Using Context to Find Conversation Starters

When you want to find good conversation starters to use, one of the best places to start looking is the very context you’re in. Open your eyes and your mind, and you’ll discover all sorts of ways to start conversations provided by this context, whether it’s a party, a conference or a date.

The Power of Contextual Conversation Starters

I like to use conversation starters based on the context because I find them smooth and effective. They’re not personal and intrusive as “What do you do for a living?” but they’re also not impersonal and shallow as “What time is it?”

I also like contextual conversation starters because they’re adapted to the environment and thus, they make a lot of sense. When you’re using a contextual conversation starter, you’re not employing a memorized line robotically; you are using your head to come up with a good approach based on the context.

Where, Who and What

Using context to initiate conversations starts with noticing the context and asking yourself some questions about it. As you answer your own questions, you’ll also discover good conversation starters to employ.

Socializing and providing communication coaching, I discovered there are three key questions to ask yourself:

  1. Where? (The Location). Thus, you can come up with conversation starters such as: “What do you think of this club?”, “What is it like to work here?
  2. Who? (The People). Thus, you can come up with conversation starters such as: “What did you think of the speaker?”, “Who are you here with?”
  3. What? (The Event). Thus, you can come up with conversation starters such as: “What do you think of the party?”, “Have you been to similar conferences before?

Clutching On To the Details

Besides the general characteristics of the context (location, people and event) there are also specific details that can provide great conversation starters.

This is why I encourage you to be aware of what’s going on in your environment and notice the little details. As you do so, you’ll find opportunities to initiate conversations.

I often start conversations at events where there is a Swedish buffet while picking up some food at the buffet table, by making a honest comment about the food to the person next to me in line. If that person is eager to respond with a comment of their own, the conversation is on.

I recently kicked off a conversation on a train with the girl who sat next to me by commenting about the train conductor who seemed drunk to me and asking her opinion about this issue. We joked about it a bit, and the rest of our chat happened naturally from there.

Using context to find conversation starters is, in my view, a much finer art than simply choosing randomly a convo starter from your bag of tricks. It reflects much finer social calibration and it keeps you on your toes. For this reason, it is something I highly recommend you to master.