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Meeting Someone New? How to Talk to Start a Great Conversation
By: Royane Real
Are you one of those people who finds it difficult to start up a conversation with somebody new, or someone you barely know? Most of us find it a little bit challenging to start conversations with strangers. When we first meet someone, we don't know much about them. We don't know if we will both be interested in the same things. We don't know if the other person is someone we're going to like and enjoy, or if that person will turn out to be someone we will want to avoid.

So, how do we start a conversation with a new person? Most of the time, we have to fall back on that old conversation standby, making "small talk".

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Small talk is a fairly trivial sort of conversation about very unimportant matters. We're not going to be discussing things that are deeply important to us. We're not going to be revealing our innermost souls to the person we're talking with, and we aren't trying to deeply understand our conversation partner.

Even though many people hate making small talk, it does have an important part to play in the way people interact with each other. Not every person you meet is going to be someone you want to know deeply. You also will not want to reveal your deepest self to someone you met at a bus stop for a few minutes.

When you make small talk, you go through some fairly predictable rituals of exchanging trivial information, while inwardly both of you are trying to decide "Do I really want to get to know this person better?"

Sometimes the answer is "yes" and sometimes the answer is "no".
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When you engage in small talk, it can be fairly easy to end the conversation because you don't have a big emotional investment in the outcome.

If you discover during the course of your social chit chat that you do actually have some things in common, then you can explore these at a deeper level.

Even if you hate to make small talk conversations, they have an important role to play in the development of many relationships. Being good at making trivial social talk can also play a big part in your career. If you aren't particularly skilled at making conversation with new people you meet, it can prevent you from making the kinds of relationships you need to have in your workplace.

How can we become better at making small talk if we hate it? First remind yourself that this is an important conversation skill to master.

In many cases, a small talk conversation will progress in one of two directions: either the conversation will fizzle out and the possibility of a social relationship with that person may also disappear, or the conversation will move on to other more interesting topics and the relationship will have a better chance of developing into something deeper and more important.

Don't stay stuck discussing meaningless topics such as the weather for too long, unless you really, really don't want the conversation to go anywhere. Look for clues the other person may give you about what they really like to talk about. The signals they may send you is that they will keep coming back to their favorite topics over and over again. When they start talking about what really interests them, they will suddenly become much more emotionally lively.

When you sense that the other person is discussing something that they really find interesting, you must ask yourself, "Is this a topic that also interests me? Do we have anything in common we can talk about in more depth? Do I want to get to know this person deeper?"

At the same time, you can also start mentioning a few of your own interests. Does the other person respond to what interests you?

The more topics you find in common at an early stage, the more likely it is that your conversation will progress from the small talk stage to something more relevant and interesting to both of you. However, if neither of you are able to discover topics of mutual interest, it's very likely the relationship will go nowhere.

The more you can improve your skill at starting new conversations through the use of small talk, and the more you practice keeping such conversations moving along, the better you will become at creating friends out of strangers.
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