14 Ways on How to Start a Conversation (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 14, 2022 | Published May 17, 2021

Updated November 14, 2022

Published May 17, 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.

Conversations are a great way to build relationships and network with new contacts. There are several ways to begin, but you can choose a few preferred methods to begin conversations in professional settings. In this article, we explain how to open conversations and provide the best conversation starters to use in various situations.

How to start a conversation

Consider these strategies for starting a conversation:

1. Share a compliment

Paying someone a compliment is a good ice-breaker. It can also improve the person's confidence and encourage them to continue speaking to you. Afterward, you can mention the reason for the compliment.

Example: "I like your tie. It really suits you!"

Consider asking follow-up questions like where they got the shirt or why they picked it to keep the conversation going.

2. Ask for information

Requesting information about a topic is a natural way to start a conversation with someone. After you've asked your question, be sure to show genuine interest in the person when they respond.

Example: "Do you know when the doctor will be back?"

Be an active listener and use follow-up questions or comments to continue the conversation.

3. Make an observation

You can use your environment to start conversations with someone. Comment on the artwork, building, weather or other things they can observe with you.

Example: "I love that art piece. The colours are stunning."

Making observations also offers the other person an opportunity to express their thoughts.

4. Ask for an opinion

If you want to show that someone's thoughts interest you, start a conversation by asking their opinion.

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

People typically respond to questions they are familiar with, so pick a relevant topic.

5. Comment on something pleasant

Making positive comments about an event or issue is another powerful conversation starter.

Example: "Did you attend the director's presentation? I think he was really confident and made some interesting points."

Regardless of the person's views, you can have an engaging conversation after commenting on a topic.

6. Offer help

If you find that you can help the person, do it. It starts a conversation about an issue you can solve together.

Example: "Are you having trouble with your computer? I may be able to help."

This is good practice, even if the motivation isn't to start a conversation. It earns trust and demonstrates that you're a nice person.

7. Ask for help

Alternatively, you can request help from someone you want to have a conversation with. This is a good conversation starter because it makes the other person feel valuable. However, make sure whatever you ask for is convenient for them.

Example: "Can you direct me to where the printer is?"

If the person agrees to help, you can continue a friendly conversation from there.

8. Comment on a shared activity or trait

Use this conversation starter when you know you share a trait or activity with the other person. Aside from starting a conversation, this strategy can also help you form a lasting connection.

Example: "I noticed you didn't put sugar or milk in your coffee – I like my coffee black as well!"

9. Tell a joke

This is a lighthearted strategy that helps you build connections with people. Your joke must be relevant to the situation and respectful, especially in an office environment.

Example: "Today feels like it's winning the marathon for the fastest day of the week, don't you think?"

Related: Safe and Fun Office Pranks (With Tips and Guidelines)

10. Ask open-ended questions

Open-ended questions keep the conversation going by encouraging the other person to explain their answer instead of saying simple "yes" or "no". It's most effective when the other person is familiar with the topic.

Example: "What did you think of the marketing team's presentation today?"

11. Comment on the weather

Talking about the weather is one of the easiest ways to open a conversation. As it's such a common conversation starter, it's better to try more interesting topics of conversation first, but it's an easy go-to when you're unsure.

Example: "Can you believe how much it's been snowing?"

12. Talk about an interesting fact

Sharing an interesting fact is another great approach to getting a conversation started. It can be effective when used properly in relevant situations.

Example: "Did you know humans are the only animals that can blush?"

13. Ask about a current event

Use general events to start conversations with people. However, it's best you avoid controversial topics in case the other person doesn't share your views.

Example: "Did you hear about the new Disney movies that will debut next fall? I'm pretty excited!"

14. Introduce yourself

An introduction is a simple way to start a conversation with someone. When used correctly, it's an effective strategy, especially if there aren't any other relevant conversation starters to try.

Example: "Hi, I'm Aria. I just joined the team, and I wanted to introduce myself before I went for my training session."

From there, other people are likely to ask you follow-up questions, which can lead to deeper conversations.

Read More: 75 “Get-to-Know-You” Questions for the Workplace

What are the best topics for starting a conversation?

Stick to these topics when you get into a conversation with someone:

Work

People like to talk about their work and role in an organization. They respond well when you start conversations around their duties or responsibilities.

Example: "Do you find being an accountant exciting?"

Entertainment

Entertainment makes for a good topic of conversation. Unlike controversial topics, people are comfortable talking about entertainment.

Example: "Have you read the latest Marvel comic book?" or "What social media platform is your favourite?"

Sports

Talking about sports can lead to engaging conversations because people are passionate about it. You can ask about their thoughts on a recent match, their favourite team, or their favourite player in a specific sport.

Example: "What's your favourite lacrosse team?" or "If you had to choose between ice hockey and soccer, which would you pick?"

Family

People may talk freely about their children, spouses, siblings and pets. As long as your question isn't too personal, they may be happy to answer and may also return the question, too. Asking about someone's family is also a great way to make small talk and learn about the other person.

Example: "How many siblings do you have?" or "Did you adopt your pet?"

Skills

You can ask people what soft or hard skills they have and how they became good at them. People like it when you take a genuine interest in them and value something they spent time developing.

Example: "When did you learn how to play the piano?" or "Can you draw?"

Food

People typically like to talk about food, especially if it's something they cooked themselves. Asking for advice on recipes or restaurants is a great way to get someone talking.

Example: "What's a food you love to cook?" or "Where's your favourite restaurant in the area?"

Related: Best Small Talk Topics and Conversation Starter Questions

Tips for starting a conversation

Use these tips to start an engaging conversation with someone you want to talk to:

Be polite

Always start a conversation on a positive note. Being polite involves greeting the person you want to talk to and making eye contact as you speak. It also includes using "please," "thank you," and other polite or neutral terms. Always avoid using swear words in professional settings.

Related: How to Improve Social Skills (With Examples and Steps)

Avoid sensitive topics

It's important to maintain professionalism in the workplace and some topics can make people uncomfortable. Therefore, it's best you don't bring up sensitive or controversial topics at work. Avoid topics such as:

  • Religion

  • Politics

  • Age

  • Medical details

  • A person's appearance

  • Salary benefits

  • Race, sex or gender identity

  • Living situation

  • Gossip

Practice active listening

Although your goal is to start a conversation, you should also focus completely on the speaker to understand their answer and respond appropriately. Active listening involves verbal and non-verbal techniques, and it helps build trust with other people.

Use open body language

Open body language includes raising your chin, uncrossing your arms, and maintaining a confident posture. Open body language makes other people feel comfortable.

Be confident

Starting a conversation can seem overwhelming, especially in workplaces or in unfamiliar situations with new people. The more you talk to people, the more self-confidence you'll build. It's natural to feel nervous when approaching someone, but remember, the other person may be waiting for you to take the first step! You can take a deep breath to slow your heart rate before starting a conversation to ease any nervousness you might feel.

Related articles

15 Creative Self-introductions to Make a Positive Impression

Explore more articles