Starting a conversation in English with a stranger can be challenging, especially if you are an ESL student and English is not your mother tongue. So if you find yourself in an awkward position with someone and it is painfully difficult for you to break the silence, even if you want to, do not despair – you are not the only one!
We will give you both some useful examples of conversation-starting ice-breakers and some general attitude advice which you can use in business situations, school or university, or general everyday life.
Let’s start with the attitude.
Do not be nervous, nobody wants to talk to a nervous person. Be casual; be open and receptive. Make eye contact and show interest. Smile. Simply saying ‘Hello’ with a smile and introducing yourself will be a positive ice-breaker in most cases.
- Introduce yourself, smile and, if possible, give a sincere compliment.
- Keep it light and positive. There is no need to jump into philosophical discussions right away.
- Engage the other person in conversation. The best way to do that is to ask a question after you have shared your opinion (We will give you examples below).
- Listen to what the other person has to say. Let them talk and share something about themselves.
- Put away your mobile phone when you are talking with someone (unless you are consulting Simone on how to pronounce a word).
Now that you have acquired a positive attitude, let’s move on to conversation examples for specific situations.
General conversation starters
- Hello, my name is Juliet! It’s very nice to meet you.
- Hello, how are you?
- Hi, what have you been doing since we last met?
- Are you here for business or pleasure?
- Is this your first time here?
These general examples can be used quite widely. Keep in mind that in business situations you should adopt a more serious approach.
Topics you can always use
Every situation requires a certain approach. Talking to people at university is not the same as it is in business situations or when you’re having a drink in a bar. You should be aware of the situation and, of course, who you are talking to. If you are addressing a person of authority, you should always avoid questions that may seem too intimate or too direct.
University or school:
- How about that lecture? Wasn’t that interesting?
- Have you seen that movie? I think it was awesome!
- Are you guys going out tonight? Any good places you can recommend for me?
- I read this incredible book; you should too!
- That concert last night was great; it was definitely worth the money!
- How was your weekend?
- I just can’t wait for Friday…
- I have a great idea about this new project; I can’t wait to talk about it with my boss.
- How long have you been working here?
- I really like this place, and I consider myself lucky to work here.
- The weather is crazy these days, don’t you think?
- That’s a wonderful book you have. How do you like it so far?
- It’s great to see you again!
- Do you have a hobby?
- Do you like shopping? I need some advice…
If you are respectful and mindful of the person you are engaging in conversation, you might just make a new friend.
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