December 22, 2014

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.

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