Many people just don’t know what to say and will respond to any attempt to start a conversation. It’s worth a try.
Here’s a neat trick: Start by asking the question you want the other person to ask you. What’s the most interesting thing you do or know or like. Because, usually, the polite thing to say after answering a question is “How about you?”
When I was working as a typist or secretary or personal assistant, I never asked people “What do you do?” because I hated having to answer that question. I usually jumped in with “What do you like to do in your spare time?” My answer to that, of course, was, “I’m writing a book” which always generated a good conversation.
Talk About the Weather…
Yes it’s boring, but it’s a safe and easy and predictable topic—just what is needed to break the ice and get over that initial hurdle. It’s why so many people speak so enthusiastically about the weather; what they are really saying is, “Yes, I do want to chat to you!”
…With a Twist
But weather doesn’t have to be boring. Use those starter comments to segue into a really cool story. “This kind of weather always reminds me of the time I…” For example, my windy weather story involves a shopping trolley (cart) that was blown against my car while I was driving out of a mall parking lot. I can really embellish that story and make it quite entertaining (if I’m talking to someone who comes across as down-to-earth or a “no nonsense” type), or I can talk about the anxiety it caused me (if the other person seems sensitive or nervous themselves over the extreme weather).
Plan ahead of time what weather stories you’re going to use for various types of weather: sunny, rainy, windy, snow, hail, etc. If you don’t have any freaky weather stories, ask your grandparents to share theirs with you. Then you can start with “My grandfather always tells the story of the time he was caught in a hailstorm…”
Learn to be a good storyteller and you’ll easily attract people who want to chat to you. From there you can develop friendships with those you resonate with.
Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and the teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was a real job. Join Elle on her new publishing adventure.