I am glad you reached out for support at this time. I am sorry you are struggling in this moment. I would encourage you to start to work with a therapist to help you learn skills to help you overcome your struggles. If we were to meet I would first talk to you about the counseling process through our site and how together we could help you obtain your goals going forward, how I work as a counselor and how I would try to help you through the counseling process. I would also take the first session to get to know you by asking you a few questions to get a better understanding of your struggles, so that I am able to focus on a plan and goals to work on going forward. I want you to know that you are not alone during this time even though you may feel like you are alone at this time. During the therapy process you can have support 100% of the time as you are able to reach out and talk to a therapist 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
I am going to send you some skills and tools to help you during this time of struggle you are having. If we were to work together we would be going over these and more tools to help you through our struggles and be able to ask for support from others.
How to Start a Conversation …1. Memorize some conversation startersHere are several examples of good conversation starters for different social settings:Party conversation starters· How do you know people here?· What brought you here?· Do you know [the name of the host]?· Where are you from?· I like your [part of their outfit], where did you get it?· I believe we met before at [place where you met before]?· Hello, my name is [name]. What’s your name?Dinner conversation starters· Have you tried the [dish]?· What’s your favorite type of cuisine?· If you opened a restaurant, what kind of place would it be?· What’s the most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten?· What’s your favorite comfort food?· Are you a keen cook?· What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?Work conversation starters· What department do you work in?· What projects have you been working on recently?· Where did you work before you started this job?· What do you like most about working here?· Did you have to relocate for this job?· How do you handle stress when work gets busy?· I think the company’s new policy on [whatever the policy is about] is [give your opinion]. What do you think?Group conversation startersWhen you join a group conversation, avoid rehearsed conversation starters. Instead, listen in on what people are already talking about and contribute to the ongoing conversation. With that said, there are times where a topic dies out. Here are some ideas for how to start a new interesting group conversation.· Have you heard the news about [news story]?· Have any of you seen [recent movie release]? What did you think of it?· What does everyone think of [latest episode of popular TV show]?· Has anyone heard the new album by [artist]?· Have any of you met before?· What’s everyone’s dream vacation?Conversation starters for dating/asking a guy/girl/crush· What’s your favorite thing to do when you have a day off work?· What’s your family like?· Do you have any cool hidden talents?· When did you last go to the movies?· Do you have a bucket list? What’s on it?· When you and your best friend hang out, what do you like to do?· When was the last time you felt really proud of yourself?Conversation starters for friends· How’s it going with [something you’ve talked about before]?· What’s your favorite memory?· Would you ever like to be famous? If so, what would you like to be famous for?· Do you ever think about what you’ll do when you retire?· Have you ever been so embarrassed that you wanted the ground to swallow you up?· When do you think we’ll be able to take day trips into space?· Have you ever wanted to keep a rare or exotic pet, like a tarantula?For most situations, you’re better off starting a conversation based on the situation rather than using a memorized line. The remainder of this guide will cover how to do this.2. Ask something about the situationExamples of day-to-day situations where you might want to strike up a conversation· At the lunch table with a random person from another job department or class.· Standing with others in the hallway waiting for class to start.· Sitting next to another traveler on a train or plane.Don’t ask direct questions in day-to-day lifeAt social events, which we talk about here, the norm is that strangers present themselves to each other. In day-to-day life, on the other hand, you can’t be so direct.Ask a simple question about the situation rather than the other personTo ease into a conversation, we can ask a question about the situation we’re in.That gives us a reason to start talking, and it’s not too direct.It helps to ask something that you already have on your mind. But if you don’t, you can use your surroundings or the situation for inspiration.An example of a day-to-day conversation from last weekLast week I ended up next to someone on the train.I’d been wondering if they served snacks on board. It was a natural conversation starter because it was already on my mind and related directly to my surroundings.I asked her, “Excuse me, do you know if they serve snacks here?”She responded with something like, “Hmm. Yeah, they should!”It was natural for me to ask a follow-up question: “Good, I forgot breakfast today.” (Both of us smiled) Me: “Do you take this train often?”Let’s go through some common worries about starting a conversation, and then I’ll talk more about follow-up questions.3. Know that you don’t have to be cleverYou don’t need to ask a deep or meaningful question. What you actually ask isn’t important. You don’t have to try to come off as unique or smart in your first interaction. The best conversation starters are usually simple.Asking a question is a way to signal that you’re friendly and open to social interaction.In reality, small talk is often mundane, and people are OK with that. Small talk is just a warm-up for more interesting conversation.4. Look at the direction of their feet and gazeWhen you know what to look for, you can tell from someone’s body language whether they want to talk to you. See this article for more tips: How to see if someone wants to talk to you.It’s normal to just get a short “yes” or “no” answer to your first question. It doesn’t mean that people don’t want to talk to you, just that you have to give them a few seconds to switch over to “social mode.”But if they only give short answers to your follow-up questions, it’s usually a good idea to say “Thanks” or “Nice chatting with you” and move on.Article continues below.A recommendationIf you want to improve your social skills, self-confidence, and ability to connect with someone, you can take our 1-minute quiz.You’ll get a 100% free custom report with the areas you need to improve.Start the quizLook at the direction of their feet and the direction of their gaze. If they look away from you a lot or point their feet away from you, it’s often a good sign that they want to end the conversation. You might have lots of interesting things to talk about, but the other person might not be in the mood for social interaction. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, so try not to take it personally.Make sure your body language is friendly and openYour body language needs to match your words; it should signal that you are relaxed, trustworthy, and happy to talk.Remember to:· Maintain good eye contact. Don’t overdo it, or you’ll come across as intimidating or creepy. This article will help you get the balance right.· Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Avoid rocking or swaying because these movements make you appear nervous.· Stand or sit up straight, but do not stiffen your back. Push your chest out slightly and keep your head up. Good posture signals confidence.· Use a genuine smile. When we smile naturally, our eyes crease slightly at the corners. You can practice this in a mirror so it comes easily to you during conversations.For more advice on how to improve your body language, see this guide.5. Ask follow-up questionsTo signal that we’re interested in talking to someone, we can ask follow-up questions.In the example with the train, I asked: “Do you take this train often?” That’s a simple follow-up to my question about whether there were snacks available onboard.Rather than asking a series of general questions like, “Where are you from?,” “How do you know people here?,” and “What do you do?,” you can use follow-up questions to dig deeper.For example:You could ask, “Where are you from?” followed by, “What was it like growing up there?” and then, “What do you miss the most about it?”Digging into a subject like this rather than asking superficial questions tends to make the conversation more interesting.6. Mix asking questions with sharing about yourselfWe don’t want to ask too many questions in a row or talk too much about ourselves. So how do you find the balance? Use the IFR method.Inquire: Ask a sincere questionFollow up: Ask a follow-up questionRelate: Share a little bit about yourself that relates to what they saidYou can then start the loop again by asking a new sincere question (Inquire).The other day I was talking to someone who turned out to be a filmmaker. Here’s how the conversation went:Inquire:Me: What kind of documentaries do you do?She: Right now, I’m doing a movie on bodegas in New York City.Follow up:Me: Oh, interesting. What’s your takeaway so far?She: That almost all bodegas seem to have cats!Relate:Me: Haha, I’ve noticed that. The one next to where I live has a cat who always sits on the counter.And then I inquire (IFR repeat):Me: Are you a cat person?You want to make the conversation go back and forth. They talk a little bit about themselves, we talk about ourselves, then let them talk again, and so on.7. Use open-ended questionsAn open-ended question is a question that requires more than a “Yes” or “No” in response. By using open-ended questions, people often feel inspired to give a longer answer.Examples of closed-ended questions:Did you like school?What’s your job title?Are you going to take a vacation this year?Examples of open-ended questions:What was school like for you?What sort of things do you do at work?What would your ideal vacation be like?However, this doesn’t mean that all closed-ended questions are bad. For example, if you initiate a conversation in day-to-day life, an open-ended question can feel too abrupt, while a close-ended question is more natural:For example, “Are you done reading that magazine?” is more natural than “What did you think of that magazine?”Here’s a longer list of examples of closed and open-ended questions.8. Know that tone is more important than wordsThe impression you make on other people depends partly on what you say, but it mainly depends on how you say it.Many people focus too much on what to say rather than their delivery.You want to speak in a friendly and relaxed tone of voice. If you do, you don’t have to worry about the exact words you use.Examples of how to start a conversation in day to day lifeRather than fabricating questions, you can ask about things that are genuinely interesting or at least relevant to the situation (like I did on that train). Don’t worry about asking obvious questions. If you sound friendly and relaxed, the questions will sound natural.When sitting next to someone on a train or plane:You: “Do you know how to make the seats recline?” (Question about the situation)They: “You have to press the button to the right.”You: “Thanks! Are you also going to Denver?” (Closed follow up-question)They: “Yes, I am! I’m going to visit my family.”You: “Nice, me too. I haven’t been home in 6 months. Where do you live now?” (Sharing about yourself and asking an open follow-up question)When having to socialize during lunchtime with someone from another department at work:You: “What kind of fish is that?” (Question about the situation)They: “I don’t know actually.”You: “I’m no fish expert either, haha. But it looks good. What department do you work in?”(They explain where they work)You: “Okay, nice, I work at (explains). How do you like it over there?” (Sharing something about yourself and asking an open follow-up question)Waiting with someone else in the corridor for class to start:You: “Is this the physics lecture hall?” (Question about the situation)They: “Yeah.”You: “Great. How do you feel about the test?” (Open follow-up question)They: “I hope it’ll go well. I felt like I grasped the material better yesterday when I went through it again.”You: “Yeah, same here, even though I didn’t have time to check out the last chapter. How come you chose this course?” (Sharing something about yourself and asking an open follow-up question)9. Make a positive remarkThis is my go-to method with people I’ve only had short interactions with before, like a “Hi” or a “How are you?”Because you know each other a little bit, you can be a little bit more direct than you can be with complete strangers.Examples of situations where you can use this method:· When sitting next to someone you barely know at a friend’s dinner.· When you want to speak to someone from another class who you’ve previously exchanged nods within the corridor.· When you want to talk with the barista at the cafe where you get your morning coffee every morning.In these situations, I make a positive remark about something in the environment.Examples of positive remarks:“The salmon looks delicious!”“This place looks great since they renovated it!”“It smells wonderful in here! I love the smell of freshly roasted coffee.”(I don’t make positive remarks about them, e.g., “I like your dress,” because this type of remark can feel too personal if you are only acquaintances.)When you say something positive, you’ll come off as more friendly. After all, they don’t know you yet, so their first impression of you will be based on the first few words they hear.You can now continue the conversation, as I showed in these examples.10. Use your five sensesIt tends to be harder than usual to think in social situations, and sometimes it’s difficult to come up with anything to say about our surroundings.The five senses exercise can help. By tuning into your senses and noticing what is going on around you, you can get the inspiration you need to begin a conversation with anyone.It also acts as a grounding exercise that helps reduce your anxiety. Instead of focusing on your anxious thoughts, you’re fully present and living in the moment.Use each of your five senses to notice things in your environment.See if there are things in your room that you can:· See· Hear· Feel· Taste· SmellHave you found five things? Great!Can you choose one or two things and say something positive about them? Or, if you want a real challenge, can you find something positive to say about all five?You can use this method whenever you want to start a conversation.Here’s what I came up with when I did this exercise. They are all good examples of good questions to start a conversation:“I like indoor plants. It makes the room much nicer.”“That’s a great design for a kitchen.”“You can see really far from here.”“I love the coffee smell.”“I wonder if coffee tastes good just because it makes me feel good, or if I actually like the taste of the coffee itself?”“I like it when the evenings get a bit chillier.”But David, you might be thinking, these are just meaningless statements!What we’re doing here is signaling to people, “I’m not a threat, and I’m open to making conversation if you are.”It’s not about what you say – it’s about what you convey.That’s why it’s important to make positive remarks. It shows that we’re friendly. You can find more conversation openers here.11. Ask a few “Getting To Know You” questionsIn day-to-day life, we need to break the ice before we can start interacting with someone.But sometimes, we’re expected to talk to people. In these situations, you can start the conversation by asking a question about them. I call this the Getting To Know You method.Examples: Starting a conversation by asking these “Getting To Know You” questionsThese questions can be used to get to know someone new at work, in school, at a party, mingle, or dinner.“Hi, Nice to meet you! I’m David…”“… How do you know people here?”“… Where are you from?”“… What do you do?”Pro tip: I’ve memorized these questions, so I can fire one off if I run out of other things to say to start a conversation. Here are some examples that also illustrate how you can use follow-up questions to keep the conversation going:You, at a writing workshop: “How do you know people here?”They: “I know Becka over there.”You: “Nice, how do you know each other?”(They explain)You: “OK, I see. I know Jessica. She and I are friends from college. She loves writing, so she asked me to come, and now I’m very happy I did. How did you and Becka get into writing?”You, at a friend’s party: “Where are you from?”They: “I’m from upstate New York.”You: “Cool, do you live in NYC now, or do you commute?”(They explain)You: “I’m from Sweden originally but moved here a few years ago. How do you like it here?”You: “Hi, I’m David. Nice to meet you. What brings you here?”They: “I’m here because I always wanted to learn more about photography.”You: “Me too! What do you like most about photography?”(They explain)You can then tell them what you like most about photography, and then you can ask a follow-up question: “What’s it like shooting analog compared to digital?”As you can see in these examples, you want to share a little bit about yourself in between asking questions.
I hope that these skills on how to start a conversation with others has been helpful for you in your struggles you have been facing at this time. I am going to give you my information if you are wanting to start to process through and work on your struggles going forward, please reach out to Betterhelp and ask to be matched with Crystal Westman. If we were to work together we would work on more skills and tools to help you when you are struggling and get back to a positive space and start to build relationships and friendships. I encourage you to reach out for support at this time to help you get to the best version of yourself.