Do you clam up on the first day of school? Are you tongue tied when you try to talk to the widow at church? Are you terrified of applying for a job because you hate talking to adults? Try these tips on how to start a conversation and be comfortable doing it.
¡Hola! ¿Como estas? (“Hello! How are you?”) That was the sum total of my Spanish vocabulary when I went to Guatemala my first time. That didn’t make for a very long or a very interesting conversation. I tried to learn some new words, and I tried them out the next day at church.
¿Cuantos asnos tienes? That was barely out of my mouth before my friend, who was standing beside me, was laughing and trying to control herself. I gave her a quizzical look, and she said, “You just asked that lady how many donkeys she has, not ‘How old are you?’”
I just about died right there! One wrong letter in the word I chose gave an entirely different meaning. I could have clammed up right then and not said another word for the rest of the Feast, claiming that I didn’t speak Spanish, but it would have been a long and lonely Feast.
Do you feel lonely in a conversation? Do social occasions last an eternity because you don’t know what to say? Do you feel like you don’t have a voice box when you meet someone new? What are you supposed to say after you say “Hello!”?
Trying to have a conversation with someone that you have just met is hard. If you are the new kid in school, it’s challenging to make new friends. What do you say to the older folks in your church congregation? When asked by a future employer, “Tell me about yourself,” are you tongue tied? These can all be trying situations where you might wish to just disappear, but you can’t.
One main point to remember is that you don’t need to do all the talking. If you ask the other person questions, then you don’t need to be talking.
Some of these questions or topics can be used across categories. If you have a few questions or topics in mind when you are going to meet new people, you can ask those questions and learn about them. Once you begin to learn about them, you can ask follow-up questions to learn more. This will keep the conversation flowing.
What happens if they don’t answer your question, or they only give one word answers? That makes it a little more challenging. It’s usually best to show interest in the other person, but sometimes you will have to be prepared to talk about yourself. What do you talk about?
Be prepared ahead of time by having an answer to each of the previous questions. You might say something that is a common interest of the other person, which might start them talking. You could tell them about what you did last week or what you hope to do in the near future. Tell them about your hobby or the team that you are on. Maybe you read a great book lately; tell them about it.
If you are genuinely interested in learning from others, you will forget about being embarrassed and nervous. Just like you don’t know about them, they don’t know about you. They may be just as nervous and uncomfortable as you are.
If I had prepared ahead of time when I went to Guatemala, I would have had several questions to ask the new people that I met. I should have practiced saying the questions to make sure I could say all the words correctly. If I had, I would not have been embarrassed by saying the wrong word. Fortunately, my new friend was very kind and forgiving. Most people will understand.
If you do make a blunder like I did, don’t be embarrassed and refuse to talk; turn it around into a good story like I did. Then you will have something to talk about and maybe something to laugh about at the same time.
What do you say to someone your own age?
- What are your hobbies?
- Tell me about your family.
- What type of music, art, sports, food or car do you like?
- What are you doing this summer? Which camp are you going to attend?
- Where are you going for the Feast?
- Tell me about your pet.
What do you say to an older person at church?
- Tell me what school was like when you were a kid.
- Tell me about your first job.
- Tell me about your family.
- Tell me about where you used to live.
- How did you meet your spouse?
- What did you do on a date when you were a teen?
- How did you come into the Church?
- Which is your favorite Feast site and why?
What do you say to an adult, a teacher or an employer?
- Tell me what you do for work.
- How can I improve my grades?
- How can I be a better employee?
- What do you like to read or watch on TV?
- What do you do in your free time?
- What should I study to do your job?