Whether you are a host or a guest, there are many social situations that will call for interaction, even when you are stumped for some way to get it going. For example, you might want to help a friend's new "significant other" feel comfortable. Or, you might see a stranger across a crowded room, and realize that this is your only chance to impress Mr. or Miss Wonderful. Then, you realize that you're not sure what to say.
- Start with a "hello," and simply tell the new person your name then ask them theirs. Offer your hand to shake, upon his or her responding to you. If you already know the person, skip this step and proceed to step 2.
- Look around. See if there is anything worth pointing out. Sure, talking about the weather is a cliche, but if there's something unusual about it--bam!--you've got a great topic of conversation.
- Offer a compliment. Don't lie and say you love someone's hair when you think it's revolting, but if you like his or her shoes, or a handbag, say so. A sincere compliment is a wonderful way to get someone to warm up to you. But be careful not to say something so personal that you scare the person off or make him or her feel uncomfortable. It is best not to compliment a person's looks or body.
- Ask questions! People love to talk about themselves --- get them going. "What classes are you taking this year?" "Have you seen -Here)? What did you think of it?" Again, keep the questions light and not invasive. Do not ask too many questions if he or she is not responsive to them.
- And another thing, do not ask any question about yourself, because that will most likely make the conversation about you, and people don't like that either.
- Jump on any conversation-starters he or she might offer; take something he or she has said and run with it. Agree, disagree, ask a question about it, or offer an opinion, just don't let it go by without notice.
- Look your newfound friend in the eye, it engenders trust (but don't stare). If the conversation goes on, you can possibly touch (lightly, don't claw) his or her hand, elbow or shoulder. Also, use the person's name a time or two during the conversation; it will help you remember the name, and will draw the person's attention to what you are talking about.
- Just relax. Chances are that whatever small-talk you're making isn't going to stick out in anyone's mind a few months from now. Just say whatever comes into your head, so long as it's not offensive or really weird. (Unless, of course, the person you're attempting to converse with is into weird stuff.)
- It will help if you watch some TV, listen to radio shows, and/or read a lot -- newspapers, magazines, and/or books. You need to have some idea of what is going on in the world. If you are shy, it will be helpful to have thought about a topic or two that you could talk about.
- Follow the lead that your listener is expressing. If he or she appears interested, then continue. If he or she is looking at a clock or watch, or worse, looking for an escape strategy, then you have been going on for too long.
- Interesting and funny quotes or facts can lighten things up, & make way for things to talk about.
- If talking over the phone, keep the person involved in the conversation at all costs. If you can't come up with a good topic, try the "questions" game. Just keep asking them questions; random questions work just fine as long as they are appropriate. This technique can save a phone conversation.
- Half of an effective conversation is the way you non-verbally communicate, and not necessarily what you say. Practice better non-verbal skills that are friendly and confident.