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Straight Talk in Communication: Starting Conversations

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We are often in situations where we have to meet and talk with new people. It could be a networking event, a party, a class or conference. You attend because you want to build your business, create new relationships or learn new skills. Whatever the reason, trying these two communication techniques, along with physically relaxing, will help you feel more comfortable:

Put your attention on the other person

When meeting people for the first time, use your powers of observation. Notice what they are wearing, holding, reading, eating, etc. Use those observations to begin a conversation. In general, people appreciate compliments on what they are wearing, or may want to discuss the book, magazine, or pasta dish they are holding. It is a neutral way to begin conversing. You then use the information you receive to move on to other subjects by using the next technique. 

Ask open-ended questions

An open-ended question begins with the words: who, what, when, where, why, or how. For example, when meeting someone new at a networking event you could ask, “Where did you hear about this group? What do you like about the organization?” On a date you might ask, “How did you get into that hobby?” or “What makes you love the sport you play?” At a party, you could ask “Where did you first meet so-and-so?” and “How did you get into that business?” Whatever answers you get, you build upon by asking more questions. 

Listen to the information you receive, and you may find areas where you share an interest or experience. The next thing you know…you are in a conversation. If the person you attempt to speak to does not seem interested, you can always move on to someone else.   

When you use observations and ask open-ended questions, you learn interesting things about people. In addition, when you focus on others you take the pressure off yourself. By asking questions and listening to the answers, you may discover mutual interests, make business connections or perhaps start new friendships. You can practice these techniques by looking at the guidelines below. 

  • Before any new event or social situation take ten minutes to sit down, calm your breathing and relax your muscles. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. Notice any areas in your body where you feel tense and breathe into those areas. Gently stretch any muscles where you notice physical tension, and then allow those muscles to return to a relaxed position. Open your eyes.

  • Practice using observations on your friends, family and colleagues. Observe something that they are wearing, holding, reading or even eating. Give them a compliment or ask them a question about whatever it is you notice. 

  • Practice using open-ended questions with your friends, family or colleagues. Ask them “How was your weekend, vacation, or reunion? What did you like best about it? What activities did you take part in?” Listen to the answers, and build upon the information to create enjoyable conversation. 

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