How do I get a Conversation Started?
If you are more outgoing, starting a conversation will usually not be a problem (unless the person is someone you are desperately eager to meet and you don’t know what to say).
But many students see someone they’d like to meet and hope that person will come speak to them. Their insecurity or shyness makes it hard for them to take the first steps.
Start by practicing your skills
1. Imagine that you see someone sitting or standing alone. Take a couple deep breaths for courage and walk over with a smile friendly smile. “Hello. May I join you? My name is Johnny Smith (or Jane Smith). Are you a freshman too? I’m from Centreville. That’s a small town about 50 miles from here. It feels a little strange to be in a large school like this. Where are you from? So what are your first impressions of the school?”
Start with a list of sensible questions, questions that are not too personal. Do NOT begin with “Do you have a boyfriend?”
2. Practice meeting someone in the cafeteria. Imagine you see someone sitting alone. Actually walk to an imaginary table and talk to this imaginary person … preferably someone who isn’t almost through eating. “Hi, would you mind if I joined you?” Pause several seconds and ask, “Or are you waiting for someone?” This gives them an opportunity to be polite while saying they don’t want company.
If you end up eating alone, take notes (written or mental) on others who are eating alone and seem uncomfortable. Chances are they will be delighted to have someone to eat with.
3. Practice an imaginary conversation you might start while standing in line. Then ask, “Are you eating with someone or could I join you?” At the table, begin by introducing yourself. “My name is Jack Jones. I’m a freshman. I’m not quite sure about what to major in. I love music but don’t think I’m good enough to plat in an orchestra or band. My plan is to study music and education and maybe I could be a school music teacher. Your turn. Tell me your name and a little about yourself.”
It is time to talk to real people
Give it a try. If the other person ignores you or responds with one word answers, they might be just be shy or they might not be interested. If nothing seems to be working, then you might say, It’s been nice to meet you.” Call this person by name if they volunteered that information. If nothing else comes from this encounter, it is one more person you can smile at, and greet when you see them.
Talk to people at parties or other activities
1. Try some of the same conversations you used in the cafeteria
2. You see someone you have met and she is talking to another person. Walk over and join them.
You say “Hello Sandy. It’s good to see you here.” If you don’t get introduced right away, turn to the person you don’t know and introduce yourself. “Hi, my name is _____. And you are?” Your friend might not be rude. Sandy might simply have forgotten your name and be ever so grateful that you introduced yourself.
If you aren’t included in the conversation right off, then say “It’s really good to see you again Sandy and I’m happy to meet you too, George.” Then leave them and look elsewhere.
But this wasn’t a total loss. You met Sandy again and you also met her friend,George. Now you can greet George when you see him on campus. Perhaps, you’ll have a longer conversation the next time.
3. If you are somewhat shy, you may not want to begin by choosing a friend who is one of the more popular students. You would always be in their shadow. Those who will be most interested and grateful if you stop to greet them are people like yourself who don’t know anyone, people who are shy. Find the people who are sitting or standing alone, looking around hopefully.
4. You might start a conversation by saying they remind you of someone else. “Hello, my name is ___. I saw you sitting there and at first I thought you were my cousin, Maryanne. But of course, you couldn’t be. She’s just in tenth grade. (But only do this is you have a cousin named Maryanne who has at least a vague resemblance to this person.) If you are greeting a student of a different race, this would seem a little strange.
Perhaps you could ask, “Did I see you at orientation the other day?” or say “I think I’ve seen you a couple times in the cafeteria.”
Ask for help
When you are headed to your first meeting of a class – that happens at the start of each semester, you ca ask several people if they know how to get to the chemistry building or to Founder’s Hall. If you ar lucky, you might find someone heading the same way, maybe even to your class, and you can get acquainted as you walk together.
After a class, look for people who aren’t hurrying away to another class. Then you might approach another class and say something like…”Did you understand that last problem? I understood the others, but I think the professor was hurrying and I was totally lost on the last one.” But don’t fake it. Only ask for help when you are confused.
I remember a summer class I took in comparative anatomy. It had been for or five years since I took Biology. After class,I turned to the young man next to me and said, “Did you understand any of that? I was totally lost.”
We ended up eating lunch together that day, and every other day during tat class. He patiently explained the terms I didn’t know and went over the main ideas. /in a few weeks, I was able to keep up by myself, but we still found it helpful to discuss the lecture every day. I wasn’t faking it. I wasn’t trying to meet someone. But I needed help, asked for it, and I made a new friend.
Remember the basics
1. Act like you are confident. Smile like you mean it.
2. Be cheerful. Have a good time.
3. Don’t pretend to be something that you aren’t.
4. Don’t get discouraged when the people you meet aren’t interested in continuing the conversation.
5. Let the other person know that you really are interested in them and what they have to say. Keep the conversation going.
Links back to Meeting People