Charlie Cook said it right: whether you are in the elevator or on the phone, the way you start the conversation will determine whether or not it will continue. So many times we face the uncomfortable situation of meeting with a recently established contact and we just don’t know what to say. In fact, opening a conversation requires a set of skills if you want to leave an everlasting impression that will make the other one eager to come to you every time he/she will meet you.
- Start with a joke/humor – By making humors, you show that you are open-minded, you have a positive attitude, that you do not feel depressed, and very important, you send the message that the person will feel great around you and will have fun. Yet, of course, because of the cultural differences, you might want to choose carefully what jokes to give. For having traveled and lived around lot of different cultures, I found out that what is funny for Africans might not be that funny for Europeans; and what is funny for Europeans might not be funny for Americans. Also, avoid any racial or other social jokes. Do not make fun of your new contact unless you feel like he won’t take it against you. Good jokes to get started are when you make fun of you.
- Give a sincere praise – People love to be flattered. People love it when you show respect to their self-esteem. People love it when you show that you care.
About two weeks ago, I was having diner with two friends of mine over in Baltimore, MD at a Greek restaurant. As we were waiting to be seated, I noticed the very expensive watch the restaurant owner was wearing and as soon as I got the opportunity, I told him how much I love the design and style of his watch and asked him where he got it from. He loved that attention and praise and during the whole 1 hour diner time we had with my friends, we had the best service and the best attention in return from the restaurant. As we were leaving, the restaurant owner came for special thanks and asked for what we do for leaving. There was a new connection starting.
- Make a considerable remark/meaningful greetings – So many times we come to greet people by just pressing on the play button of our recorded mindset that do not reflect how we actually are or feel at the moment. People will ask you: “HOW ARE YOU?” and you’ll go: “FINE THANKS! ” even if you feel horrible. Making a considerable remark means observing the person and giving the person a feedback of how he reflects to feel like: “you look like you are going to a company meeting”, “You look like you just got a job promotion”. That kind of greeting will definitely invite or push the person to tell what is really going on at the moment: “Oh yeah! I have so much going on right now!”, “Oh it’s not work related, it’s my wife who made a wonderful surprise.”
- Do the happy face – Don’t walk with a pity face on you and expect to have people willing to talk with you, be smiling. Smile and enthusiasm opens doors and are contagious. People love that and love to be surrounded of that kind of people.
- Have a respectable body language and position – Whether you are making a joke, giving a meaningful greeting or a praise, the way you position yourself, wherever you are, and your body language, tell a lot about how educated you are and therefore can help the person to engaged in a conversation with you.
Now let’s talk a bout the topics to talk about with anyone. When your relationship to someone is not yet secured and you can’t afford just talking about everything by fear of hurting the person or by fear of saying something that will be taken against you, you have to watch out about what topics to pick up when starting a conversation and breaking the ice. This selection of topics I am getting ready to give you are petty helpful for situations where you are invited to a dinner or any other social event and you know no one or barely know them. Also, when you invite someone at your place or at a diner but you have no strong relationship with the person.
WARNING!!!! This is not supposed to be an interview. So as you surf and pick up the topics, make sure it looks more like a conversation that all the parties enjoy having and that give the opportunity to everyone to share his own story.
Topics on starting a conversation and establish report with any newly established contact:
- Are you from here originally? / How long have you been working for that company? – As you are establishing report with someone, you want to make sure you first show genuine interest to the person by getting to know where the person comes from. In general, people would start telling you everything about the places the lived in before moving where they live now.
- What social activity interest you the most? – The point behind this question is to see what you have in common with the person. The more you have in common, the stronger will be your relationships to the person, and the more the two of you will be willing to do things together.
- Do you play any sport? / Do you you follow up with sport? Which team you go for? – Men are usually the best gender to ask that kind of question to.
- Where is the best place to go and eat here? / What are the different types of foods you ever tried?
- Did you watch that movie???
- Where is the best place you ever had to visit?
- If you feel like the connection on the right track you can go the extra-mile and start topics such as who is the person who influenced you the most, or what is that you like about your job, or what would be your dream job.
Again, just like Charlie Cook said: whether you are in the elevator or on the phone, at the office or at a party, the way you start the conversation will determine whether or not it will continue. A well started conversation can open doors to a lifelong relationship.