What comes after “Hi”?

A tongue-tied letter writer struggles to talk to people they don’t know well.

Our letter writer shares their favorite conversation starters.


Dear EWC

I recently realized that I have an issue about myself: every time when I’m outside with my friends, or family or alone, I do not know how to start conversation or keep a conversation going with strangers or anybody except my family or my very close friends. As an introverted person, I have exactly no idea how to start a conversation, especially when talking to strangers. I only know how to say, “Hi, how’re you doing? I’m fine,” or, “Nice weather today,” etc, with a dumb-looking smile while waving my hand towards strangers, and then there’s an awkward silence for a while, and just like that the conversation is over. 

When it comes to the conversation related to our favorite things, we can talk very easily. But when it comes to the conversation about things I don’t know or that are uninteresting to me, I feel left out, especially in the group talk. I feel awkward and embarrassed about myself, and I truly hope that I have learned how to talk with anybody but I have no idea. So I’m here to ask some of you guys’ advice to help me improve it. Hopefully it will help me to grow as a person.


Loretta replies

Thanks for writing to Elder Wisdom Circle. I hope I can offer a little advice that may be helpful.

You mention that sometimes you feel awkward and embarrassed. A good way to overcome these feelings is to change your focus from how you are feeling to the other person. But, “How do I do that?” you might wonder. Here are a few suggestions:

1, Introduce yourself! For example, “I don’t think we’ve met before.” Offer your hand and smile.

  1. Ask questions. For example, “Do you live around here?” or, “What do you think of this (place, restaurant, music, etc?”
  2. Compliment. For example, “That’s a lovely dress. Purple is my favorite color!” or, “Your hair looks great; do you style it yourself? 
  3. Ask for advice. For example: “Do you know how often the bus runs to downtown?” or, “How do you manage in this awful heat?”  
  4. Show interest in who they are: “You seem to know a lot about… I’d love to hear more!”  
  5. Share some small things about yourself. For example: “I just came back from vacation” or, “I just saw a great movie”
  6. Rephrase what the person is saying. For example: “Oh, you say you met a famous person?”  
  7. Mention something you have in common:  e.g. “I have a cat also” or, “I am a movie addict also”

What you say is not as important as how you make other people feel. Everyone is attracted to positive people. Try to smile, and show you are interested in the other person by making eye contact and paying close attention to what they are saying. Before you know it, you are joining the conversation! Humor is always good, as long as it’s not at someone’s expense. 

Try to stop caring what others think of you. Everyone has imperfections. Most people like to talk about themselves. Also, sometimes silence can feel awkward, but sometimes it’s okay. 

Again, I hope this is a bit helpful. I’d love to hear from you again, if you care to write.

Article #: 490737
Category: Self-Improvement

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