How to Start a Conversation

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So… the awkward silence huh?

Yeah that gets annoying. But what can you say that isn’t going to make you sound weird or creepy? How does everyone else just start a conversation with people so easily?

We’ve already gone over how to keep a conversation going when you find yourself in one. We have some cool techniques like conversation threading and subject stimulation in the overcome shyness training course but we need to get you to the point where you can actually start a conversation.

Now just before we get started here I want to make one thing clear. Don’t start throwing yourself into situations where you’re really having to kill yourself to be there and start a conversation. A lot of really bad shyness advice starts with the word “just” and quickly leads on to “make yourself talk to or do XYZ”. While it’s true exposure is needed to train the lower levels of your brain to stop being shy you need to do this in a controlled environment and prepare yourself for it. The alternative is you likely just compound the problem teaching and make it worse. We’ve already gone over why people are shy and the whole “caveman brain” survival mechanism so just go step by step and use start conversations at the right time. Mmkay?

So first up…

How to Start a Conversation With a Girl

For this we called in an expert. Well by expert I mean we bugged random girls until they told us what they thought.

Normally I try to avoid dating issues because there are hundreds of dating sites out there and honestly I prefer to focus on more shyness related topics. But a lot of the questions we get surround the idea of being able to approach a girl or guy and I’d like to say really there’s no difference in this and just starting a normal conversation.

how to start a conversationBut because of the way our brains work we have this subconscious “Social Totem Pole” and if you find someone attractive you put them higher on that totem pole which increases the likelihood you’re going to feel shy. It’s simple psychology. A left over remnant from evolution which hasn’t caught up to modern day civilization. So while the mechanics are very similar it’s important to remember that starting a conversation with a stranger in the street is going to be a little different to starting one with a guy or girl you’re attracted to.

First of all forget whatever you’ve probably seen on TV. You’re going to forget any of these rubbish pick up lines and forget any notion that you need to be the cockiest guy in the room to be successful approaching girls. A few months ago there was a guy in the news grabbing girls by the neck to “force them to be attracted to him” or some nonsense. That sounds like something totally different to a pick up line but I don’t judge. Who am I kidding that is just stupid.

We’re not looking to do the “alpha male” rubbish here. There’s no Jedi mind tricks or hypnosis needed.

Honestly the advice is really very simple – be yourself. Now if you’ve read any of my guides on shyness here you’ll know I’m a fan of the tough love. I’m not telling you that you’re a special snow flake and there’s someone destined in the world to be with you. I’m just telling you that the easiest way to have a conversation with someone is by being yourself. In the training we use the rule of 1 in 5 but basically it means it doesn’t matter how many people don’t like you for who you are because it’s a numbers game. Some people will. And they’re the ones you’re looking for.

So I’m not telling you to do anything to change yourself. Just how to have conversations easier. As yourself. The same advice was given by dozens of girls – just approach a girl in a social situation and be real. Don’t make up any impressive story or question, just smile and tell her your name.

Now I know this sounds really patronizing.

Trust me. I’ve been shy. For years. I know it’s not as easy as “just go up and say hi” that’s why we have the whole training course in place for shyness. But there’s only so much I can really tell you in one article (which is why we do the daily shyness training) but if that’s your one take away from anything else you read that should be it.

But we can look at some rudimentary basics you can start using just now.

The Basics

Social skills are easily built up by just being social and the first few times you try this you’re probably going to panic and generally what I find is people are happy to just be able to approach a girl and start a quick conversation and then they’re looking for the escape. Even if you say hello and ask a question or two about the area etc… and politely excuse yourself this is a step. You’ll need to get yourself used to the idea of talking to people without it being a big deal. There are some things you can do to make this easier on yourself though.

When you’re approaching a girl there are three things you really need to keep in mind.

  • Watch the exits. It might seem strange but a lot of girls are less receptive when they think they’ve been cornered and this happens frequently without people really meaning it. If you’re standing in a doorway for example you might make them feel trapped. It’s usually subliminal but you can do yourself a favor if you just make it easy for her to walk away if she wants to. It will actually improve your chances that she doesn’t.
  • Remember that not everyone is going to be receptive to you, not matter how charming you are. Maybe they’re just having a bad day or they’re just flat out not interested in you. That is fine and if you’re making a genuine approach then it won’t be the normal reaction.
  • Have a rough idea of what you’re going to say. You don’t need some clever line but at least plan to start with your name or something. If you walk up and just start grinning inanely things are probably going to go downhill fast.

All of the advice given by the women we asked about this when writing this guide were along the same lines. Avoid the compliments generally unless you can fit them into a conversation smoothly. If every guy in a bar is approaching a girl with the same compliments over and over again their guard is likely to be up no matter who says it again. Just be genuine and say hello. Don’t build it up to something in your head. It really just comes down to two people having a conversation.

What I’ve seen in a lot of guides like this is websites and guides telling you that you need confidence or you need to at least fake it. That is actually just rubbish though. There is nothing wrong with confidence, in fact it’s great to be confident in yourself, but don’t be cocky and certainly don’t try and fake confidence you don’t have. Different girls want different things from guys and while some might want the cocky and and compliment approach others actually prefer a shy guy who just says hello.

So my advice is don’t change yourself on your approach to a girl. If things don’t go well just end it on a polite note and find someone who is actually receptive to it. That way you’ll actually be talking to someone who you get along better with.

How to Start a Conversation With a Guy

We get this one a lot as well. It’s pretty straightforward.

Do the exact same as above – just look for a guy. You don’t need to worry quite as much about avoiding compliments or watching exits but it’s basically the same thing.

How to Ask A Girl Out

start a conversation with a guyAgain, this is not a dating site. But I thought I’d add a little something about asking a girl out. After you’ve approached a girl and you’ve got along you need to remember that you’ve actually only got a finite amount of time to talk. One of you might have somewhere you need to be and if they’re making signs that they want to leave you need to find a way to end the conversation and fast or you’ll just come off creepy. Again, you can do this the same way as you do your approach. Don’t work it up in your head to something that it doesn’t need to be.

You’re not asking for a bank loan or for her to marry you, you’re just asking if she’d like to meet up again and talk some more. If you’ve been discussing a common interest you can suggest meeting up for that or otherwise just go with a good old fashioned ‘if you’re free on Thursday want to grab a coffee?’ offer her your number (or take hers if she offers). Don’t push it. Whether they take you up on the offer or not be polite and say goodbye. Technology has actually made this easier the old “do… do you want to get coffee?” line can be replaced by a much easier “I can send you that link if you’re on Facebook?”. Heck most of the questions we get here now are getting to be about how to start a conversation on tinder or Facebook.

Whatever you do on your first date is really outside of this website. There are hundreds of dating sites out there just do us both a favor and ignore any of them which tell you that you need to change who you are or fake it to keep a conversation going.

Starting Up

Like I was saying before there is actually a difference in talking to a stranger and learning how to start a conversation with someone you actually find attractive. I’m a pretty big fan of the guerrilla warfare tactics of “hit and run” have a short conversation and get out before the shyness kicks in and starts making things awkward. It’s a good way to slowly break yourself into longer conversations. There’s a lot of different ways to start a conversation. Talking to random people as you pass them is one. Some find it easier to start one online – some even find it harder there.

I would however 100% avoid stuff like thinking up questions to start a conversation. Or if you really have to at least leave it there. Don’t try and script a conversation because it just won’t work and it’ll always come of as awkward. Learning to start a conversation is just as much about learning how to keep a conversation going and letting it flow naturally. We do have some tricks for this in the training but practice is the best way to get started.

Keep in mind what I always say about shyness. It’s been learned over time and you can’t beat it in a day. In fact if you just force yourself into situations where you know you’re going to panic then you’re probably just going to make it worse for yourself. If you’re following along with my shyness training then you’ll know when it’s time to talk to strangers but here we’re going to look at some simple techniques which you can use when you feel you’re ready.

The advantage here is as you talk to strangers you’ll grow your confidence and your social skills. Each successful social interaction will make the subsequent easier – even if it is just by a little bit. It’s a rewarding experience and a large culmination of overcoming shyness. But there’s a few things you should keep in mind.

Things to Remember

You need to remember that not everyone is going to be receptive to you. Even if you go into everything with a smile and the best intentions – you’re going to have to deal with rudeness and rejection. You’re going to have to develop a thick skin to it and to move on. Talking to strangers is largely a numbers game. You’ll find some people who are rude and outright hostile, you’ll find some who will be happy to make small talk and (if you keep at it) you’ll find people who you just ‘click’ with.

You also need to remember the shyness and social skills techniques to use in these situations. If you start to panic and feel uncomfortable then you either need to use these techniques to overcome your shyness or politely back out of the situation. If you force yourself into something you’re not ready for then you’re likely to just reinforce the problem for your next social interactions.

I’ve talked before about the lower levels of the brain affecting social situations. That’s where your shyness stems from and it’s where your problems learning how to talk to strangers are going to come from. So to do this you’re going to have to learn to retrain the lower levels of your brain to understand the following:

  • Strangers don’t actually bite.
  • Rejection is no big deal.
  • People around you are really not watching everything you do.

Finally you also need to remember what you’re doing. You don’t want to come on too strong to a person or just settle for meeting one person. You don’t want to fall into the trap of being stuck in a circle of people you already know – you want to continue to build on your relationships with people.

So, with this in mind, lets get started.

How to Get Started Talking to Strangers

  • Mentally prepare yourself.
talking to strangersMy shyness training uses visualization techniques to prepare for social interactions but it’s not just having a conversation you need to prepare yourself for. You also have to prepare yourself for the rejection and rudeness you’re going to face. If you’ve had a problem talking to strangers for a while then this can present a problem for you. But you need to go into each new social experience with a fresh mind. Not everyone is going to be rude to a stranger and if you talk to enough people you’ll meet people who are more than happy to talk to you.
  • Learn from every experience

The trick to learning anything is to keep doing it and learning from every experience. Now there’s a fine line between learning from your mistakes and beating yourself up about everything – but just carefully pay attention to how people act when you’re talking to them and you’ll start to see patterns. Namely – when you’re being friendly (smiling and keeping eye contact etc…) they’ll be more friendly with you. Everyone you talk to is a learning experience and you can use that to improve.

Now I mentioned rejection before – rejection is good. If someone is just instantly friendly with you you’re not going to learn anything from it. But if you’re facing rejection from someone then you can use this experience and learn what went wrong. Some people are just rude and that’s fine but most rejections there’s something to learn.
  • Get out of your head!

This is an important one. If you really want to learn how to talk to strangers and overcome your shyness then you need to get out of your head. If you’re having a problem socializing with people then it’s usually because you’re too introverted and spend too much time in your head. This is where the idea of feeling lonely in a crowd comes from and it’s generally because you’re worrying too much that everyone is watching you and judging everything you do. You might not really even be aware that you do this.

But watch yourself in social situations. If you find yourself worrying about what they’ll think of you or holding back because you think they’re judging you. Get out of your head. For most people, if you can manage this you’ll already have a much easier time of talking to strangers and it’s easy to learn. Just every time you catch yourself hiding inside your head, take a look around you and realize that people are too wrapped up in their own lives to notice what you’re doing.

Talking to Strangers Online

If you don’t think you’re ready to talk to a stranger you might consider using a website to talk to strangers. Now this can be anything from Facebook to MSN chat. But really you don’t want to join a big group chat where you’re just a face in a crowd. Keep in mind that talking to strangers online is not the same as learning to talk to people face to face so you want to make it as close as possible for actual practice. So you want to keep it in small numbers where the focus is on you to hold a conversation going.

In a group you can sit back and ‘lurk’ and on forums or Facebook you can take your time and hide away before answering. You need to force yourself to keep a spontaneous and organic conversation with people. So your goal should exactly the same here. Talk to as many people as possible, carry conversations and get on with people. You might even make friends online and swap emails or IM details to keep the conversation going. Two sites which are perfect for this are Chatroulette and  Omegle. When you’re comfortable with a few typing conversations you should move on to voice and video chat.

Keep in mind that you will face far more rejection and rudeness on this format because people have less of a filter online. And being comfortable talking to strangers online is not the same as doing it face to face. But there’s still plenty of people on those sites who are looking for friends and an actual conversation and it’s still a good way to get started and learn how to talk to strangers – just make sure you move on from there.

One Response to “How to Start a Conversation”

  • Elnaz

    it is so difficult for me to talk in the middle of crowd or even a few people even when i am talking with my therapist i experience a lot of stress an presure.

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