How to Start a Conversation with Anyone

Every time we’re out, we stick to the Art of Charm conversation formula. It works whether you’re trying to start a conversation or resuscitate one that’s flatlining. When you run out of things to say, there’s that awkward lull. Before you know it, you’re freaking out. This formula will show you how to start a conversation with anyone.

So you’re out on the town or headed to a business meet-and-greet. Now is the time. You’re ready to practice all you’ve been learning during our 30-Day Challenge, and it’s time to start some conversations.

Sound terrifying? You’re not alone. In fact, during our Los Angeles Bootcamp, this is one of the most frequent topics of discussion. Everyone wants to know: Exactly how do I walk up to perfect strangers and start a conversation?

It comes back to the same advice we’ve given again and again: You have to be interested to be interesting.

While there’s plenty of bad advice out there on starting conversations, this mantra will never fail you. Take an interest in the other person, and they’ll walk away thinking you are interesting. Maybe it sounds counterintuitive. Most of us think we’ve got to come up with crazy stories to get people engaged and chatty, but you don’t have to knock it out of the park or blow it out of the water with some bombastic story. Instead, when you step up to bat, just aim to get a piece of the ball. You may find you start hitting home runs with practice.

Every time we’re out, we stick to the Art of Charm conversation formula. It works whether you’re trying to start a conversation or resuscitate one that’s flatlining. When you run out of things to say, there’s that awkward lull. Before you know it, you’re freaking out. This formula solves that problem:

Ask a question. Listen to the answer. Respond in the form of a statement.

Wait…Don’t You Mean Ask Another Question?

It might seem like the way to go is to continue asking questions. You know, really prove to the other person that you’re interested in knowing everything about them. But if you follow up every answer with another question, they’ll start feeling like they’re under interrogation. You don’t want to seem like you’re invading their privacy. It makes sense. Asking question after question is just as bad as blathering on about yourself. The goal is not to mindlessly ask questions; the goal is to relate to the other person.

What Kinds of Questions Should I Ask?

Don’t ask about politics or religion, obviously. Make the topic the person you’re talking to. That’s important. You could ask:

  • The story behind what they’re wearing
  • Why they work where they work
  • Why they chose the neighborhood where they live
  • Some amazing places they’ve traveled
  • Their opinion about something (keep it light!)
  • What they enjoy about their work or a hobby

Open-ended questions work beautifully. Even better, ask questions that lead them to a point of positivity.

Ask the right questions and you’ll get loads of information you can play through the rest of the conversation. We’re all wired to answer questions when asked — it’s just human nature. It’s why we help strangers on the street if they need directions. If someone asks something, it’s really hard for us to just walk away and leave it unanswered. So if you start a conversation with a question, it’s much more likely you’ll get a response.

Tip: What If They Ask About Politics or Religion?

You want to be graceful as you sidestep that land mine! Try adding a little levity and say something like, “I only share my views on Facebook.” Then introduce and move on to another topic.

Listen with Your Eyes and Your Ears

Most people only listen with their ears rather than reading the body language of the other person. Don’t risk missing subtle cues about their emotional state. By paying attention to body language, you’ll know whether what you’re talking about is evoking a positive emotion. If so, you want to work with that.

Tip: Remember, People Won’t Remember What You Said, but They Will Remember How They Felt in Your Presence

If you hone in on their enthusiasm, they’ll feel really good, and you’ll be seen as memorable and charismatic. The tendency is to focus inward. When you focus inward, it’s all too easy to get stuck inside your head, and that will sabotage your conversations. The most important thing is the emotional state of the other person and how well you can relate on that emotional level.

With a little practice putting yourself out there, you’ll learn how to focus outward and wow them instead. It’ll take some time. But you’ll find your rhythm if you go out and apply the concepts you’re learning in the Challenge and in our FB Live sessions.

Show Some Enthusiasm and Energy

To help make the conversation feel good for the other person, watch your own body language and energy. You’d never walk up to a stranger all slumped over, saying you feel like crap and asking them to prop you up.

This does not mean you’ve got to be bouncing around and hyper, like you’ve just had four Red Bulls. It’s just about showing enthusiasm and excitement about the other person. Imagine seeing a friend you haven’t seen for a week or two. You’ve both been busy at work and haven’t had a chance to hang out. How are you going to respond when you first meet up? Call on a similar comfortable energy when introducing yourself to new people. Strangers will be drawn toward your enthusiasm and it will impact the rest of the conversation.

But What about Keeping a Conversation Going?

Lots of people claim they’ve got nothing exciting to say during a conversation — and it gets awkward when the initial small talk winds down. You actually do have interesting things to say, it just takes a little bit of preparation and getting to know yourself.

Keep a journal and write about what you’re looking forward to and excited about in life. That’ll keep ideas on the tip of your tongue, ready to discuss. It’s okay to write the same thing over and over each day. The point is to move what’s exciting you to the top of your mental list so you’re ready to go if an opportunity presents.

This little bit of legwork in understanding who you are will help you to convey enthusiasm in social moments. Your enthusiasm will draw people in and they’ll want to be part of your life. Journaling is a fantastic exercise for getting to know yourself better.

When you follow our simple conversation formula, you listen to what’s being said and answer in the form of a statement. You’re expressing interest and understanding. What you’ll quickly find is that people will start taking interest in you and asking you questions, too. Suddenly, the concept of having a conversation will seem really easy.

By taking interest in the other person, we become interesting ourselves. Listen on an emotional level, minding their body language and facial expressions. What made them smile? What got them to lean in? People gravitate toward positivity and enthusiasm. When you show that to others, they’ll return the favor. Being a positive person has a positive impact on people and welcomes more amazing people into your life.

Tip: Always Talking With Your Hands?

That’s okay. It can be a sign of enthusiasm. Don’t try to stop that by crossing your arms. That stance is not warm, welcoming, or positive. Don’t put your hands in your pockets, either. When you restrain your hands, you restrain your thoughts and words. Also, remember that “small talk” doesn’t have to be small. Once you get into a conversation flow, you can talk about deeper, bigger topics.

Johnny Dzubak - author of 56 posts on The Art of Charm

Johnny happened upon the field of Social Dynamics and dating coaching quite by accident. Having been a touring musician much of his life, he felt the need to contribute positively to the world and was interested in the power of personal transformation. Johnny began educating himself about Social Dynamics and incorporating the concepts he learned into his day-to-day life. Soon after, he began coaching for a small Social Dynamics company out of Washington, DC; it was then that he met AJ & Jordan.

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