By “opener”, I mean what one says to begin a conversation.
It could be difficult to formulate a good and effective opener. You may be nervous, you want to make a good impression. Above all, you don’t want to feel idiotic or helpless …
“What in the world should I say?”
You want your “opener” to be interesting, but not seem fake.
With practice you will develop the ability to formulate openers based on the current circumstances or on something you have noticed.
But in the beginning, a few ready-made openers can give you some self-confidence.
Ideally, formulate your prepared opener so that:
- they provide a high-quality topic of conversation or
- you can switch quickly to another topic
Although many openers may cause your conversation partner to respond with interest, a conversation without a good topic can quickly lose momentum.
Also, remember not to spend too much time on any one topic: look for “signposts” and change topics to keep your conversation partner interested.
“Signpost” – a word or phrase that naturally points to a change of subject – an interesting one!
The better the opener, the better the signposts will be.
There are openers that produce high-quality signposts very effectively.
These are also openers that do NOT appear only as a false pretext for addressing someone.
Example: a man wants to address a woman:
“Excuse me, you look like a woman of good taste, so could you tell me …”
Since he has complimented her, she will probably rather respond positively. But the compliment must lead to an unrelated topic.
There are an almost unlimited number of signposts!
High quality signposts point to:
- Countries of origin, places of residence or nationalities
- Favorite genres, celebrities, books, movies
- Cuisine (what one likes to eat or cook)
“I just had to tell you that I really like that jacket you are wearing! It really flatters you. Where did you get it?”
If you have opened well, the conversation partner will respond positively and provide at least one very good signpost, such as:
- The shop where he/she bought it (“Where is that?” – Location)
- The place where he/she bought this (“Oh, I have never been there! Why did you go there?” – Location / activity)
- Why the jacket fits him/her so well. (“It really compliments your…” – another genuine compliment)
“Wow, that’s a really great tan, where did you get it?”
This will also provide very good signposts (the place, when he/she was there, why, what did you especially enjoy about…).
Also, if someone has an accent or an unusual / exotic name, you may ask where he / she comes from.
The value of the signpost does NOT depend on whether you have something in common with the conversation partner!
You do not need superficial similarities to create a bond. The topic of conversation only serves to interest and engage your partner.
So do not worry if a topic is not about something you have in common.
We will discuss how you can continue the conversation in another post.