4 easy conversation icebreakers
Meeting and mingling with new people can make you feel as if there’s a big, bright spotlight shining on you. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! You’ll glow in that spotlight and stand out in a good way by introducing yourself skillfully, says Laurie Puhn, author of Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life. She points out that “the right words at the right time can show people you’re confident, funny and interesting.” Try these opening moves:
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You’re invited to a party where you know only the hostess.
Icebreaker: Commenting on the food is always a safe start; for example, “Have you tried these mini crab cakes? They’re amazing!” Follow up with a remark about how you know the hostess, suggests Susan RoAne, author of How to Work a Room: “I’m Carol, by the way. I worked with Joan five years ago and we’ve stayed in touch. I recognize you from her last party—how do you know each other?”
Avoid: Clinging to the hostess—she has to mingle with everyone, says Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk.
You don’t know any of the other parents in the playground or at a school function.
Icebreaker: Approach a mom who is by herself and talk about the kids. “Which one is yours?” or “Is this your daughter’s first recital?” is the perfect opener. Remember, you’re both parents at the same function, so you already have a lot in common. To keep the conversation going, seek advice or compliment her child, say Puhn. Try something like, “Your kid’s a natural at catching the ball. Does he get his athletic ability from you?”
Avoid: Wedging yourself between two moms huddled together in conversation. You’ll get nowhere.
You want to approach someone you admire but don’t know.
Icebreaker: To avoid sounding gushy or insincere, try a touch of humility. RoAne suggests: “I’m a little nervous because I’ve admired your work for so long, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet you.” Then give your name. Keep the conversation flowing with a specific question that shows your familiarity with the person’s work, says Puhn. For instance, “How did you come up with such a clever title for your latest book?”
Avoid: Interrupting at an inappropriate time—say, when the person is having a private meal at a restaurant.
You’re the new person at the office.
Icebreaker: If nobody comes forward to take you around, go on a self-guided cubicle tour and introduce yourself with your name and position and where you’ll be sitting. As you walk around, show interest in your new coworkers. “If someone has a picture of a shih tzu and you have one too” says RoAne, “let that person know.” Also don’t forget to say hi to people in other departments, including mail room attendants and the tech-support team (you’ll be needing their help someday!).
Avoid: Waiting too long to meet everyone. After three days, “you’re old news,” warns Puhn, and introductions can get awkward.
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