I once went on a solo backpacking trip. Upon arriving at my destination, there was a group tour with one slot still available. “What the heck!” I told myself. I’ll join this group tour even if I don’t know anybody there.
In this group, everyone knows somebody except me. Members of the group were nice and friendly. But there was this one situation that I could not forget. There was this pretty lady and we were left alone on a table. I thought I was a good conversationalist, but we were just there sitting side by side. No conversations. Not even an eye contact. I don’t know what to say. Me? Good conversationalist? Hah! It was a very awkward situation.
After a few days, I recalled the situation and thought of how I should have handled the situation. I realized breaking the ice was not that difficult. Hindsight is 20/20, so they say. I already knew her name. That’s a start. With that singular knowledge of her, I could have expanded the conversation. I should have complimented that she has a lovely name, and asked about the story of how her parents came up with the name.
From there, I have already linked her parents to the conversation. I can now ask about her parents. Something casual, perhaps, like where are they originally from or what they do. Since I have already linked her family to the conversation, I could’ve asked if she has siblings, what they do, how many are married, how many nephews or nieces she has, describe how cute her nephews are, or does she have a pet dog. The conversation could have gone on virtually forever. But I should also be cautious of signs if she was comfortable talking about the topic.
Other conversation opener topics could have been, how long had she known her friends on the group, how did they meet, does she often go on vacations, or what places has she been to.
Simplifying the steps:
Go on with the pleasantries
Ask the name, where are they from, or is this the first time they’d been here.
Apply conversation threading
Elaborate on the pleasantries by asking more details about it, and continue the conversation by linking topics about it. Ask for the name, how the parents came up with the name, ask something about the parents, ask where the parents are originally from, and ask if your conversation partner has ever been there.
Don’t worry too much if you ask a foolish question
That is perfectly fine. You have just met and you know virtually nothing about each other. Awkward silence is OK, too, as long as it doesn’t take too long.
Do not ever, ever, forget to smile! I can’t stress enough the cardinal rule of being Lykeeble. SMILE!
Being a good conversationalist doesn’t mean talking incessantly. On the contrary, talk minimally and let the other person do the talking. If you talk incessantly, there is a good chance you will bore the other person. But nobody gets bored talking about themselves, so let them do the talking. Your job is to ask the questions, give genuine compliments, expound on what the other person has to say. We will talk about how to be a good conversationalist in another article.
Be mindful of your gestures
Lean towards the other person when they are talking. Do not cross your arms. Look them in the eye during conversations. I will also write about gestures in detail in another article.
Do you have any more tips on how to start conversations on first encounters? I would love to hear about it. Comment it below.