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How to Start a Conversation in Unusual Circumstances

Aug 17, 2007
Starting a conversation can sometimes seem difficult. Certain circumstances can make this process even more difficult. Knowing how to start a conversation in a variety of tricky circumstances will help you become more confident in your abilities to communicate effectively.

Circumstances can range from co-workers to complete strangers. Learning the best ways to start a conversation with many different people will allow you to become a master of communication.

1. Coworker - When starting a conversation with a co-worker you know you have at least one topic that you can both relate to: work.

You can make a casual comment about work related details to strike up a conversation. Be sure to avoid making negative comments or talking about things like salary and management because these topics could actually cause you problems.

You should also be somewhat aware of what exactly this co-worker does in the company because you do not want to start a conversation about something he or she knows nothing about.

You could try opening with a question about how long they have been with the company or what area of the company they work in if you are not sure.

2. Acquaintance - An acquaintance is someone you know, but not too intimately. This may be someone you had attended high school with but who was not one of your close friends or perhaps someone you go to church with.

However you know this person you are not familiar enough to ask personal questions. You should start a conversation about something you have in common or about something you know about the person.

Good topics to start with are asking about children or a recent operation. Think about something that isn't too invasive, but shows you are truly interested in this person.

3. A date - When dating there are added frustrations and concerns. You are hoping to come off as someone your date would like to pursue a relationship with and you want to really make a good impression by offering interesting conversation.

The trick here is really knowing what to avoid. You really need to avoid highly debated topics like religion and politics. You should also keep the conversation light and considerate, so avoiding topics like sex and money is a good idea.

Knowing how to start a conversation by making an observation about your date or about something around you is a good tip. For example, comment on her unique necklace or how quickly the waiter took your drink order after you arrived.

4. A stranger - Most of the time when you strike up a conversation with a complete stranger you have a topic already in mind.

For example, if you are waiting in a long line, you may comment to someone standing behind you about how long it is taking. Usually though this is a short comment and can sometimes leave you feeling as if you should say more.

Take a cue from the other person. If they answer you with a complete answer and genuinely look as if they care about what you have said then you may want to strike up a more in depth conversation.

You can let them know you name and why you are where you are. Just avoid sharing too much information and if the person answers you with a smile or a quick, short answer then they are probably not interested in talking with you and you should move on.

These are just four situations that explain how to handle an awkward beginning to a conversation. Most of the ideas, however, are great to apply to other conversations.

The biggest advice about how to start a conversation is to look for clues from the other person that show they are interested and do want to continue talking to you.
About the Author
Peter Murphy is a peak performance expert. He recently produced a very popular free report: 10 Simple Steps to Developing Communication Confidence. Apply now because it is available only at: how to start a conversation
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