Social

It’s tempting to search for ways to improve your conversation skills that don’t demand engaging in conversations with people, so that when you do engage, you impress them with your masterful conversation skills from the get go.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. In order to improve your conversation skills, the single most important thing you can do is to go out more and socialize more.

Your ability to make masterful conversation develops through persistent practice more than anything else. As you meet people, initiate conversations and always seek to make better conversation, you slowly but surely improve in this area.

2. Model Good Conversationalists

Another thing that will help you immensely is to study the conversational style of successful conversationalists. The key idea here is not to clone them, but to pick bits and pieces from their conversational mannerisms and implement them in your own conversational style.

You can start by analyzing charismatic characters in movies or books from the comfort of your own home, but eventually you need to study real-life individuals with good conversational skills from a close proximity. Modeling these persons will provide a huge benefit for you.

3. Learn Principles and Techniques

An entire industry exists that’s focused on helping people become better conversationalists and enrich their social life. Some of the ideas popularized in this industry are hooey, but some of them have a lot of value and work wonders in practice.

There is no point in reinventing the wheel when others have done a lot of the work for you. The least you can do is to pick up a few good books on the topics of conversation skills, learn specific principles and techniques and put them into practice. If you want more, consider courses and training on this topic.

4. Have a System for Practice

There are two reasons why many people fail at improving their conversation skills: they either apply corny and ineffective ideas, or they don’t have a system to practice and make progress.

This second point means that people will pick a few tips, practice them a few times and then give up. You need a better approach to see visible improvements in the way you converse with others. You need to pick specific improvements goals for yourself, to set daily practice activities and to do these activities.

More than anything else, you want to act more than you read, and you want to do it methodically. Your skills develop by taking massive action in small, logical steps. If you want to move from using good conversation starters to charming people conversationally, this is the mindset you want to be in.

What Makes Good Conversation Starters

Conversation starters are one thing, good conversation starters are another. Good conversation starters take social dynamics to the next level. They are a tool which opens up priceless conversational possibilities.

A conversation starter is made good by its content, its delivery and most importantly, its effects. In my view, there a few key traits which reflect good conversation starters. And there is one trait which counter-intuitively, does not.

The Key Trait Is Not To Impress

A lot of people think that good convo starters must impress. They are required to make the other person go: ”Wow! What a charming and witty person! I want to talk with them!” I disagree.

First of all, needing to impress as soon as you initiate a conversation is generally a sign of insecurity, and instead of impressing you might come off as try-hard. Secondly, you have plenty of time to impress in a more natural way, while the conversation rolls. You don’t have to do it right off the bat.

Actually Starting a Conversation

One essential trait, in my view, that all convo starters have is the ability to kick off a conversation. You see, many so called ‘conversation starters’ don’t actually start a conversation.

Take the example of the widespread question: “What time is it?” In more than 90% of the cases, what you get with this question is the engagement  of the other person for 5 seconds, as they look at their watch and answer: “5:25”. Then you’ve lost it.

That’s not really a conversation. You haven’t begun a conversation, you’ve got the time.

A conversation starter engages the other person and their interest much more than that and it gives you the opportunity to then pick up the conversation and keep it going.

Good Social Calibration

Now, what I believe sets apart good conversation starters is first of all that they are well calibrated to the situation.

A friend of mine once went to McDonald’s, asked for a large order of fries and was automatically asked by the person at the counter: “Would you like some fries with that?” For me, that is an example of bad social calibration: a line used without thinking, in a situation where it no longer makes sense.

You want to be able to deliver many sentences without thinking consciously, but you also want them to be well calibrated. Conversation starters’ calibration basically means that you have a set of them which you know and you pick the one to use in each situation depending on the specifics of that situation.

Expression of Real Interest

The other important characteristic of good conversation starters is that they reflect an authentic interest.

This means that when you ask a question to start a conversation, it is something you truly want to find out the answer to. It means that when you make a statement to start a conversation, it is honest and it is on a topic you’re interested to talk about.

This authentic interest will reflect itself in the way you deliver a conversation starter and in your ability to move the conversation forward from it. These clues will usually indicate a socially intelligent your authentic interest and will encourage them to engage in the conversation.

Good conversation starters are not used in a robotic way. They are a reflection of your real self, in the particular scenario you’re in. They have congruence with everything, and it is this attribute that gives them their beauty and their utility.

What Are Conversation Starters and How They Can Help You

We’ve probably all been in scenarios like these:

  • You’re at a house party, looking at this cute girl/ guy sitting in the other corner. You want to go and talk to them, but you have absolutely no idea what to say, how they will reply and what to say next. They see you looking at them; you immediately break eye-contact and just stand there. Now you kind of feel like a stalker.
  • You’re at a business conference, sitting in your sit and waiting for it to start. There is a guy sitting next to you who you would like to network with. But you’ve already used your “Nice weather we’re having” line with him and the only reply you’ve got was a bored: “Yeah”, then the conversation stopped. You have no clue what to say or do next.

Ladies and gents, I present to you one of the most simple and powerful conversation tools: The Conversation Starter!

The Definition of Conversation Starters

Conversation starters are verbal sequences which you can successfully use to initiate a conversation. At first they may be something you apply consciously and premeditated, afterward they may become automatic.

If you think about it, any conversation which starts and doesn’t end immediately is the effect of a good conversation starter. We use conversation starters every day, but we rarely understand them consciously and work at mastering them.

The Role of Conversation Starters

In my experience, most individuals have no problems starting conversations with friends, with people who are very sociable or with people they’re comfortable with. It is the other types of people which represent a challenge:

  • Strangers;
  • People we’ve just been introduced to;
  • People with high status;
  • Very attractive girls/ guys;
  • People we seem to have nothing in common with;
  • People who seem or who are cold and unfriendly;
  • People with poor social skills;
  • The future mother-in-law.

It is for these types of people that you may require to use planned convo starters. It is in many of those first contact social situations when your mind kind of goes blank or you don’t know what the proper thing to say is, that a couple of good conversation starters come in handy.

Imagine yourself driving a car. Good conversations starters are like that first gear of a car which provides more horse power and gets you moving the first few feet. Then the momentum is built and you can switch to a higher gear.

One essential thing I’ve discovered as a communication coach is that in most social interactions, the only possibly hard steps are the first ones. Once the wheels are spinning and the other person finds out how cool talking to you is, it’s all downhill from there. This is what makes a powerful start a precious thing.