Talking to strangers can be hard. Kids can make friends in an instant, but as an adult, working up the nerve to spark up a conversation with somebody new can be terrifying.
However, it doesn’t have to be. Deep down, people want to make connections with other people, there’s just a layer of fear surrounding that desire. There are countless ways to alleviate that fear. Conversational topics and tricks can help people open up quickly, allowing you to start forming new relationships wherever you go.
Whether you’re at a party, a networking event, or the library, it can be tough to get started. But once you find the nerve to introduce yourself, here are some creative ways to spark a meaningful conversation.
For most people, the easiest thing to talk about is themselves. You may not always get an honest answer, but a question that a person knows the answer to - but still has to think about - is a great way to start a deep conversation. Try these questions instead of “What do you do for work?”
1. What is your dream vacation?
2. What is the best restaurant in this neighborhood?
3. Where is the worst place you’ve ever visited?
4. What is the coolest thing that’s happened to you recently?
5. If you could learn one language instantly, which language would you choose?
6. Tell me about where you’re from.
7. Do you play any instruments? If not, which one would you most like to learn?
8. Tell me something that’s on your bucket list or something you’ve always wanted to try.
9. What is the earliest thing you can remember from your childhood?
10. What song are you embarrassed to admit that you know all the words to?
11. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Similar to asking something that the person knows about, picking out a feature, an item of clothing, or something about their outward persona is a nice way to break the ice. Of course, you don’t want to be too forward, and be sure to offer a smile. Similarly, if you’d rather not comment on the person you’re speaking with, make an observation about your location.
12. I love that dress/shirt/jacket, where did you get that?
13. I noticed you’re wearing a watch. I love watches; can I ask what type that is?
14. I’ve never been here before, did you notice how nice the wall-art is?
15. What has been your favorite thing to eat here? Do you like the menu?
16. Can you believe how nice this place is inside despite looking so boring outside?
17. If you were controlling the music, what would be your next song?
18. What is your favorite thing about this place?
19. Have you noticed that almost everyone here seems to be young/old/tall/short/the same age/gender?
20. If you could swap out one menu item at this place, what would it be?
Some conversation starters can sound cliche, but they can inform you about the person you’re meeting and allow you to share interests. It may seem silly to ask if someone “comes here often,” but sometimes a simple question - with a little twist - can lead you to a fun and complex place.
21. What’s your favorite movie that is constantly rerunning on cable?
22. What is the one thing that made you laugh harder than anything else in your life?
23. Would you rather read the book or see the movie?
24. If you could only pick one, would you choose movies at home, movies at a theater, or live theater performances (like musicals)?
25. What’s the number one reason you chose to live in this area?
26. Do you have any pets? If yes, what are their names? If no, why not, and what would be your ideal pet?
27. What is your biggest fear in life?
28. If you were given your choice of superpowers, which would you want?
Some of the above categories featured either/or questions or questions that force a person to decide on their favorite things. These conversation starters are powerful because it makes that person consider their options and measure their answer. It makes them think about things from different angles. It also allows you to good-naturedly push back and keep the conversation moving. Here are some more questions that force a choice.
29. If you won the lottery, would you take the annual installments or the lump sum payout?
30. Would you rather live on the beach or live in the mountains?
31. What would you do if you were given the next five days off work?
32. If you could go back in time and teach yourself something, what would it be?
33. Would you prefer to spend 48 hours alone in an amusement park or alone in a library?
34. Would you rather be great at drawing or great at singing?
35. Are you a dog person, a cat person, neither, or both?
There’s no secret weapon on how to begin a meaningful conversation with a new person, but having some ideas for things to ask is a good place to start. A lot of the questions we instinctively ask are yes or no, and that doesn’t leave much room for discussion. Using some ideas from this list will help you avoid those conversation-stoppers and instead make you both think deeper about a topic.
Most importantly, make sure you’re willing to listen.