Have you ever been on a plane and wanted to start a conversation with the person next to you, but you didn’t know what to say? Have you ever been attracted to a stranger at a party, but missed the opportunity to meet him or her because you were too afraid to introduce yourself? If you’re like most people, situations like these happen fairly often. When I noticed that I frequently failed to talk to people because I didn’t know what to say, I set out to find a foolproof way to start a pleasant conversation with virtually anyone. To avoid looking ridiculous or desperate, I wanted to make sure the way I began the conversation did not make me look like a complete idiot.
Before revealing the technique, it’s useful to understand why it works. The reason meeting people is often difficult is we’re all secretly afraid of strangers. We fear that they might be weird, boring, or even reject you which makes it difficult when you’re trying to meet someone new. To help us overcome our natural fear of meeting someone new, it helps if we give people a logical reason for talking to them, and a simple way they can assist us. In addition, if you hope to have more than a brief conversation with someone you just met, it’s important to ask him or her a question that can lead to a long, fascinating conversation.
The essence of the technique is to go up to a person you’d like to meet and say the following sentences in a sincere voice: “Excuse me, I’m wondering if you can help me out for a moment. I’m getting together with some friends later at my house to watch a video, and I want to rent a really great movie, but I don’t know what to rent. I’m wondering if you might be able to suggest a movie that you thought was really good?” Once you say these three sentences, let the person you’re speaking to think about it for a moment. If he or she has a hard time coming up with something, simply say: “Can you think of any movie that you liked that really touched you in a special way?”
Asking a person this question accomplishes several things. First, it begins some form of contact. If you don’t talk to people, you can’t get to know them. Second, it gives the two of you something relevant to talk about. Talking about the weather is a dead end, but talking about the movies each of you has enjoyed can go on forever. Third, the answer you receive will give you a lot of information about the person you just met.
Once people offer one or two movie suggestions to you, you can naturally begin an enjoyable conversation with them. For example, if they mention a movie you’ve already seen, you can talk about how much you also liked that movie. You can even begin talking about what you liked about the movie, and why you thought it was so good. As each of you talks about your experience of enjoying a favorite movie, you’ll notice that a feeling of connection inevitably takes place. If the person you’re meeting recommends a movie you’re unfamiliar with, then you can ask what he or she liked about the movie. People like to talk about movies they love. It puts them at ease, and makes them remember a meaningful moment in their lives.