“Helping questions are great conversation starters because when a person helps you it forms natural bonds. When you help another person to figure what an item is on the buffet or locate the restroom, it lowers your defenses. For example, if you’re at the grocery store, ask ‘Do you know how to tell if this fruit is ripe?’ It makes you look open to learning more and will help the conversation flow naturally.” —Dawn Maslar, MS, author of Men Chase, Women Choose The Neuroscience of Meeting, Dating, Losing Your Mind, and Finding True Love.
Making a great first impression is very important. Studies show that first impressions are made within the first 20 seconds of meeting someone new. 55% of that impression is based on the appearance, 38% is based on the words used and 7% is based on the tone of voice.
Often, those first impressions are irreversible, so you see why it’s so important to start the conversation right. Here are 20 conversation starters that will make a good impression on the other person!
Compliment something other than someone’s looks
Complimenting someone’s look is so mainstream. Try something new and surprise the other person. Women love when someone compliments their clothes or accessories. She’ll notice your good taste so you’ll earn some extra points.
“Instead of complimenting something generic like their eyes, highlight something that shows their personality, like their purse or a book. This is simple, elegant, and great if you are interested in someone or anytime you want to boost their likability toward you for business or social reasons.” —Paul DePompo, PsyD, ABPP, psychologist.
Bring up a shared interest
Common interests can make a good start and keep a conversation going. Be observant of what the other person likes and try to find things in common.
“Many people think they have nothing in common with a stranger but if someone is at a grocery store, restaurant or bar they are there for a reason—one which is likely similar to yours. You’re both there so you both share a common interest. Ask questions to find out what that interest is. For instance, ask about what their experience at that venue has been like or why they chose it.” —Shannon Battle, licensed professional counselor
Go simple… yet bold
Being bold is the new cool. Showing interest is cool. Don’t play games and start a conversation with someone you like!
“Give a genuine smile and say, ‘Hi.’ It sounds too simple but people are so used to other people staring at their phones that a simple smile and hello can be a very bold move. It shows the other person that you’ve noticed them and you’re interested in getting to know them better. And you’ll almost always get a hello back. (If you don’t, let it go. You don’t want to date a rude person anyway.)” —Suzanne Casamento, dating expert and the creator of Fantasy Dating.
Ask for their honest opinion
Honest is the new sexy. There’s no better way to get someone’s attention than being honest, especially if it’s the right person.
“Asking ‘I’ve been really thinking deeply about something and wondering if I can share it, and get your feedback?’ shows your interest in the other person and solicits new and interesting information that is fun to discuss. Pretty much anyone will want to share their opinions with an interested party and they will think you are nice and fun to be with, as well.” —Melissa Orlov, therapist and author of The Couple’s Guide to Thriving With ADHD.
Tell a bonding joke
Everyone loves a funny person. Start a conversation by telling a joke, and you’ll have more chances to catch the other person’s attention really quick. Also, try to tell a good one, a bad joke may push people away.
“Jokes work well because they are disarming and work on a biological level. If a woman laughs at a man’s joke, he feels assured that she has a level of comfort with him. For her, laughing releases oxytocin, the ‘bonding hormone.’ These two things together create an opening for more conversation.” —Dawn Maslar
Give an out-of-the-blue compliment
Giving someone a compliment out-of-the-blue can make their day much better instantly. If you want to make someone feel good, now you know how to do it.
“I always tell my clients to try out a compliment. It breaks the ice and these days it’s completely unexpected! You can test out doing this by just giving people walking down the street a compliment and see their reaction, most times people will give you a smile and possibly engage in more conversation. After all, who doesn’t like to be complimented?” —Stef Safran, a matchmaking and dating expert in Chicago and the owner of Stef and the City.
Ask a fake favor
Most people feel good when they can help someone in need. If you can’t find a real favor to ask for, make up one and be convincing.
“People love to help so asking for a small favor is a great conversation starter. If you don’t have a favor to ask for, just make one up. Ask the person you find attractive to help you reach something on a high shelf or hold something while you look through your wallet. At the very least you’ll end up with a fun story to tell your friends.” —Suzanne Casamento
Use a self-deprecating line
I know, it’s such a cliché, but there are good chances it may work and lead to a good conversation, if the other person is interested, of course.
“A self-deprecating line is a good opening when someone is engaging in a positive type task and you comment on it. For instance, ‘I’m jealous that you are so good at that!’. This can actually show confidence because you are not trying to appear like you’re awesome.” —Paul DePompo
Tell a really dumb joke
If you can’t come up with a good joke, tell a bad one but you should warn them it’s bad!
“My favorite conversation topic is to say, ‘OK, I’ve got a dumb joke, not a good joke, just a dumb joke for you.’ People are usually more receptive to dumb jokes because it doesn’t require much effort and they don’t have to worry about not getting it. Need an example? What does a fish say when it runs into a concrete wall? Dam!” —Hunt Etheridge, dating and relationship expert.
Blow their mind
Use your mind and be creative, everyone loves a smart one. Access your general knowledge and tell them interesting stuff.
“Most people enjoy trivia, facts, and riddles and they’re also a good way to keep the conversation going over an extended period of time. You can drop in and ask someone ‘What are the only 3 countries that start with J?’ [Jordan, Japan, Jamaica] or ‘How many state capitals are west of LA?’ [Six. I wouldn’t believe it either until I saw a map] or ‘What starts with “e” and ends with “e” and contains only 1 letter?’ [envelope]. Then circle back with them later to see if they have an answer. They’ll be thinking about it—and you—all evening.” —Hunt Etheridge
It’s really nice to find someone with whom you can have deep conversations even though you don’t know them very well or not at all.
“Try using a light philosophical twist to an opening such as when you see someone enjoying a coffee you can highlight the beauty in the moment. Say something like, ‘Isn’t this what’s it’s all about?’ This is good for getting to see if this person is open and up for talking without making it seem like you are trying too hard.” —Paul DePompo.
Ask a question with no right or wrong answer
Ask the right questions and you’ll get the right answer. If, you want to find out more things about that person, ask questions with no right or wrong answers.
“Asking someone ‘Where are you from?’ is great because it’s a simple and natural way to begin to ask someone about themselves. Any question that is open-ended will work because everyone has a different answer and there is no right or wrong answer. It can become exciting if you both realize you are from the same place or like the same things.” —Simon Marcel Badinter, radio personality and relationship expert
Use a movie quote
Using a movie quote can be tricky if they don’t know what you’re talking about. But if they do now, then a good conversation is about to start effortlessly.
“No one knows more about starting conversations and conversation topics than screenwriters. That’s what we do: throw people together, usually strangers, and find a way to get them talking.
So I can tell you the best conversation openers in movies are ones that ask a question, tease, and reveal some amazing (or weird) truth about yourself. My favorites are ‘I’m working on something that’ll change the world and human life as we know it!’ from The Fly and ‘Garbage. All I’ve been thinkin’ about all week is garbage’ from Sex, Lies and Videotape.” —Murray Suid, screenwriter and co-founder of MobileMovieMaking.com
Make a bet
You can use this as an excuse to start a conversation with someone. They may find your bet interesting and you’ll have some good company for the night.
“Walk up to someone and tell them you need them to settle a bet between you and your friend. For instance, say ‘Can I get your help with something? You see, my friends and I have this bet going on and we need an outside perspective. My friend says that the moon is its own planet. I say that the moon isn’t its own planet.’ Now, obviously, the moon isn’t a planet. Everyone should know that including this stranger you just asked. But it gives you a great to start a conversation.” —Chris Seiter, author of Ex-Boyfriend Recovery
Offer to help them
If you see someone struggling or needing help, offer to help them. Besides the fact that they’ll appreciate your good intentions, you’ll also make a good first impression.
“Being helpful is always a great way to get a person’s attention, especially when they are struggling to do something or seem overwhelmed. The one thing people always enjoy is a relief but you don’t want to add to their stress or come across as creepy. So try something simple like offering to hold something for them.” —Alexis Nicole White, author and relationship expert.
Tell them their celebrity doppelganger
Comparing someone with a celebrity will instantly make them feel good because let’s face it, celebrities are always hot!
“I tell my clients to think about a celebrity that the person resembles then approach the person and say, ‘Did anyone ever tell you that you look just like Sophia Vergara?’ This approach is always effective because it seems genuine, and the person on the receiving end will blush, lighten-up and say thank you. Because you will now have shifted that person’s energy to one that illuminating and positive, it will act as a great lead-in to the rest of the conversation.” —Tom Kersting, co-host of A&E’s Surviving Marriage and author of Disconnected: How to Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Kids
Use strategic sarcasm
Everyone loves a little sarcasm, especially if it’s done right. But remember, there’s a thin line between sarcasm and ignorance. Do not cross it!
“Solid gold opening lines get people to talk without being too serious while still getting the person to feel some emotion. A little sarcasm can help lighten the mood and make you feel relatable.
My favorite examples: ‘Oh, I just love waiting in lines. Once I get to the front I just drink my drink as fast as I can so I can line up again.’ Or, in a bookstore, asking ‘Do you know how to read?
I’m really struggling right now.’ Or if someone is on their phone say, ‘You must be smart, I only text with emoticons.’” —Harvey Hooke, author and human dynamics coach.
Ask about a mutual friend
If you two have a mutual friend, you can use it as an excuse to start a conversation.
“Mutual friends are good conversation starters when you are at a family gathering, party or any event where you were invited by the same person. Asking ‘So how do you know Mike?’ helps them share old stories and allows the two of you to jump right in and get to know each other. This one is especially effective if you let the mutual friend know you’re interested in talking to the person who’s caught your attention, so that they can slip in the conversation later on.” —Lori Bizzoco, relationship expert and founder of CupidsPulse.com
Say it with a smile
Smiling is so important and it can make you ten times more attractive in someone else’s eyes. Use your charming smile and blow their mind.
“It is viscerally impossible not to like someone who genuinely smiles at you. This means smiling with your entire face, including your eyes. Try this as you greet friends and colleagues and observe their reactions. A smile will disarm defenses, boost your likeability, and increase the chances of a positive conversation before you say a word.” —Wendy Patrick, JD, PhD, behavioral expert and attorney.
Simpler than ever, right? Be pleasant and natural, everyone likes that.
“It’s a simple social truth: Being happy makes others more interested in being around you. Try starting a conversation by expressing a pleasant emotion, like pointing out what a beautiful night it is. You should never try to shock someone into a conversation as it suggests you are scary, not interesting.” —Nikky Prause, a neuroscientist and licensed psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles