How To Start a Conversation: 15 Methods for Any Occasion

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Whether you're trying to settle into a new role or meeting a new professional contact, the ability to start a conversation is an excellent skill for networking and building relationships. The right conversation starter can create familiarity and ease the conversation process. Learning how to start a conversation effectively can help you foster positive relationships at work and grow your professional network. In this article, we provide some examples you can use when starting conversations.

How to start a conversation

Learning how to start a conversation can help you foster positive relationships during your career. In the workplace, you can choose a wide variety of topics as long as they're appropriate for the environment. Conversation starters with colleagues or professional contacts may look different than those with new friends or acquaintances. Your initial efforts could start a conversation that helps you build valuable relationships with co-workers and colleagues. Here are some strategies you can try to start a conversation:

1. Introduce yourself

Introducing yourself is a straightforward way of showing you're interested in meeting someone. If you just started a new job and have not met someone in another department yet, you can approach them and introduce yourself. Start with a greeting like hi, hello or good day and follow with your name. You can tell the other person you want to introduce yourself so they understand the context of your conversation starter. You can then ask follow-up questions about their position or how long they have been with the company.

Example: “Hi, I'm Lisa. I'm new to the team and wanted to introduce myself.”

Related: What Are Social Skills? (Definition, Examples and Tips)

2. Ask for information

A great way to start a conversation is to ask for information. This is an effective, natural way to build rapport with someone quickly by making them feel valued. Even if you already know the answer to your question, it's still a great way to approach someone if you can't think of another topic. For example, if you're attending an event and see a colleague you have not talked to yet, you can ask them about the conference. You can take the conversation even further by mentioning something you like about the speakers, the event or something interesting you learned.

Example: “Do you know if the Regional Director is speaking after the opening session?”

3. Ask for help

Requesting help is another effective conversation starter. It works because it makes the other person feel helpful, especially if it's something they can provide easily. If someone does you a favour, they might feel more trusting of you and more willing to have a conversation or relationship. Asking for help can help you start a friendly conversation, but it's important to respect the other person's time and resources when asking for help to maintain good boundaries.

Example: “Could you tell me where this conference room is located?”

4. Mention a shared experience

If you want to talk to someone who you know shares something in common with you, consider a shared experience as a talking point. Shared experiences often help to create bonds between people and familiarity, which can make starting a conversation easier. Shared experiences also help build trust, which aids the flow of conversation.

Example: “When was the last time you saw our friend Rachel?”

Related: What Is Networking? (With Types and How To Network)

5. Make an observation

The environment you're in can offer many conversation starters. Commenting on the building, temperature or artwork can all be great ways to get a person talking with you. You can also make observations about events, political topics, societal norms or any other topic that might be relevant to your area. Observations help ignite conversation by increasing familiarity and bonding through shared experiences.

Example: "They did a great job decorating this office."

6. Ask for an opinion

Asking for someone's opinion can be a great conversation starter because it helps them feel valuable to the person asking. An opinion is a personal thought about someone or something, and asking to voluntarily hear someone's opinion can help them trust you and be more open about their feelings or preferences. You can ask opinions on your environment, something you're wearing, or changes in the workplace.

Example: "What do you think of the new office space?"

7. Share relevant news

News about the workplace, societal changes, political events or other important, relevant occurrences can make a great conversation starter. You can begin by asking someone if they heard about a particular news story and progress by asking their opinion on the event, giving your own opinion and discussing the news source. News about politics or societal changes often impacts everyone in a region or country and might help unite you in common thought.

Example: "Did you hear about the guy who saved those children from the fire downtown?"

8. Ask about professional skills

Asking about a person's professional skills is a creative way to explore their job without asking "what do you do?" This question helps you learn more about the person's specific contributions to their field instead of the daily job requirements. The question might make someone feel more confident and comfortable because you're asking more about the individual contributions that they think are most valuable.

Example: "I know you're a web designer, but can you tell me more about your coding skills and how you code a website?"

9. Give a compliment

Compliments can be great conversation starters because they begin a conversation with flattery, which can help you seem more genuine and interested in the person. You can compliment anything about a person, whether it's their attire or the way they handled a particular situation. Ensure your compliments are appropriate for the environment and respectful.

Example: "Your presentation was great yesterday!"

10. Ask about their career goals

Asking someone about their career goals can help you explore what they do for work how they want their career to progress. Someone who is passionate about their job and excited about the career path may be willing to be very open about it, creating an engaging conversation for both people. This can also provide an opportunity for you to talk about your own career, where you may find some common interests or goals to build a conversation.

Example: "You said you were working towards a management position, can tell me more about how you want to get there?"

Related: 40 Professional Email Greetings To Use at Work

11. Tell a joke

Humour is often a great conversation starter and a good way to get people to feel more relaxed and open with a stranger. Laughter can help build trust and reduce stress, so try opening your next conversation with a clever joke. You can make a joke about anything as long as it's appropriate for your environment and respectful to other people. For example, you might joke about the inconsistent weather in your area or the poor performance of a favourite sports team.

Example: "This weather is more inconsistent than our soccer team, isn't it?"

12. Talk about your hobbies

Hobbies are fun activities that you can do outside of work. Starting a conversation with information about your favourite hobbies can be a good way to create trust in the other person by sharing something very personal about yourself. You can describe your hobby, why you do it and what it entails. For example, if you build model train sets, you can talk about how you build the terrain for your sets and how much space it occupies in your home.

Example: "Have you ever tried skiing? It's a lot of fun, especially when you go with a group."

13. Ask a hypothetical question

Asking a hypothetical question can create a unique conversation centred around possibilities. Hypothetical questions have the advantage of being more open-ended, or not restricted to simple yes or no answers. You can ask a hypothetical question about anything, including career, personal life or personal preferences. Hypothetical questions can also reveal unique character traits about the person you're asking.

Example: "If you had one million dollars to spend, but you couldn't invest it, what would you do with it?"

14. Ask about the area

You can ask a person about the area you're in if you're unfamiliar with it, or if you're familiar with it and just need a good conversation starter. For example, you might ask someone which local restaurant is their favourite, even if you're familiar with most of the restaurants. This helps build familiarity and trust through a shared environment.

Example: "Which restaurant in town is your favourite?"

Related: How To Improve Your Communication Skills at Work in 10 Steps

15. Ask about the coming weekend

Asking about the weekend is a good conversation starter because many people enjoy the weekends and plan activities or relaxation time. Ask about any weekend plans the person might have and share your own plans in return to create an interesting conversation or discover shared interests.

Example: "Any plans for the weekend? I'm heading to the beach myself for some relaxation time."

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