5 Tactics for Starting a Conversation with a Stranger

Starting a Conversation-Introvert Whisperer

There is a hierarchy of cringe-worthy activities and high on the list is networking.  If you peel back networking, there are few things worse for many people (like my fellow socially reluctant) than approaching and speaking with a stranger.


The problem you face is the fact that you have little or no “frame of reference” with this other person.  Where do you begin when starting a conversation?  Even if you can muster up the courage to go near the stranger, it makes you feel like a deer in the headlights.


Do you run away as fast as possible or hope for the fire alarm to goes off?


I have found that rather than stop in your tracks, it’s good to have some conversation tactics that I have found to work well.  With a bit of planning, you can seriously reduce the fear and loathing of networking.


Tactic #1 – What do you have in common RIGHT NOW?
There is something you do have in common with this stranger and that is whatever the event is you are attending.  If it is a party you were invited to, you have that person in common.  If it is a group associated with a profession or interest, you have the focus of the group as a place to start.


Possible openers:

How do you and Jane know each other?

How long have you been part of the project management group?

What is your profession that brings you to this group?


Tactic #2 – Look for a “point of entry”.
“Point of entry” is my little term for a conversation starter.  It could be something the person is snacking on all the way to an article of clothing.  It may not become the topic for a full-blown 15-minute conversation but it’s a place to start.  Your questions will have to fill in the rest of the conversation.


Possible openers:

I see you’re munching on the egg rolls, do you recommend them?

I noticed your lapel pin, what is the pin associated with?


Tactic #3 – Ask for an introduction.
An often overlooked tactic is to ask someone like the event organizer or a person you do know, to introduce you to someone you don’t know.  Usually, this person will have some knowledge about the person they are introducing you to and will mention the insight during the introduction.  Pay attention as this can help you launch your conversation.


Tactic #4 – Be transparent.
So often, we think we have to be the perfect, glossy version of a human when we meet someone new.  It’s really ok to admit you are there to get acquainted with new people and would like to have a chat with them.  People love people who are open and friendly.  Go ahead and admit you have no cleaver way of knowing where to start the conversation and introduce yourself.


Possible openers:

I’m new to this group and really don’t know anyone.  Is it ok for me to join you and your friends? (I’ve done this a number of times and people are remarkably hospitable)

Hi, I don’t think you and I have met before.  I’m Dorothy and you are?  (Response) What brings you here today?


Tactic #5 – The classic.
We are all very accustomed to the question: “What kind of work do you do?”  Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and ask that classic question.  Once we know the kind of work someone does, it helps frame the next part of the conversation.


One of the things you rarely hear discussed when it comes to networking is the idea of preparing for it.  I’m a big advocate of doing just that.  Not all of us are big social butterflies who can easily come into a setting and begin a gabfest with anyone they encounter.  I have discovered that you can think through various parts of the process and develop good tactics to help you get the most out of the next event.  Isn’t that worth the cringe reduction?


Bottom-line – I want to help you accelerate your career – to achieve what you want by connecting you with your Free Instant Access to my 4 Building Blocks to Relationships eBook– the backbone to your Networking success and fantastic work relationships.  Grab yours by visiting here!


Brought to you by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – dedicated to unleash your professional potential. www.introvertwhisperer.com


About Dorothy

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is the Introvert Whisperer, Career & Leadership, speaker and author.
  • Ashley

    You definitely share some great tips here. I’d make the argument that many of us are introverts as a direct result of such social models. The issue I see here is that we’re having conversations for the sake of conversing, and all we’re talking about is a bunch of boring BS that we could really care less about. I’m an introvert because I love DEPTH. I can’t fit within this phony, material, what’s-in-it-for-me world because I’m a real person that cares about living an enriching and meaningful life. I don’t have conversations based on shallow ideals and ignorant opinions because I can’t relate to those things. I’m quiet and keep to myself, but you better believe that I’ll perk up in a second when there’s the chance to engage in intelligent, provocative, and intriguing dialogue.

    So, for me, the answer to opening up hasn’t been in BS chit-chat. It’s been in encouraging interesting conversations that I actually have something to contribute to. It’s imperative to be able to do such BS conversations because that’s how the modern world works, but it’s just as important to know how we tick and why. Then we can help add to or create a situation which we’re game to get involved in.

    • http://www.introvertwhisperer.com Dorothy Tannahill-Moran

      Thanks! I appreciate your comments. Introvert is actually a personality type. At this point, the needle is leaning more toward being born this way as we study babies and infants who have “sensitive” tendencies early on and maintain them. In any case, what you say about depth is a classic introvert characteristic. We don’t make friends in groups but prefer one on one and prefer to talk with purpose or a reason – not simply to BS. That’s why attending an event such as a party can be dreadful – because unless the party is attended by a bunch of people we know – we have no context for what to talk about. The deal is, in order to even know whether or not this fresh new person you might be meeting falls into the category of holding a conversation of substance, you have to start somewhere to get to know the person. The starting place is fairly “light” but that’s how human interaction goes. As the conversation advances and you learn more about each other, at some point you know if you can go deeper. I’m trying to lay out strategies for us introverts to engage in – and be successful – expanding our sphere of relationships because the typical advise of “work the room” wasn’t designed for us. Relationships are the success key in work and life.

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