Using opening lines

'I'm here, now what are your other two wishes?' one enthusiastic stranger blurted in my ear when I was least expecting it. Not the best opening line I've ever heard, but surprisingly not the worst either. The point of an opening line is that the other person recognises it as an attempt to initiate conversation. Your conversational opener doesn't have to be contrived, and avoiding chat-up lines is probably best unless you've got lots of experience in delivering them successfully. Sticking to something simple is always the best tactic for initiating any type of conversation.

Avoid using negative language when initiating conversation. A positive attitude is attractive - use it to your advantage.

Offering a simple opener

After you initiate your non-verbal hello, such as eye contact, an eyebrow flash, or smile, choose a very simple opener. 'Hi, do you mind if I join you?' works in situations from networking to pulling. This line may sound a little old fashioned and uninspired, but it requires a response from the other person because you're asking a question. Most people are too polite to say no, and if they've eyebrow flashed you already, they won't anyway. By verbalising a 'yes', they're accepting you on a subconscious level, too. (Find out more about non-verbal hellos and eyebrow flashes in Chapter 7.)

Talking about the Weather

Conversations about the weather are very common, particularly in English-speaking countries. Even in places where the weather is fabulous, people have adapted weather talk to suit their climate. Talking about the weather may seem very predictable, but the best openers are the ones where people know how to respond and that can be interpreted as an attempt to open conversation. No pressure is placed on the other person to think of a clever response, hence conversation is easier to make.

When the weather's good, openers are easy. 'Great day, isn't it?', and 'Aren't we having fabulous weather?' are perfect, non-threatening, positive openers, which people instinctively know how to respond to. When the weather's bad, put a positive spin on your opener to avoid appearing negative. Replace 'Isn't the rain awful?' with 'Great weather for ducks!'

Whatever line you choose, what matters is that you've started the conversation. In responding to weather openers, make sure you stick with convention and agree with whatever opener they've just used. Saying 'I prefer it cooler' in response to 'Great weather' instantly strikes a note of discord with the other person. 'Yes, it's great, but a break from the heat wouldn't go amiss' is a better response, as you're agreeing with them and also adding a little extra information about your preferences.

Following up weather openers is simple because lots of conversational threads can follow on, particularly in relation to holidays: 'It was lovely and hot/cold on my holiday in New York; we did, x, y, and z.' These conversations give you the opportunity for personal disclosure, and people are usually happy to discuss holidays and holiday plans.

Use a simple weather opener every day with someone new to build your confidence in initiating conversation.

Continue reading here: Making humour Work

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