You run into someone you know only casually. "Hi, how are you?" you say. "Fine, thanks," says the other person. Then you both stand there awkwardly, since you've just started -- and finished -- the entire conversation. Avoid these dead-end exchanges by being positive, open and interested in the other person and by using conversation-starters that lend themselves to more than just one-word responses.
Start your conversation with a friendly inquiry about the acquaintance's family, classes or job. This shows you are interested in what she has to say and gives her an opening to respond with more than the usual "Fine, thanks" to the standard "How are you?" This routine question is often regarded as just being polite and tends to result in the conversation ending before it really starts. An inquiry about something important to the other person, such as her family or new job, on the other hand, allows for an open-ended response and can lead into a real conversation.
Open the conversation with a sincere compliment. Ask her about the interesting piece of jewelry she's wearing or acknowledge her recent outstanding performance on the soccer field. Compliment your acquaintance on the cool boots she wore to last week's party and ask where she got them, or ask your neighbor how he did the sharp new detailing on his car. These conversational gambits provide a flattering signal to acquaintances that you've noticed something positive about them or appreciate their prowess or talents in a field you both value.
Talk about something you both have in common, such as a hobby, shared community interests or common church attendance. Talk about the latest student council meeting, the new professor in English class or a party you both attended. Perhaps you're both in the same club at school or your boyfriends play on the same soccer team. Such connections provide an obvious topic of conversation and at least a casual bond, even though you may not think you have much else in common.
Listen to what your conversation partner says and build on that to continue the discussion. If your acquaintance mentions a recent trip he took, ask questions that encourage him to be expansive in his answers, such as "Which was your favorite country, and why?" or "I've never gone on a cruise; what was it like?" Listening to someone is a powerful tool to learn more about him and keep the lines of communication open.
- Avoid controversial or emotionally charged topics with people you don't yet know very well.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images