I am a mother of two amazing boys. I know it sounds boring, but they are my life, my love, my strength, my miracle. However, I still like to go out, meet interesting people, mingle with other professionals, as well as dance until the morning.
I spent almost 4 years on maternity leave. I tried to be active, I studied, traveled, but I lost track of latest apps, social media channels, global news, events, latest movie releases…
My baby was sleeping only in the stroller and of course only when I walked. So I spent around three hours walking everyday. Same streets, same parks, making circles around my neighborhood. Nowadays you can always listen to Spotify, Soundcloud or something else. The thing that helped me not to get bored and stay challenged were audiobooks. I listened to autobiographies, detective stories, travelling memoirs; the assortment is really huge. You can always find something that is interesting and educating. I also improved my foreign language skills, expanded vocabulary, and improved pronunciation by listening to the books in foreign language (of course you need to have a basic knowledge of language). Do you have your favorite radio station to listen to when you cook or clean? Please, share it with us! 99% invisible is the one I really enjoy. Link: https://99percentinvisible.org
Another challenge after maternity leave was to go back to studies and find a job. I felt like I have nothing to tell or talk about, unless you were interested in breastfeeding, diapers, baby food, and sleepless nights.
I think I’m not the only one who struggles to start a conversation. So I decided to make a list of tips for starting and maintaining a meaningful conversation. Some of these tips can actually be useful helping your kids getting along with friends, starting new activities, entering the new groups of peers.
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Conversation starters and tips:
- Say something the person will be happy to hear. There’s something positive to say in nearly every situation, so find it and say it. Try to avoid political, racial, and religious comments, as well as gossip.
- Comment on the weather. It may sound clichéd, but it works wonders in real life. People talk about the weather all the time—It’s a topic everyone has an opinion on. Also, it’s a shared experience, one that both you and the listener are having. Think of how you have an opinion about what dress or fashion choice is right for different weather.
- Ask for information.
- Ask for assistance.
- Offer assistance.
- Solicit an opinion. “What did you think of that speech?” “Did you get a lot out of this workshop?” “I see you’re drinking the special cocktail. Would you recommend it?” Most people like knowing that others are interested in their opinions and will be happy to respond.
- Mention a mutual acquaintance. Naming someone you both know will tell the listener you are part of his or her extended social circle.
- Bring up a shared experience. Does the listener come from the same town or region as you? Did you attend the same high school or college? Have you both worked for the same company or boss? Do you both love to scuba dive? Any common ground is a good way to start someone talking.
- Compliment the listener’s apparel or accessories. Most people like it when others appreciate their taste, so they will likely want to engage with you. Don’t comment on the listener’s own physical appearance – having a stranger or near-stranger tell you that you have beautiful eyes is more creepy than anything else. The exception is hair. If the listener has recently changed hairstyle or had a haircut, it’s fine to compliment that (but if someone started coloring hair to remove the gray, best to keep that comment to yourself). Don’t compliment for the sake of complimenting. It should be genuine. I think that apparel and accessories are like extensions of personality, so it is likely that you have more common things than just a similar taste for clothes or jewelries.
- Simply introduce yourself. This won’t work in every setting but in many cases, if you truly can’t come up with an appealing conversational gambit, you can try the direct approach. Walk up to the person, stick out your hand and say, “Hi, I’m so-and-so. I just wanted to introduce myself.” The fact that you went out of your way to meet will make the listener feel important. It will probably make the person want to talk to you, as well.
- Listen attentively to the other person’s responses because this can make or break your follow-up questions.
- “How are you doing today?” A genuine hello accompanied by a heartwarming, three second smile is one of the most basic, highly effective ice breakers there is. Often, we brush simple things aside as being too simple not realizing the simplest things can have the biggest impact in life.
- “Oh, did you hear about…” Kick-start a conversation with a description of an interesting, entertaining and/or funny story. Get right in to your story description and then allow the other person to make a remark or share an opinion of the story.
- Jokes can be tricky, but they’re some of the best conversation starters you can throw at someone new. They help the other person see a witty, fun and likeable side of your personality. That said, unless you’re really confident about your joke-telling skills, it’s probably a good idea to avoid them or start with a self-deprecating joke. You can’t possibly offend yourself, can you?
- “Excuse me, I just thought I should come over and talk to you.” Sometimes the best and most fun ice breaker is honesty. Walk up to the person and just tell them you want to talk.
For unusual, but pretty interesting conversation starters you can check: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-colin/conversation-starters_b_5227200.html
You can also check this site if you consider yourself an introvert or don’t like small talk: https://introvertdear.com/news/introverts-5-hacks-to-turn-small-talk-into-meaningful-conversation
Do you have original, time proven tips or ideas, please share them here!