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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

101 Conversation Starters To Get You Started With Anyone

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Below are 101 types of conversation starters to use on your first date, at a party, in business, with guys or girls, or on family and friends.

The 101 great conversation openers are simple and effective. Do not be fooled. The most important point to remember when using any conversation starter is they aim to start the conversation. “Ice-breakers” break the ice; they don’t heat up the planet and make mother nature flourish.

Conversation openers are not intended to make people laugh or get people to like you. Guys, you can make a woman think you’re a primal beast to be locked in her room later in the conversation. When you attempt to impress someone with your first words, you get nervous, discouraging you from starting a conversation. It also makes you look like a try hard in need of approval.

The best conversation starters are situation-specific. Most openers given by dating experts, communication trainers, and bloggers are limiting because there is little chance they would work in your situation. Try asking someone, “Have you ever been snorkeling?” or “Who’s your favorite Star Wars character?” and the conversation may end as soon as it began (unless you’re in a diving class or at a nerd function… I’m mean, Star Wars convention.)

‘Ice-breakers’ break the ice; they don’t heat up the planet and make mother nature flourish.

While generic openers and stock material can be used in many situations, use proven formulas like opinion openers to construct your own ice-breakers for situations you find yourself in throughout the week.

Here’s an exercise to help you develop excellent openers. Think of the top three situations you find yourself in like at the gym, supermarket, or a bench near work. Now think of 10 things to say in each situation.

Having done that, you already have 30 amazing conversation starters. Do that exercise to always know what to say to anyone. I encourage you to go over the massive list of openers revealed in this article applying the simple exercise you just did.

Before we get started, “Hey” or “Hi” is left out from the 101 starters because it is redundant. You often want to say such a simple greeting first. Also keep in mind some openers placed under one category like “Funny Conversation Starters” can be used in situations filed under other categories like “Conversation Starters for Guys with Girls”.

Let’s get talking and working through this gigantic list of ways to start a conversation based off the Big Talk Training Course – the ultimate guide if you’re shy to talk to anyone and make friends. We start basic because that is enough most times:

Conversation Starters Anyone can Use in Any Situation

  1. “I’m [your first name].” Most people reciprocate an exchange of information. Give them your name, they’ll give you theirs.
  2. “How are ya doing right now?” “How’s ya day been so far?” Slightly vary the question, “How are you?” No one answers that trite question or gives it any thought.
  3. “How’s your [the day of the week] been?” “What’s happened for you today?” “How was your trip?” “How’d you sleep last night?” We’re happy to talk about simple events when they’ve recently occurred. We love to blabber about our delayed flight, the traffic jam, or the sunburn on our arm within a day or so of it happening.
  4. “Hey.” Smile then walk away. Repeat each time you meet the person and build towards a casual conversation. Say it in an environment like a gym when you meet someone over and over. Eventually you’ll feel like friends and have something good to talk about. When you have something else to say, have the confidence to say it.
  5. “What do you think of that book?” “Looks like a great drink. What is it?” “I love this place because it’s got great energy.” These examples are situational openers – the most common type of conversation starter. Simply comment on your surroundings.
  6. “Where are you from?” This is best if you think the person is not from the area or the location is something like a seminar, convention, or university where people from diverse towns come together. Let the conversation spread from their as you talk about the city’s sporting teams, cultural icons, and famous landmarks.
  7. “This might seem a little weird, but I like your posture. It makes you stand out nicely.” “Nice shirt. Where did you get it?” “I love your style!” These examples are compliment openers.
  8. “It’s so hot today.” “The great sun is burning this afternoon.” “It’s freezing! Do you know the temperature?” Talk about the weather. “Don’t knock the weather,” said American cartoonist Kin Hubbard, “nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while.”
  9. “I don’t know anyone around here so I thought I’d come talk to you.” “I’m a little nervous talking with strangers, but I just had to come say hi.” “I know no one here so I thought I’d introduce myself to you.” These examples are what I call the “vulnerable introduction”. Make your opener reveal your anxiety to endear people.
  10. “I’m out meeting new, interesting people tonight. Mind if we chat for a minute?” “You guys look like you’re having fun. That’s so cool that I just had to come talk to you.” “I had to come talk to you because your shirt made me laugh.” Reveal your reason for approaching the person or group.
  11. “What about the game last night!” “Yankees aren’t doing so well this season.” “Your flowers are looking lovely.” Talk about something you know the person is interested in.
  12. “I was just listening to the radio on my way here and can’t believe what happened in Africa. Have you heard about the flying frozen fish?” Study the news before an event to learn what’s hot.
  13. “Normally people start a conversation by talking about what’s in the news, but I haven’t been paying any attention. What’s been going on? Is the President dead?” If you’re like me and never consume the daily news (it’s mental pollution from corporations wanting readership), ask about the news. Use humor whenever possible to release tension.
  14. “I believe we saw each other at James’ party.” “I think we ran into each other at the trade event last month.” “Did we meet last year at Church?” Start by talking about previous brief interactions.
  15. “How’s your Christmas preparations going?” “How’d the New Year go for you?” “Spring Break has been crazy. What’s happened to you at Spring Break so far?” Talk about holiday preparations, experiences, and fun times. The person is guaranteed to do something for holidays like Christmas making it a good opener.
  16. Wear a big talk people-magnet. As described in my Big Talk book, big talk people-magnets are items people will approach you to talk about. Such items include earrings, jewelery, tattoos, an unusual hair cut or color, a pinned item on your shirt or top, or a slogan t-shirt. People want to talk to you so help put words in their mouth.

Cold-Read Conversation Starters to Use on Anyone

  1. “You look like a [teacher/fashion designer/entrepreneur/some noble profession].” The person will feel appreciated and always ask why you guessed that particular profession.
  2. “You seem like a [kind/hard working/problem solving/positive personality trait] person. I like that.” Use this opener when the person displays an admirable trait. The compliment makes the person feel great and can lead the conversation to many directions.
  3. “You look like a [outgoing/talkative/friendly/people-magnetic trait] person.”
  4. “I’m curious. Would your friends say you’re an [outgoing/understanding/open/positive personality trait] person?”
  5. “I like your [necklace/shirt/hair/personal trait or item]. I bet that says a lot about your personality.” No one hates a compliment or someone interested in one’s personality.
  6. “You guys know each from work?” “You guys look like you’ve been friends since school.” “You guys spending the night out together?” This one is good for groups. Predict their relationship with one another.
  7. “I’m practicing a new skill called ‘cold-reading’ on people I don’t yet know. Let me quickly try it on you. It’ll be fun.” Confidently assert you will cold-read; don’t ask for permission.

Grab my free magical conversation starter for more great advice on coming up with your own cold-reads in conversation to instantly make people like you.

Conversation Starters for Guys with Girls

  1. “I need a girl’s opinion about something I was just discussing with a friend who broke up with his girlfriend. He made out with another woman straight after his relationship break up. Is he a jerk?” Get a female opinion.
  2. “I play the field, and it looks like I just hit a home run with you.” “You’re like a dictionary, you add meaning to my life!” “Do you have a sunburn, or are you always this hot?” Tease cheesy pick-up lines. Make sure you say the pick-up line in a joking manner.
  3. “Who lies more: men or women?” “Is it wrong to break up with a text message?” Ask a controversial question to a group of women then watch their eyes open wide and hear the chatter break out.
  4. “I want a woman’s perspective on this. I was just talking to a friend who broke up. His girlfriend keeps calling. Why does she do it?” Ask a question about someone’s relationship. Women love to share their opinion on relationships.
  5. “You caught my attention because you’re cute so I had to come talk to you.”
  6. “Nice boots. Do you have your horse parked outside?” “Nice shoes. They look comfortable.” “Nice top. My grandma has one.” Say it playfully. Lightly tease the woman about something she’ll giggle over. Be prepared for banter otherwise you could be eaten alive by a witty woman.
  7. “Can I help you?” Ask this in a shop. Playfully pretend to be an employee.
  8. “Hmm, are you friendly?” Say it with a suspicious and playful look. Most women will not say no. “Good, I’ll talk to you.” If she does say no, you can overlook it, use it as banter material, or take it as a warning sign to leave the grump alone. This opener is more suited to entertainment venues.

Conversation Starters for Girls with Guys

  1. “I need a guy’s opinion on something that just happened with a friend. Would you read your girlfriend’s email if you thought she was cheating on you?” Get a male opinion.
  2. “Where can I find a good coffee shop around here?” “I need help rubbing sunscreen on my back. I’m unfortunately not double-jointed. Can you help put it on?” “What’s a great country to visit?” Ask for his help. Guys love to give advice (as if you didn’t know that.)
  3. “I’ll do a trade with you. You give me that burger and I’ll give you this awful coffee.” Make a playful trade. You can make up anything based on something each of you have at the time.
  4. “Can you take a photo for me to send a friend?” Get him to join in the photo.
  5. “Can you reserve my seat for me?” “Can you look after these books until I get back?” Ask him to watch something for you – just don’t leave your bag behind for him. You are opening a conversation for when you return, not putting the country at threat or testing if he would be an honest husband.
  6. “Nice [shoes/shirt/bag/material item]. I’ve been thinking of getting one for a friend. Where can I get one?” Question something you complimented.
  7. “Oh! Sorry for bumping into you.” “Oh no! I’m sorry for spilling my drink on you.” The accident opener isn’t the best because its subtly may mean you have to spill a drink on the guy three times for him to pick up your interest in starting a conversation. I’ve heard of some women using this conversation starter by burning men with cigarettes! Don’t be talking to me b****! Create an accident if you are absolutely lost for words. Just be careful you do no damage.
  8. “You should come talk to me.” Smile over your shoulder as you walk away without giving him a chance to respond. Mystery is sexy.
  9. Shoo away your friends for a moment to be alone. Many guys talk to women in bars and clubs when the woman’s friends get a drink or go to toilet – it’s the guy’s chance to attack the lonely gazelle.

Conversation Starters for Families or Friends

  1. “Where’s [Uncle Terry/New York crew/missing family or friend] today?”
  2. “Are you going to Jim’s wedding?” “What celebrations are coming up in your family?” Weddings, births, and birthdays are all memorable events family members and friends can talk about. Divorces are memorable, but depressing.
  3. “How have you been this past year?” “Great to see you. What’s changed in your life since the last time we met?” (Recall the last time you met to get bonus points). Catch up on the person’s life – my favorite opener to use with family and friends.
  4. Bring up a memorable moment or anecdote your family or friends remember, such as a funny story, an embarrassing mishap, or a trip everyone enjoyed. This starter initiates multiple conversations about similar moments.
  5. “What do you have planned for the weekend?” “What’s happening for you Friday?” “What’s on your calendar this week?”
  6. “What’s one thing you’re really thankful for?”
  7. “What’s something I don’t know about you that you think I should know? Like… are you a stalker?” “What’s one thing that’s new in your life?” “What’s recently changed in your life?”

Conversation Starters for Couples

Most of these are useful when the couple are already in rapport and chatting:

  1. “What do you most admire about our [family/home/relationship/something with positive qualities]?”
  2. “What’s one thing you’ve wanted to tell me, but haven’t?”
  3. “I like how you smile when I come home from work.” Compliments replenish the energy in relationships often drained from criticism. A compliment often leads to a great conversation.
  4. “In your dream house, what one room must you have?”
  5. “What’s a memory between us that stands out for you?”
  6. “What does this [flower/meal/atmosphere/something in the environment] remind you of?” Make sure the object you’re commenting on has history in your relationship.
  7. “What three values do you most want our children to carry on throughout life?” “What principles do you want our children to live by?” “How do you want our children to best live life?”
  8. “If you happen to leave Earth before I do, how would you like me to remember you?” You’ll discover the ideal image of your partner, which you can use to increase understanding and intimacy.

First Date Conversation Starters

  1. “How am I doing so far?” Say it sarcastically once the date starts (you’re making fun of someone needy.)
  2. “What’s one defining moment of your life so far?”
  3. “What’s one thing you most want to do?” Gather information for a later date to blow their mind away.
  4. “What three words best describe you?”
  5. “What’s something your friends don’t even know about you?”
  6. “Ignoring your criminal history, what’s the baddest thing you’ve done?” You set the frame your partner is the problematic one. It also gives you call-back humor to brighten a dying conversation.
  7. “What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?”
  8. Talk about a funny, embarrassing moment you had with a member of the opposite sex to ease tension.

Do not make the first date or any conversation a needy interview. Question sparingly.

Party Conversation Starters

  1. “Do you know [the host’s name]?” If they don’t, it doesn’t matter. You’re finding out how they fit into the party, an easy ice-breaker allowing for more conversation about the party and its people.
  2. “What’d you get up to earlier today?”
  3. “I love this party. People are just having fun. Are you having fun?” “This is an awesome night. How’s your night been?” “The people here are great and add to the fun. Having fun here?” You get the idea.
  4. “You better win. I’ve got a bet going with a friend.” Apply this to a game of pool, darts, drinking competition – whatever game you see at a party. If the person loses or wins, you’ve got good call-back humor to bring repeat laughs for the rest of the night: “You’re doing well tonight”, “I think you woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning”, “My house is on you winning this game of poker. If you win, we can go retire in Las Vegas then blow all our money.”
  5. “I’m trying to settle a bet with a friend. How many oceans are there in the world?” Mention the bet then ask any piece of trivia.
  6. “Can you help me open this bottle?” Good for the ladies to make a guy feel macho. Just make sure it isn’t a plastic screw lid on a soft-drink bottle. If you game like a ditsy blonde, cool by me.
  7. If you host the party, get a conversation starter kit with questions on cards to break the ice. Table Topics are a company that make such cards for many occasions like parties, teens, couples, and the dinner table. You can buy them here.

Conversation Starters at the Gym

People serious about working out (yes, the hot ones) don’t like to talk at the gym. You may want to precede all the following gym conversation starters with, “I’ll quickly let you get back to working out, but…” Use the following openers to keep your chat short, leaving your conversation partner feeling respected:

  1. “You look like you know what you’re doing. What’s a good exercise to target my lower abs?”
  2. “Can you spot me?”
  3. “How’s your workout going?” This is good to ask at the watercooler or when both of you are resting between sets.
  4. “Can you check my form for this set and give me any feedback?”
  5. If you’re female, ask a guy for help moving heavy weights. Let him catch your eye on his arms. He’ll love it. Every gym-going guy wants to flaunt his strength to women. Call it ego, but I opt for a primal endeavor to create attraction by displaying one’s fitness for survival.

Funny Conversation Starters

  1. “What was the best thing before sliced bread?” “In an emergency, why do you have to break glass to get a hammer to break glass?” “Can crop circles be square?” Pick a few stock ironic questions to ask anyone. Ask a question with a clueless, serious look then switch your body language over to “I’m playing around”.
  2. “You know what they say about people who [run in the morning/drink espressos/talk to themselves/anything the person is doing]?” They’ll say, “No. What?” Giggle and leave the mystery open or say, “Nothing. I’m just messing with ya.”
  3. “Why shouldn’t you take a Pokemon into the bathroom? He might Pikachu.” Tell a simple joke. Few people tell a joke to someone they don’t know – it’s never happened to me.
  4. “What’s your biggest pet peeve?” People will usually giggle over their pet peeves because we know how silly little annoyances can be.
  5. “My mum said I shouldn’t talk to strangers, but you don’t look scary.” “My grandmother said I shouldn’t talk to strangers, but you don’t look like you’d kidnap me.” People with a sense of humor will usually role play being scary or a kidnapper after such a playful opener.
  6. “Look at that fighting couple. I’ve never seen so much love before.” This comedic technique is exaggeration. Observe something then exaggerate it to a humorous level.
  7. Tell a funny story that relates to the situation.

Deep, Meaningful Conversation Starters

  1. “When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?” This question allows both of you to reflect on childhood hopes and dreams.
  2. “Are you a person who does their duty or forges their own path?”
  3. “I’ve been asking a few people this and want your opinion because you seem like an intelligent person: is it more important to be respected or loved?”
  4. “What do you like about this [music/event/holiday/almost anything].” Exploring people’s opinions instead of talking about objective facts makes the conversation personal.
  5. “How does this [music/event/holiday/almost anything] make you feel?” Understand the affect something has on the person.
  6. “What were the highs and lows of your day, today?” Don’t ask unless you really want to know.
  7. “What’s something you regret?” “What one thing would you change in your life at the moment?” “If you could go back in time, what one thing would you change?”
  8. “What gives you the greatest joy in life?” “What makes you the happiest?” “If you’re about to die, what do you need to have done to be fulfilled?”

The effectiveness of these openers like many others depend on who you chat with. Ask a teenage dude, “Are you a person who does their duty or forges their own path?” and he’ll roll his eyes thinking you are a weirdo.

There is more to selecting the right topic for a meaningful conversation, however. In fact, what you talk about has little to do with a deep conversation. A meaningful conversation is about connection created from deep rapport. If you want to forge a deep connection with others, grab my Big Talk book.

Conversation Starters that Get People Talking

While most starters up to this point have been your first few words, the following are good sticks to stir a conversational fire. Think of them as “conversation starters that keep the conversation going”.

If any seem awkward, it is a matter of bridging them with a relevant topic. Preface the following statements or questions with something related to avoid looking like you have ADD:

  1. “What’s hot in your life at the moment?” Hear about the big event in the person’s life.
  2. “What hobbies are taking up your time?” Much more interesting than talking about work again.
  3. “What do you do for fun?”
  4. “What have you been doing in your time off recently?”
  5. “What’s the first thing you notice about a person?” “In your opinion, what makes a good first impression?” “Jill has such a great personality. I wonder why.” Talk about what relates to building friends and influencing people. Ask interesting questions most people never hear.
  6. “What countries have you been to?” People love to travel. If they haven’t been overseas, ask, “Where would you like to go?”
  7. “If you wrote a book, what would it be about?” “What would you do if [he/the US President/Angelina Jolie/a known person] showed up right now?” “I wonder what your DJ name would be?” Make up an endless array of hypothetical scenarios.
  8. “Have you ever [been to Australia/seen a monkey acting human/something unusually interesting]?” One off experiences start a good conversation.
  9. “What’s the last thing you purchased online?” Online purchases aren’t a social experience so they can make an interesting conversation.
  10. “What movies have you seen lately?” “What’s on your music playlist at the moment?” “Watched any good shows or DVDs recently?” “What book are you currently reading?”
  11. “Last time we talked, you were… What happened?” “How’s your new job coming along?” “Who won the game of golf you said you were about to play the last time we talked?” Recall something from a past conversation.

Phew! I hope you enjoyed this whopper list. Never again can you excuse yourself from approaching people.

If these conversation starters fail to elicit much information from the person to get the conversation going, answer your own question and talk about yourself. The “rapid big talk model” I developed states that self-disclosure regulates the speed and degree two persons know each other. If you want someone to answer in-depth the question, “What hobbies are taking up your time?” describe your hobby for a minute. They will become socially compelled to give more than a one-word answer.

May you enjoy meeting new people!

Joshua Uebergang, aka “Tower of Power”, teaches social skills to help shy guys build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! 

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