Have you ever seen someone interesting but you was too shy? Something in your mind said, “Hey, say something!” and you replied, “What to say? I have nothing to say!” and then when you figured out something to say, the person had gone! If you apply the tip in this blog, you can start conversation with anyone!
Note: In English, “start a conversation” is more proper but for a special purpose I use “start conversation” (Google thing, you know. If you came to this blog by typing start conversation, you’ll know why).
Start conversation? My ashamed story.
When I was young, I felt in love with a cute girl named X. The biggest problem was my classmate named Y. He was a good-looking boy, good at study, and he can start conversation with any girls (included X). One day, I got lucky. X started talking to me first.
“Hey,” X asked. “Why are you so shy?”
“Um…” I replied.
“Say something!” X begged.
“Ah…” I scratched my head, what to say now? Should I give her a compliment? She was so beautiful. Oh no, I was too shy. I felt every cells of my body were shy, too.
“Okay,” X said. “See you next time.”
I was relieved after, but I had no idea that her “next time” was actually “never”. We did not start conversation with each other anymore. Time passed by, X married to Y and lived happily, they gave birth to a boy named Z. The boy gets his father’s talent and keeps people like me jealous over time.
Do you see yourself in that story? If yes, we are allies, we understand each other! I used to be an introvert man. It was hard for me to start conversation or maintain it. After years of practice, I have changed. Now I am a superman. Sorry, a super introvert man. Yes, I am still an introvert. However, things are different.
- I can make presentation in front of hundreds of people.
- I can maintain a one-one conversation to whenever I like.
- I can start conversation with anyone. Especially someone looks like X. Let’s call her X’.
The most important thing is that I am still myself, an introvert man, but never miss any good opportunity again. I also found that being introvert has its own advantages to start conversation. Before moving the best tip that helped me a lot, you need to accept some facts:
- Not every extravert people is good at talking.
- Starting a conversation is a skill. It needs time to master.
- Many successful people are introvert.
Everything is possible; you just need a possible solution. First, we need to find out why we, introverts, often have nothing to say or talk about. Why we, introverts, often meet difficulties to start conversation. What is the root cause of these symptoms?
Why do we, introverts, often have nothing to say?
The reason is simple. We, introverts, often think a lot. Therefore, the idea in our mind can attract us better than anything in the world outside.
If someone ask, “Say something!” of course, we don’t know what to say. Our mind is already busy with thoughts. Nevertheless, if we were asked, “Think about something”. There would be nothing we could not think of. Maybe except one thing: “Think about what to say now!”
After a while studying on the art of small talk, pep talk, and any kind of talk… I figured out that “What to say now?” is the most dangerous question. Wrong question leads to wrong answer. When you already have nothing to say, that question will lead you to nowhere. Now the problem became…
The little secret when you don’t know what to say?
Simple. Instead of thinking “What to SAY now?” just ask yourself, “What to ASK now?” A simple change but it will skyrocket your communication skill, and help you to get out of the trap “Don’t know what to say next” forever. Why this question is so important and can help you to start conversation or maintain it?
Just watch every conversation carefully; you will see its simple nature: People keep asking and answering each other. Person X asks, person Y answers, then X may give a comment, then ask another question, the loop begins. If you master the art of questioning, you can start conversation with anyone you like.
How to ask a good question to start conversation?
Many master communicators have kept this little secret since the old time. Now it’s yours. Here is it: Question is always the boss. In any conversation, the asker is always in control. There are two types of boss. One boss will lead you to nowhere while the other will help. Use them wisely then you will be the master, too.
The first is close-ended question. They often ends with the answer “Yes” or “No” from the other, they also ends the conversation, too. Using too many close-ended questions is the number one reason causes people speak less and less with each other, until they have nothing to say.
The second is the opposite, open-ended questions. They are doors of opportunities. Open-ended questions let the idea flow freely through our mind, and help us keep the conversation going. They come in many forms, but the main purpose is to let the other have a chance to talk more.
Now let’s see the different between them in action.
Close-ended: At the bus station.
- Me: Can we talk?
- X: No. (conversation ends)
Open ended-question: At the bus station.
- Y: What do you think about the bus in Vietnam?
- X: (sigh) In general… (she will start talking)
- Me: Hey, do you want to hang out?
- X: No. (the chat ended)
- Y: How do you feel about the weather today?
- X: Too hot!
- Y: Do you want to hang out and eat ice cream?
- X: Of course!
- X: Mommy, please buy me a new phone!
- Mom: No
(the conversation is over, or X continues to beg but fails)
- Y: Mom, is there any difficulty if you buy a new phone for me?
- Mom: Oh, my son. I’m running out of money.
- Y: So if you have money, you’ll buy for me, right!
- Mom: Ok, I’ll consider it.
(The conversation is over, at least Y still has hope).
- T: Hey, do you know you’re very pretty?
- X: Really?
- T: Um …
- X: Ah …
- T: (What to say next ???)
- Y: Hey, what is the compliment that you remember the most?
- X: An old man said “You looks like an angel”.
- Y: I think he told the truth. How did you meet him?
- X: (smiled) Well that day… (she will tell you…)
Do you see? There is a big difference. When you use the close-ended question to start conversation, you have little chance to maintain it because the answer is Yes or No. You’ll have nothing to ask or to say next.
Note that the following questions also have the same effect as closed questions.
- Me: Where are you from?
- X: Far away.
- Me: What do you do?
- X: Enough to make a living.
- Me: How old are you?
- X: What to do? (conversation ended, poor boy)
These are social questions, ask a couple of them are ok but do not use them too much. It will make people feel like you are from the FBI, come to interrogate them. If you use open-ended questions, you can still maintain the conversation even if you have used the close-ended question before.
- Y: Where are you from?
- X: From a galaxy, far far away.
- Y: You must have watched Star Wars movie. How do you think about that movie?
- X: Oh I think … (She will start talking)
Now you know the best secret to start conversation
So, if you find yourself in a situation when you don’t know what to say next. Please never ask, “What to say now, what to say now”, just ask, “What to ask now?”
And then just observe them carefully, listen to what they have just said carefully, then you will find a proper open-ended question to ask. When they answer, you can comment or keep asking. Of course, this tip is not as simple as it look. It needs sometime to master.
You should practice to start conversation step-by-step.
- First, you can practice with your friends or your relatives. It may not be familiar at first, but when you can do it, you will find the conversation become very meaningful.
- Then you can apply it to the old people in the park. Starting a conversation with old people is often easier to young people. In addition, they also have many great stories to tell you.
- As you get used to open-ended questions, you can try applying them to start conversation with anyone you like, and maintain it to whenever you want. Just ask, let them answer (or until they ask about you).
A great book that help you to start conversation
Finally, if you want to dig deeper on this topic, I strongly suggest this: The Fine Art Of Small Talk by Debra Fine. This is really the greatest one on how to start conversation and maintain them. Just click to the link above or the picture below to read the sample. I assure that this is one of the best investment you ever make!