How to Talk to Guys/Girls
What to SayAim for common ground
You're both at the same party so how do you know the host? You both got caught in the rain on the way here so did you get soaked or did you happen to remember your umbrella? You can also focus on current events. For example, you both saw the news this morning, so did you hear that scientists found an intact 80,000-year old genome sequence? At this stage in the game its best to avoid politics, unless politics are your thing and it's important for you to know whether or not your conversation partner enjoyed Mitt Romney's speech at the RNC or hated it.
Avoid questions that can be answered in one word (i.e. "Where do you live?"). Instead, aim for open ended questions such as "What brings you here tonight?" Or, if you simply have to know where someone is from, be ready with a follow up question ("What's it like living there?" or "What brought you to that neck of the woods?") to keep the conversation flowing.
Ask about their interests
Author Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project suggests you ask "What's keeping you busy these days?" as opposed to "What do you do?" This allows the person the freedom to talk about something other than their job—perhaps it's a hobby or volunteer work instead that they're passionate about—and in a day and age when offices jobs are no longer the norm, this can be a welcome relief.
Make ‘em laugh
Donald O'Conner knew what he was talking about in the 1952 classic Singin' in the Rain ("Don't you know everyone wants to laugh?") We're not suggesting you throw yourself onto the floor and start flailing around but if humor is your thing, don't be afraid to show it.
How to Say ItReact
If someone tells a joke, laugh. Even if it's only marginally humorous, or not even at all, try to act amused. Conversation is a two way street and you've got to uphold your end of the bargain. The same rule applies for something surprising or sad. Indicate that you too are surprised or saddened by this fact.
This is not the time to let your mind wander, and don't think she won't notice that you keep glancing over her shoulder to check the score. Ask follow up questions (i.e. "Really, you work in real estate? How did you get into that?") and if you blank out and completely forget the person's name or what they do for a living, be honest about it. Apologize and ask them to repeat the information. Do not - we repeat do not - try some sort of slick, backhanded way to get their name. It didn't work for Seinfeld and it won't work for you.
Follow their lead
Are you picking up what she's laying down? If not, you should be. If the woman you're talking to references her pet or the trip she took with their nephew to the zoo last week, ask her about it. How old is her nephew? What kind of dog does she have? Really, a boxer? Boxers are your favorite too!
It's not about you
No one likes a show off so resist the urge to name drop. Also, listen to yourself when you speak. If you're starting every sentence with "I this..." and "I that..." it's time to turn the focus back towards the man or woman you're attempting to pick up. Remember, the goal here is to get to know them. You're not trying to convince them to go out with you - they'll come to this decision on their own if you're doing your job right - so stop listing your credentials and just concentrate on being friendly.
This should go without saying but we'll say it just in case: no criticism! And no complaining, unless you're using your common dislike of your host's artichoke dip to break the ice (but even then, be careful. You could be talking to your host's sister without realizing it.) Be open and upbeat. Avoid judgmental comments and stick to topics of conversation that are enjoyable and fun.
Women usually love talking about their families and friends, so ask them about what they did with their girlfriends last week or what they're planning for the holidays. Most women also like to give advice so don't be afraid to ask them for their help or their opinion on something.
Men, on the other hand, aren't quite as chatty by nature so sports or current events may be your easiest way in. Also, if they tell you something impressive, whether it's about their career or the half marathon they just completed, don't be afraid to act impressed. We all love getting our egos stroked but men seem to be particularly fond of it.
Conversation is an art (why do you think there are so many books, blogs and websites devoted to the subject?) but with a little practice, you'll be a pro in no time.
- Ask a trusted friend whether or not they think you're a good listener. Encourage them to be honest, and if the answer is no, make sure your next conversation is an exchange, not a monologue
- Practice! Make to commitment to initiating at least three conversations the next time you're in a social setting.
- Try out different tactics. Tonight, for example, focus on breaking the ice by commenting on something you have in common. Tomorrow, try the humorous route. Pay attention to what happens and figure out what works for you.