In this article, we’ll teach you some conversation icebreakers that actually work, tell you why you should actually break the social norm and talk to strangers, and find out how to practice small talk. Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter so you don’t miss any future editions!
Icebreakers: A Necessary Evil or Do They Actually Work?
Being nervous on your first day back at school is nothing unusual, nor are the icebreakers that are used to encourage individuals to talk about themselves. However, while these icebreakers may worry people more than the actual return to school, research reported in this article on nymag.com suggests that they do actually work. A well designed icebreaker will in fact have three very positive outcomes; it will encourage everyone to open up and talk about themselves, it calms the nerves, and sets the tone for the rest of the term.
But, then again, you gotta know how to use them…
Most people would think that you need “clever” or “original” icebreakers to start a conversation. That’s exactly what can make a conversation corny or awkward. It can show that you’re making an effort just to get to know somebody new.
What I suggest is that you start by saying “hi, my name is so and so…” (yeah! you wanna be in places where it’s fine and appropriate to introduce yourself)
After the hello, you talk about what’s your relationship with the context and/or the theme of the place where you are. (For example: if it’s an event about “XYZ,” then do you usually do XYZ? Ask the other person; do they usually XYZ? How long have you/ have they been XYZing? 😉 ) get my drift?
That’s the easiest way to transition from a “Hi!” to actually having a conversation.
After that, you can go on to other topics of other interests of yours/ theirs. That’s how you end up in interesting small talk: you talk about them, about their life, and you share about your life as well.
No need for clever icebreakers – just be friendly and interested in the other person, and remember to share, too.
Should You Talk To Strangers?
Not talking to strangers or making eye contact – especially on the subway or in an elevator – is an unwritten social rule. However, this article in theatlantic.com suggests that while it may be a social norm, it is better for your health to break this rule and engage regularly with strangers. One of the reasons cited for this is that breaking the barriers between you and a stranger helps you to identify and overcome your fears and anxieties, and become more connected.
But more importantly, if you want to make actual friends by talking to strangers, there is a twist.
Go to places where talking to strangers is expected. Go to local communities or groups’ events and gatherings. That’s where people take time to meet new people. In public places like bars, restaurants, and night clubs, it’s much harder for you to make friends. The reason for that is that those places are better for socializing with existing friends, not meeting new ones.
My advice is to practice talking to people you don’t know, but only expect it to go further if the environment where you meet is appropriate for getting to know one another. That way, building your social life is much easier (and productive) for you.
How To Master Small Talk
I recommend that you practice your small talk skill, anywhere you are. You don’t have to be friends with the person, but you can really practice small talk with whomever you’re next to.
Generally, you can do it with your Uber driver, a security guard, someone next to you on a line, someone close to you in an airport, someone who asks you a question in a closed area, people at work, etc. It can be anybody.
What you want to do is practice the 5% rule: try and add 5% more into the conversation than you’re used to. Try to talk a little bit more than you’re comfortable with. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become chatting with anybody.
Each time, try to talk 5% more than what you’re comfortable with.
It’s just 5%. You can definitely talk a little bit more each time so you can practice…
- transitioning from subject to subject with ease
- finding the humor in a variety of subjects and situations
- being friendly and charming anyone who talks to you
- being comfortable with who you are as a social person
- and making friends with the right people.
That’s what small talk and other critical social skills can help you do: get comfy with the right people so you can be friends with them.
I encourage you to give my eBook a try, and learn all the techniques and skills you need to find, meet, talk, meet again, and befriend the people you want in your life. Go here to learn more.
Best of luck,
– Paul Sanders