Conversation, as a social construct, serves as a building block in the creation and maintenance of relationships. It also serves as a gateway, which if navigated successfully, can lead you to the information or results you want. On the surface, conversation is a simple dialogue of thoughts and ideas, but underneath, it carries rich opportunities to build and strengthen bonds, uncover new information, and present information of your own.

When talking to strangers or professional colleagues, you don’t have a lot of breathing room in terms of topics and conversation patterns. You might excitedly tell a friend about a new book you’re planning on releasing, but if you do that to a total stranger, they might just think you’re trying to sell it to them. Skilled conversationalists are able to direct any conversation–even an innocuous “hey, what’s up” to a place they want it to go.

So, how can you do this? Here are seven ways to start a conversation with potential to head in any direction you want:

– Start with weather (or sports)
– Come out with a compliment
– Talk about the venue
– Ask a favor
– Open with a joke
– Start with an innocuous observation
– Ask a question peripherally related to your intende topic

Remember, the key to successfully leading a conversation into a direction is to do so subtly. Trying to force a topic onto somebody is a sure way to turn them off. Practice this regularly, and eventually you’ll get the hang of it.

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How to initiate a conversation