Trying to start a conversation in English? It’s a bit like a gamble. It’s throwing some money on the table in the hope that you win.
But in this sense, it’s where you find yourself standing with someone that you probably don’t know all that well and neither of you know how to start the conversation.
(NB English words in bold have a German translation at the bottom of the article)
It can be quite scary to be the first to break the silence.
So you make a conversational gambit. You throw something out there in the hope that it works. It sounds easy but we all know that, except for the most gregarious among us, it can be quite scary to be the first to break the silence and say something and hope that you won’t sound stupid, be ridiculed, be judged for all time, etc etc etc.
Here’s the thing.
Almost everyone, and by that I mean even the people who give the impression that they were born chatting to all and sundry and being the life of the party, are just as scared as you. We just have different ways of dealing with it. Some ways are more successful that others. Standing silently and hoping that the moment will somehow eventually pass is one of the less successful ones. Just saying something is another way of dealing with it and guess what, it’s one of the more successful ones.
People can be quite forgiving.
And you know when you say something and think, damn! That didn’t work! Remember that you’re judging yourself a whole lot more unforgivingly than anyone else will. People can be quite forgiving. And everyone wants to get the conversation started, so they’ll be very pleased that you broke the ice.
Most gregarious people use the same opening line over and over again.
Another thing to remember if you want to start a conversation is that, unsurprisingly, there’s a number of stock statements, questions, remarks and comments that you can draw on. Most gregarious people use the same opening line over and over again. They’ve got a number, often quite a small number, of lines that they know will work. That’s the best thing to do. Have an armoury of opening lines that work in most situations.
Here’s 4 easy conversation openers to get you started – (Keep it simple, it’s often the best way):
1. “Hi, I don’t know many people here, do you mind if I introduce myself?” – straightforward and it works.
2. “So what brought you here today?”
3. “How’s your day going?”
4. “So what do you do?” – get them talking about themselves (always good) and you’ve also got time to figure out what to say next as well as listening for some common ground)
Useful words translated to German:
conversational gambit – Gesprächsaufhänger
gregarious – gesellig
ridiculed – verspottet
sundry – allerlei, verschieden