e all know people who can approach anyone and strike up a conversation, or those who can walk up to a table of guests at a wedding and seem instantly at ease. Not you? You’re not alone. Like any social skill, breaking the ice doesn’t come naturally for everyone.
If you feel nervous meeting new people or get tongue-tied when trying to come up with something clever to say, it can help to have a plan. Prepare a few openers and strategies to keep the talk flowing, and you needn’t panic when meeting someone new, or chatting with someone seated next to you on public transportation.
In an article on Verywell Mind, Kendra Cherry presents an elegant system designed to prepare the would-be ice breaker.
Her method starts with preparation: have an idea of conversation topics beforehand and try a dry run with a trusted friend. Cherry advises avoiding offensive, uncomfortable and controversial topics when starting a conversation. All of those can stop a conversation in its tracks.
Maintaining a positive, curious attitude is important, as is having a couple of simple, go-to starter statements ready before setting out. “Not every great conversation needs to begin with a deep, philosophical, earth-shattering observation,” says Cherry. Keep it simple. The idea is that if you can get through a few easy-breezy openers, the conversation will progress naturally. And, according to a study she cites, deeper conversations lead to deeper happiness.
Other things to keep in mind are to keep your body language relaxed and open, and maintain comfortable eye contact. (It’s OK to look away from time to time.) Listen carefully and ask questions about what has been said. The emphasis should be on the other person.