Awkward meeting? How to get a conversation started.

You sit down at the table waiting for the other person to show up. Suddenly you feel nervous. How am I going to start this conversation? What if we run out of things to talk about?

Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. 

If you’re about to have a conversation with someone you don’t know well or you’re meeting for the first time, remember: they are just as nervous as you – even if they don’t seem nervous. Why? 

Because you both have some kind of expectation for what it supposed to happen at this meeting. Expectations create anticipation. 

If you anticipate good things or if you anticipate bad things your brain sends signals to your body to create adrenaline. Seeing an old friend for the first time in a while is usually a good anticipation, while your boss unexpectedly asking to meet for lunch probably stirs up bad anticipation.

When we don’t know what’s coming, it can be scary. But the hardest part is usually the first two minutes. Once you get into a conversation, it’s not so scary anymore.

Here are some things to try and get your conversation started: 

Be curious.

Everyone has a story to tell. So be curious and ask questions that give the other person a chance to share something about himself or herself. Most people like to talk about themselves, so go on a treasure hunt for good stories. 


You’re not playing 20 Questions.

Try to ask open-ended questions that don’t stop with a one-word answer. So instead of “Have you always lived in Charlottesville?” or even “How long have you lived in Charlottesville?” try something like “What brought you to Charlottesville?” or “How do you think your life would be different if you hadn’t lived in Charlottesville?”


You have more in common than you think.

Just by virtue of being two people, you share a lot in common. Most people have activities that delight them, worries that hound them, and dreams that motivate them. Find what you have in common – it’s there if you’re willing to listen for it. 


For more tips on common topics, see our other post.

Gina Tuck