A lot of introverts are afraid to start conversations. Maybe you can relate? Before social events, you tell yourself that you’re going to put yourself out there and make new connections. But when you get there, all your resolve goes out the window.
Instead, you feel awkward and unsure of how to make the first move. Maybe you’ve read countless articles offering easy conversation starters and networking tips. And yet, you still can’t think of one thing to say.
There could be many reasons that you’re afraid to start a conversation:
- Lack of social confidence: Even though you’re confident in other areas of your life, like work, you may feel self-conscious in social situations.
- Fear of rejection: Initiating conversations opens you up to rejection and that can be scary.
- Fear of being tongue-tied: You worry that you’ll go blank and won’t know what to say.
- Not enough practice: Starting conversations is a skill that takes practice. Perhaps, you just haven’t done it enough yet.
Regardless of the reason, feeling uncomfortable initiating conversations is frustrating. It holds you back from making new friends and work connections that could enhance your life.
That’s why I’ve put together some helpful tips to overcome the fear of starting conversations and to actually know what to say.
Shift into a confident state
You’ve probably heard before that confidence is key. But did you know that there’s a shortcut to social confidence?
When I work with my introvert confidence coaching clients, this is one of the first things I share with them…
The secret is to shift your physiological and mental state before you socialize so that you FEEL more self-assured. Allow me to explain with a relatable scenario.
Let’s say you just got off work and you’re feeling tired, stressed and low energy. Obviously, this is not the most confident state to be in.
But what if you put on your favourite upbeat song and danced your heart out for a few minutes. Or you did some power poses and affirmations in the mirror. How do you think you’d feel then?
Probably a lot more energized, happy and—you guessed it—confident. Other things you can do to shift your state include a walk outside, jumping jacks, a bath, or a cold shower.
Change your mindset
When you’re afraid to start a conversation, your thoughts are probably quite negative. You’re focused on worst-case scenarios, like rejection and making a fool of yourself.
You’re also likely making a lot of assumptions. You assume that the other person doesn’t want to talk to you. You wonder, “why would they be interested in me, I’m so boring.”
Instead, change your mindset by making some more constructive assumptions.
- Assume that the person wants to talk to you. Having this mindset will actually make people more interested in you because you’ll seem more confident.
- Assume that you always have common ground: Have you ever walked into a room and thought, “God, I have nothing in common with these people!” The truth is you can always find common ground with anyone (more on this later).
- Assume that you’re the giver in the conversation. Recognize that you have something incredibly valuable to offer.
By talking to someone, you have the chance to make them feel seen, heard and understood. That’s an incredible gift!
So stop assuming they’re doing you a favor by talking to you. Your presence could be the thing they need most.
Now that we’ve covered the mindset stuff, we can dive into some practical tips to actually get the conversation going.
When it comes to initiating conversations, it’s best to keep it simple. There’s no need to be witty, or verbose. Just use one of the tried and true conversation starters:
Make a simple observation:
Observations are great ice-breakers because they don’t demand anything of the other person in the way that questions do. Here are some examples:
“That’s a lovely colour on you.”
“That looks like a festive drink.”
“He looks like a friendly pup.”
Do a simple introduction:
Sometimes, it makes sense to start off my introducing yourself:
“I don’t think we’ve met before, I’m [your name].”
Find common ground
Remember how I said that you can find common ground with anyone? Well, here are the steps to do so quickly.
First, understand the three biggest areas of common ground, which form the acronym “PIP”.
- People: mutual friends, coworkers, famous people, authors
- Interests: gym, climbing, books, shows, travel, plants
- Past: same high school, religion, city, similar families
Next, ask a question to uncover common ground in one of the above areas. Here are some easy ones that work in most social scenarios:
- How do you know the host? (People)
- What do you do for fun in this city/outside work? (Interests)
- Are you originally from here? (Past)
You can find more conversation starters in my free Introvert Conversation Cheat Sheet.
Now that you’ve actually started a conversation, celebrate that! Give yourself a pat on the back simply for taking action—regardless if the conversation went perfectly.
After all, improving your social skills takes practice. It’s hard to stay motivated if you’re too hard on yourself. Every time you do something that scares you, that’s a massive achievement. So, be nice to yourself for goodness sake!