Do you automatically clam up when you meet a stranger, or do you have issues when a whole group of them surrounds you? You can find a happy medium between being a social butterfly and a wallflower who avoids small talk. It’s all about how you present yourself–try these conversation starters.

Ten Helpful Small Talk Starters for Excellent Conversation

Just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you lack conversation skills. However, you’ll never regret learning to break the ice in a crowd. Try some of these helpful conversation starters.


1. Ask Them to Tell You About Themselves (an open-ended way to start the small talk)

Perhaps one of the most sensible conversation starters is to ask someone to tell you a little about themselves. According to an article published by PNAS, people spend thirty to forty percent of conversations discussing their experiences. Not only does this small talk put strangers at ease, but it makes you seem more intelligent.

How you phrase the question can also make the answers more interesting. Don’t just ask something generic like where they’re from or where they work. Instead, ask a broader question about their life.

2. How Do You Know the Host?

Assume you’re invited to a party at a friend’s house and don’t know anyone there. Instead of standing silently back in the corner of the room, it’s best to have some conversation starters planned. Ask the stranger near you how they know or are related to the host.

You might discover that you both have mutual friends. A polite and skilled host knows how to introduce people in a group and who would be more compatible with whom. Meeting new mutual friends can quickly help you find common ground for small talk and conversation.

3. Is this Your First Time Here?

One of the things you don’t want to do is to make your conversation starter sound like a cheesy pickup line. However, asking someone you’ve just met about the venue is fine. If it’s a first-time visit for them also, you’ll have the opportunity to share small talk about the experience.

If not, they may give you helpful advice about food, drinks, and other amenities. If you’re in a crowd of unfamiliar folks in someone’s home, feel free to start small talk about something you admire. Your host will appreciate it, and it may open a lively discussion.

4. What are Some of Your Interests?

Two classic observations about human attraction and relationships seem to contradict. How can birds of a feather flock together and opposites attract both be true? Opposite magnetic poles may attract, but people aren’t magnets.

A study published by the University of Kansas suggests that human brains are hard-wired to attract those who are similar. The case can be true whether it’s a personal or professional relationship. When you and a new acquaintance discover mutual interests, the small talk can cause you to bond quickly.

5. What’s Your Story?

Here’s a conversation starter that explores a bit deeper than asking someone to talk a bit about themselves. Plus, it’s tactful enough not to be intrusive. Even the most successful business magnets or celebrities had to start from somewhere.

It’s a charming way to use small talk and get people to open up and build a rapport with you. Some of their past or current experiences may resonate. You needn’t have a person’s entire autobiography to appreciate what events have helped form them.

6. What’s the Best Thing About Being Here?

Being the new kid in town can be nerve-racking, whether it’s the first day at a new school or work. It’s especially true if you don’t know a soul and tend to be introverted. The good news is that everybody’s been in that situation at least once and can empathize.

Find someone with a pleasant smile, introduce yourself, and ask about their experiences as a newbie. What are some of the things they enjoy about the place? Not only will you have this conversation, but you’ll make a new friend.

Barbara Walters did an interview for National Public Radio about the first time she interviewed legendary Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. Instead of discussing his current success, she asked Onassis about the first job he ever had as a young person. It was an intelligent conversational move that allowed the iconic billionaire to relax and speak candidly during the interview.

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7. What’s the Most Daring Thing You’ve Ever Done?

Thrill-seekers often take risks so that they can have bragging rights. Not everyone has gone skydiving or completed a hike on the Appalachian Trail. However, most folks have at least one daring feat they like to share.

Often, you may be pleasantly shocked by the other person’s narratives. They may have some exciting experiences you’d never dreamed of just looking at them. You’ll never know the fascinating events in a person’s life until you ask.

8. Tell Me About Your Family (one of the best small talk starters if someone has children!)

Again, you don’t want to dig too deep into someone’s life that you barely know. Most people are happy to tell you all about their mate, children, and the things they enjoy as a family. Ask about their beloved pets if you want to endure yourself to someone.

In the past, people carried small photo albums of their kids and grandkids to show to any interested person. Now, with smartphones, people can share pictures and videos of their families for all to see. You’re sure to find a quick bond by sharing family photos.

9. What Do You like to Do When You’re Free?

If you want to get to know somebody, their hobbies and leisure activities are just as important as their careers. Wouldn’t you be surprised to learn that your new acquaintance is an accountant daily and a standup comedian on weekends? Some of the most unlikely people can have fascinating hobbies to share.

In fact, you may have some common interests. If not, maybe they have experience and skills in a hobby you’ve always wanted to pursue. Your friendship could blossom as you spend time doing things together.

10. Where Do You See Yourself in the Next Five Years?

Conversation starters about dreams and aspirations usually go well beyond small talk. People are often attracted to others who are interested in their dreams. The attraction is even stronger when you and they share similar goals.

Instead of the mundane small talk about the weather, go big and ask an acquaintance about their five-year plan. Of course, you don’t have to be specific on the number of years. You could always just ask about future ambitions or some recent goals they’ve achieved.

It tells a lot about a person who has the self-confidence and ambition to identify what they want in life. The person in your conversation may not share every detail, but the small talk can progress into a meaningful discussion. More than likely, they will start asking you about your plans.

The Art of  Small Talk Starts With Being an Effective Listener

The conversation is like a game of volleyball where the ball is served back and forth on each side. If the volleyball only stays on one side of the net, there’s not going to be much of a game. Likewise, each participant in a conversation must be a listener and a speaker.

Some conversationalists are naturally skilled at active listening. However, it’s a skill that you can quickly improve with practice. You can passively hear someone speak, but you have to be active to listen to them.

Active listening involves a total focus on the speaker and what they’re saying. Make appropriate eye contact and try to maintain an open posture. Mirror the emotion in their voice and ask them for clarification, so there’ll be no misunderstandings.

Be present in their statements instead of figuring out how you’ll respond. Listen respectfully without interrupting. It’s always helpful if you wait a few seconds before saying anything.

Conversation Starters to Avoid When Making Small Talk

Even the most seasoned conversationalists occasionally stick their foot in their mouths. No matter how hard you try, it’s inevitable that you’ll say something innocent that someone takes the wrong way. Effective communication involves knowing what to say and what to avoid.

The conversation starters you choose depend on the setting and with whom you’re talking. Avoid controversial subjects unless you’re with like-minded people and have met for discussion. Remember, the acronym for taboo subjects is R.I.P: Religion, Intimacy, and Politics.

It’s too easy to offend when one of the big three is mentioned. You can quickly steer to another subject if someone raises the topic one-on-one or in a group. If the insensitive person persists in an inappropriate conversation, make your exit as soon as possible.

If you’re face-to-face with someone or in a group, your body language speaks before you open your mouth. Does it say you’re at ease and welcome a conversation, or are you too nervous? Don’t forget one of the golden rules of effective conversation is to smile.

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Final Thoughts on the Best Small Talk Starters for Introverts

Some of the best orators and conversationalists in history struggled with being an introvert. When you’ve planned some appropriate conversation starters, people will assume you’ve always had the gift of gab. As with any skill, using small talk to build meaningful conversation takes aspiration and practice.