Meeting people can be difficult. Initiating a conversation even more so. What if you see someone you like, or would like to get to know, but can’t start the conversation? One of my female friends grumbled to me “How do you start a conversation with a guy you’re attracted to?”
Maybe you’ve had a conversation with a female friend that goes like this:
- A: How do I speak to him? I know I like him, but I don’t know how to start a conversation.
- B: Well, just start a conversation. It’s not that hard.
- A: But what do I say? How do I avoid sounding stupid – or even worse desperate?
- B: What about asking him out?
- A: There’s no way I could do that! Isn’t the guy supposed to do that? What if he says no?
- B: Well it’s all different now, why can’t we ask out the guy? How else are you going to know?
- A: It’s alright for you – you find it easy to start conversations with people.
Rather than focusing on a tactic or script that you use in every situation, I suggest that it’s worth thinking through what’s behind this. Self-awareness is a useful source of insight. Starting a conversation might be difficult for a load of reasons:- the stakes are high – is he the one or not?- fear of rejection – what if he laughs? Or ignores me? Or doesn’t respond?- getting it wrong – what if I say something stupid or mumble?
I’m sure you can think of a bunch of your own.
The reality is – starting a conversation is like serving in tennis. I found an excellent article on TED that describes a good conversation being a like a game of catch. I think it’s a great analogy. A good conversation needs balance and participation to keep going.
But starting an interaction does take something. Using practised line can feel inauthentic – and I wouldn’t suggest that. Equally, not everyone is naturally comfortable starting conversations with anyone (and I don’t want to take anything away from those people who are!) But I do suggest that we all have something to say – we have all something unique and valuable to bring to the table. Taking time to consider the way you enjoy conversations means that you’ll be more easily be able to start meaningful interactions.
What I mean by that is, think about your strengths. Think about your talents. And I don’t mean specific subjects – I mean the way you look at the world. For example, some people are amazing at coming up with ideas. Other people intuitively understand what’s going on with others. Some of us are enthusiastic and uplifting about everything around them. Thinking from our talents and strengths is an easy way to appreciate what we’re great at. This is one reason I think Gallup’s work on Strengths Psychology, and the CliftonStrengths is so valuable – it’s a simple framework to make us feel good about ourselves. It’s also one of the key frameworks I bring to my coaching.
If I understand my talents, I can then start thinking about which areas they apply. For example, do I like to think about new ideas? Does that mean I like to read a lot and spend time in bookshops? Or, am I really in tune with and have a deep appreciation for the oneness of life the universe and everything? Does that mean I enjoy yoga? Yes I’m simplifying this for clarity, but we can link our talents to real-life situations.
Once we do that – starting a conversation becomes much easier, because I always have something to say. It frees me up from having to think about what to say, and just throw the ball. (Whether it’s caught is a topic for another post.) We are all interesting people. Key to this of course is the situation. Being on a first date with someone you like is different from giving a stranger a genuine compliment in a restaurant. But if you don’t think about what makes you the unique individual you are; if you don’t appreciate and develop your strengths; if you don’t cultivate your self-awareness (using whatever tools, books, or courses you choose) – then I suggest no number of tactics or learned scripts will help you start a conversation with that nice bloke you just met.
- Write a journal at the end of each week, for a month. Reflect on the situations where you were particularly good at something and look for patterns.
- Start a conversation with three different people: someone you know well, someone you don’t know so well, and a stranger. Afterwards, journal what happened: how you felt, and what you learned about yourself.
Do you find it easy to start conversations? What are some of the things you do?
Identify your talents with my ‘Natural Dating Strategy’ to get an approach to dating as unique as you are.