The stage is set: You're at a party, you're wearing a cute outfit, you're feeing yourself — and someone new walks over to you and says hi. So what should you talk about if you meet someone at a party? There have got to be some simple icebreakers that don't feel forced or canned that you can whip out in such a scenario, so as to impress and dazzle your new conversation partner without making it too obvious or showy.
So I asked a fabulous group of relationship experts how best to handle this situation, and they came up with icebreakers to help you not be so awkward when you meet someone IRL. Yes, plenty of people go the online dating route these days, but if you'd rather go old-school — or if you just happen to run into a dapper stranger out and about, while you're just living your (best) life — here are 16 things you can discuss, so that you appear totally cool (and not at all awkward). And don't worry — once you master these techniques, you won't have to think about it when this happens at a get-together or a party — you'll just be prepared (and smooth as butter).
1. Ask Their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Score
"As an introvert, my absolute favorite thing is to ask people what their MBTI score is or give them the quiz myself," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "It forces people to talk about themselves and you learn about the other person." And talking about someone's personality type will give you something to work with. "People have a much better shot at liking you if you ask them questions about them." Truth!
2. Ask Follow-Up Questions
"When working with clients who have social anxiety, I always suggest taking a 'curious' perspective and suggest asking people about themselves," Boston-based clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner tells Bustle. "You can start with the basics like 'How do you know the host?' and literally follow the conversation lead with a 'curious' question." Once they give you something to work with, run with it. If they mention college, ask more — Wegner suggests saying something like "You said from college — how was that college?"
"Always ask open-ended questions and ask a 'curious' question based on their answer," she says. "Imagine a question arrow pointing down, and with every question you dig a little deeper." Just keep going — and the conversation will keep flowing.
3. Ask A Genuine Question
"The sage advice to open doors by encouraging others to talk about themselves holds true, but the key to its success is for your questions to arise from genuine interest and curiosity," personal and professional coach Karen Garvey tells Bustle. "A question that genuinely interests you about someone will resonate as being authentic and lend itself to a conversation." So find something you really want to know about this person you just met, and ask that question.
4. Find Out Why They Are There
"Another strategy is the time-tested advice to find common ground," Garvey adds. "Finding something in common can be as easy as figuring out how you both came to be at the same event at the same time." Whatever you ask them about, be sure that you actually want to know the answer. "As your confidence increases, you realize that you have nothing to lose by trying, but a lot to lose by not," Garvey says. So — at least try!
5. Ask How They Know The Host
"Ask the other guest how they know the host," New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. "It’s a surefire way to get the conversation started and it’s something the two of you already have in common — you’re both at the party already, so somehow or other, you both know the host." From there, you can ask more questions about the host and this new person, or perhaps they'll give you new information that you can ask about.
"Always remember, when meeting someone new, to ask questions," she says. "It’s a polite and effective way to show interest in the person and the conversation and to learn more about commonalities." And you'll get to know more about this potential date.
6. Try A Random Question
"You don't want to ask them the common questions that end conversations as quickly as they started," psychologist Nicole Martinez, who is the author of eight books, including The Reality of Relationships , tells Bustle."[Asking about] the weather, how they know the host, and have they been here before are all good questions, but lack the creativity that might really get someone's attention, and make them interested and think." So try something new.
"For example, I might ask, 'If you found $100 lying on the floor right now, what would be your first thought of what to spend it on?' Out of the ordinary, quirky — but memorable and engaging," Martinez says. Go in a new direction and see what happens.
7. Ask Them To Describe Their Last Meal
"I always like to ask them to describe the best thing they ate to me," sex and relationship expert Megan Stubbs tells Bustle. "If someone uses great descriptive words, that gives me a little insight to their personality, and [makes me] actually want to carry on a meaningful conversation." And who doesn't like talking about food?
8. Ask What They Like On Their Pizza
"I think obscure questions are the best for this situation," Rob Alex, who created Sexy Challenges and Mission Date Night with his wife, tells Bustle. "My favorite is, 'What toppings do you like on your pizza?'" Random, yes — but fun. "You need easy questions that everyone or anyone can answer," he adds.
And by asking about pizza, "you will be rememberable at the event," he says. "Plus, these questions are not too personal. I don't know anyone that would shy away from telling people what they like on their pizza, or that they have to lie and say they like different things." LOL — one would hope not! "It just starts the conversations off on an open and honest food." Nothing wrong with that.
9. Compliment Their Style
"Say, 'I noticed your watch, or ring, or shirt — it's beautiful, or interesting, or something I've been wanting to find" Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. "If you get a polite 'thank you' and the person looks away, he or she isn't interested in talking." Smart — no need to waste your time on someone who'd rather not talk.
"If your approach works, and you begin a conversation, just keep it going," she says. "Every time you make a statement, invite a response by saying, 'Don’t you think so?' or, 'How do you feel about it?'" By asking these questions, the convo doesn't die. "Don’t let your nervousness turn your half of the conversation into an endless monologue." Whatever you do, let it be a give and take.
10. Go Off The Beaten Path
"Ask questions a little less ordinary than 'What do you do?'" Carlyle Jansen, author of Sex Yourself , tells Bustle. "Questions such as 'What is the craziest thing you have ever done?' or 'If you could fly anywhere tomorrow, where would you go and why?' or 'What is your latest favorite book, play, movie or TV show and why?'" will get the ball rolling. "These types of questions can lead to discussions revealing more about their interests, values and priorities," Jansen says. In the meantime, you get to have fun finding out more about someone new.
11. Talk About What's Happening In Front Of You
"Start up a conversation about whatever is going on right in front of you," dating coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Pella Weisman tells Bustle. "You can always find something to comment on about the room, the food, or the other people at the event or party." It's true: At any given gathering, there's always something going on directly in front of you that can be discussed.
Just don't go deep. "Stay positive and avoid topics that are too controversial or personal," Weisman says. "Don't worry about being unique or interesting right away, your task is just to get the conversation started." You can always weave that other stuff later. "If the other person is interested in talking to you, they will help you with the hard work of finding common ground," she says.
12. Go Story-Fishing
"I always recommend asking questions that will elicit a response and not a one-word answer," relationship counselor Crystal Bradshaw tells Bustle. "Seek out other people's stories, or create a conversation platform where you can exchange stories together." In other words, go story-fishing. Try asking, "What's been keeping you busy these days?" It'll start a longer conversation.
"You want to utilize open-ended questions which will invite whomever you are speaking with to share more," she says. "Other questions I recommend: 'How did you get into your line of work?'; 'What was the best part of your day?'; 'What's the best thing you get to do in your job?'; 'What are you looking forward to this week?'; and 'What was the most awkward moment of your day?'" That last one is particularly fun!
13. Talk About Something You Noticed
"If you are about to initiate a conversation with someone, then the chances are pretty good that you have been watching them for a bit," dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. "In that time, you should have been able to pick up certain things about them." Smart — use a little psychology to your advantage. Maybe you've noticed "an emblem from a favorite sports team, or piece of jewelry that gives you some insight into something about that person," he says. "I have even seen a conversation start by discussing a scar on a person’s knee that let the other individual know they had a similar operation." Whatever you notice, talk about it.
"These types of icebreakers work very well, but should only be used as follow-ups to the best ice breaker ever invented: Eye contact and a smile," Van Hochman says. It's true: Eye contact and a smile never hurts.
14. Find Common Ground
"When meeting someone for the first time, take the opportunity to talk about common interests," online dating expert Anita Covic tells Bustle. "If you love to ski and the other person hates the cold weather, it’s going to be difficult to find a common ground." But there's always something you can find in common. "If you love running and the other person has some new trails to share, you could be the perfect match," she says. "A party is the great time to have that relaxed conversation about travel, business, hobbies," and that kind of thing.
As other experts have shared, it's best to stay shallow at first. "Don’t disclose private information," she says. "Stay with general topics as the icebreaker to get to know the other person." If you like them, you can always tell them your social security number later.
15. Share Your Passion
"It doesn't matter what your passion is — surfing, writing, dancing, whatever — but when you talk about something you love, you reveal your heart and soul," relationship coach and psychic medium Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can't Leave Bad Relationships , tells Bustle. "Your enthusiasm will be contagious and, before long, you'll find the person you've shared your life's passion with feeling comfortable enough to reveal their heart's passion to you." Passion sharing: The fastest way to love.
16. Ask Them Their Favorite Drink
"[Ask about] their favorite alcoholic beverage or snack food," author and relationship expert Alexis Nicole White tells Bustle. "Typically, there are drinks present so that wouldn’t be such an awkward way to start a conversation." And, as other experts have mentioned, everyone likes to talk about food. You have nothing to lose — and, who knows, maybe you can go make them their favorite drink.
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