Starting a conversation can be as tricky and as simple as you wish it to be. It depends on you, your interlocutor and the context where you two are. Considering these parameters will give you a clue to which direction you should go with your first words.
Formal situation – you (two) are in a place of work. Or maybe you are up to talk with a client. Or perhaps you are a client. Or any derivative of those mentioned situations. This context implies a reason why people communicate and what belongs to the envelope of usual topics.
Imagine the situation: you are entering the bank, and you want to talk about taking a mortgage to buy a house. And the first words you hear are, “So how was your last party?”
You would probably react with this surprised facial expression and answer, “What?”
Informal situation – there is no business going on between you and your interlocutor. You two are outside of your usual places of work. And probably both of you would like to enjoy some time without thinking about work. Well. Entrepreneurs are almost always at work (even outside of work). But even they want to grasp some free air from time to time.
Imagine the situation: you are entering your favourite pub. You want to order your first drink. And an unknown person is saying: “So what are you doing? What’s your job?”
Whenever it is me, I am thinking, “I am an ocean of calmness… Nothing can touch me. Nothing can pull me out of my inner balance.” If it worked (usually my mantra works), I would answer: “why are you asking?” Probably it would go in the direction of facial expression of disgust [tips of lips going slightly down, eye brews pulled to each other, face pulled slightly back] with words “Do we know each other?”. Voice would be rather cold. Everything to gently push another person away so that I can have my free time finally.
This aspect is relatively simple. You are in a formal or informal context, and usually, you will know in which one you are and which types of behaviour/words are usual. It doesn’t mean that you cannot mix it. If you know what you are doing, breaking the typical pattern can give you increased attention from your interlocutor. And for sure you will be remembered. Have you washed your hands after using the toilet? Good.
The next important factor is You. Good news. This is the part where you have the most significant control. And to extend the coverage of your control over communication and your interlocutor, you not only can, but you even have to, prepare yourself.
Above everything – know yourself, and know your goal. From my experience, when someone describes another person as confident, this other person doesn’t feel any confidence. Very often, it is a determination which is coming from concentration on their goal. If you want to be perceived as a confident person, keep a clear plan on your mind.
Suppose you are going to the bank to organize credit. Prepare yourself. How much. What is the reason for credit? What cost of credit is acceptable by you (read some comparisons before, learn market).
Your interlocutor –here, you don’t have so much flexibility. It is a little bit like a card game. You play with what you got. Ask yourself these questions:
Are you starting a conversation with a person whom you know or not (first meeting)?
Works everything from “good morning” to “hi”.
How good this person knows you?
If good, then you can do a “bro” greeting. If it will turn awkward, do pacing and say, “oh, that was awkward,” and laugh.
From which culture your interlocutor is coming?
First meeting with Japanese? Say just “Hajimemashite”.
What is the actual state of mind of this person? Her/his emotions?
Read body language! “You look tense…” (and after saying this make a pause and say nothing – let another person open). Or confirm any emotion you see in the body language of your interlocutor. It is called “pacing”.
What are their values, interests, hobbies, beliefs, traits and goals?
If you know someone, you should have learned what is essential for this person. Passively by listening and observing them and actively doing a short personal interview at some point.
If you don’t know the person – do a cold reading. Remember about Ockham Razor. If you participate in dance classes, the other participant likes to dance or learn to dance for some important reason. Just “Hi! How long are you dancing?” is more than enough to start an enjoyable conversation.
You have learned the factors you should consider when you start a conversation. Good.
Now, let’s talk about how to start a conversation in practice. Some methods and tricks which are useful:
- Eyes, voice, gestures – your body language. Be sincere. Be positive. Keep eye contact (confidence), smile (infect with joy, smile also with your eyes) and shake hands (not too short and not too long, not too week and not too strong – infect confidence and acceptance). It will always win people’s hearts — no matter of context.
- To prepare yourself mentally for this, do “a friend you haven’t seen for a long time”. It is a straightforward method. Imagine that in a while you will see a good friend you haven’t seen in a long time. Someone you like a lot, and you miss this person. How do you feel? Warm? Smiling? Let this feeling develop. Express it in your body language. Face, gestures. Feel this excitement and joy. And now enter the room. Or make this call.
- Suit up. Years ago, I used to make cold calls to clients. Whenever I was doing this half asleep in my pyjama from my home office – they were simply a waste of time. So I changed my routine. Even doing home office, I was washing my face, preparing my coffee, wearing my suit, sitting straight on my chair, doing “a friend you haven’t seen for a long time” and… Bingo! More than three on four calls were finished with meetings with clients. After some time, I lowered the number of calls because most of them ended with appointments, and I didn’t have so much time for clients in a week. Suit up. Even for phone calls from a home office. Whatever you wear – look on yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, “Would I trust this person?” If you are in pink bunny home shoes and want to talk about provision for ten thousand euro, well. Probably not. But if you look like, “we know our stuff, we are successful, and we want to make you even more successful than we are, because the better you have, the better we have”.
In starting a conversation, there is a 3 seconds rule. You have 3 seconds (or 5, depends who the teacher is) to make a good impression. If it works, you will get 30 seconds to talk. But let’s be honest – these first seconds are not enough for finesse words. You make an impression with your eyes, smile, handshake, voice parameters (joy), clothes, hair (clean and taken care of) and general posture (energy).
What can you say in this very first seconds?
I am very often starting with
„Einen schönen guten Morgen” (with huge smile).
Because of Cologne in Germany.
What in English would be: “A very Good Morning.”
Isn’t this a delightful wordplay? It is built from “very good” (whatever is good, can also be very good) and “good morning” (which is a usual proper greeting in most circumstances).
Together “A very Good Morning” is a… proper greeting. Highly unusual – it breaks the pattern because we hear it exceptionally rare. And it suggests our recipient a very positive outcome. Don’t shy away from leading your interlocutor from the very first words you speak.
Test it on ten different people. You will see mostly: surprise and smile. And no person will tell you that it is improper. Highly unusual – yes. But not improper.
A very Good Morning.
And what to do with another 27 seconds after a good entrance? We will talk about it in the next article.