I am going to share two phrases on how to start a conversation with a new person.
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These two phrases have been golden nuggets. They’ve been ultra-useful in my own conversational practice. They’re also things that I advise people I get to work with some of the top leaders and educators on the planet. If you’re trying to build a relationship of trust with somebody else, these two phrases are immensely helpful in starting a conversation with a brand new person. Whether you’re at a networking meeting or a date. Not my area of expertise necessarily. I’m married. Or in an educational setting. These two phrases are really, really useful to help you create conversations that matter with new people. I don’t like fluff unless it’s on a sandwich. Let’s get into it.
Two Golden Phrases
I’ve got our two golden phrases in a crumpled up piece of paper. There’s absolutely no symbolism whatsoever for why I crinkled them up other than to dust them off and add them to your pocket. Hopefully, you remember them slightly more because I unraveled and revealed them like this. I know this is odd. This phrase is really, really useful because if you want to start a conversation with a new person, you’re starting from scratch. You’re starting from absolutely nothing.
Sometimes the segue into a conversation is going to feel a little bit jumpy. One of the things I talk about in my TEDx talk is this idea of taking positive social risks. In any conversation, in any relationship development, there’s always this awkward bump. Once you’re over it, you’re over it, You can let it go. But until you get to that point, it’s a natural feeling, a little bit awkward in a conversation with a new person is 100% natural until you cross over that anxious bump or that awkward bump and move forward. This phrase, I know this is odd is really useful. Because it recognizes them self-awareness to the other person. I use it a lot of times before I ask a question.
“Hey, I know this is a bit odd. But I’m really curious about blank, blank, blank, blank, blank.” I’ll just give you a little preview into the second phrase as well there. But that phrase kind of points out an elephant in the room and is disarming. You know, one of the things that google found, they did a big research quest a few years ago to find what are the characteristics of the highest performing teams at Google and the number one characteristic that they found was the degree of psychological safety in that team. I know that you in a conversation with a new person is not necessarily a team at Google and you’re not trying to be high performing. But I would say you’re probably trying to have a really great conversation.
If we extrapolate that data a little bit and say… I would say that really great conversations ideally have a high degree of psychological safety. This phrase helps increase psychological safety even just a little bit to make whatever question you’re going to ask feel a little bit more natural a little bit more appropriate, a little bit more fitting.
You hear me say it a minute ago. I got this from a leader and I cannot remember for the life of me their name but there’s somebody relatively famous. I’m just blanking on their name right now. But thank you for whoever gave me this phrase. It’s super simple. “I am just curious.” Curiosity is one of the most disarming things when starting a conversation with a new person. Now, there is a caveat. There’s a trap that you can fall into when you’re being curious about other people. But when you say to somebody else, I’m just curious or I’ve just got to ask. Something along those lines. It is typically pretty disarming. Now, I say typically because it is possible to be curious with no empathy. You don’t want to turn people into the objects of your curiosity.
One of the ways the invites that I have if you’re going to use this and you’re going to ask people questions right off the bat. Say, “I’m just curious.” But also recognize you know, “Would this person be relatively comfortable with me asking about it?” The way that I know that somebody would most likely be comfortable with me asking them a question about something is if it’s changeable. I might not say, “Hey, I’m just curious, how did your nose get so big?” Or so small? Or whatever… Not useful because that’s not change… Not easily changeable anyway. Asking saying, “I’m just curious, what’s the story behind your necklace? I’m just curious what’s the story behind your shirt?” Super comfortable because they chose to put on that shirt. They chose to show up and go out in public.
They’ve already shared something with you. You’re being curious about something that already existed in the conversation. I say conversation because there was no word said. But it is part of the conversation because it’s in this shared environment. And that’s true whether you’re online or off. These two phrases are lovely. If you like them and you want more ideas on how to start conversations with new people, you would love the book that my partner and I wrote. You know, I create these videos because I exist on the planet to gently eradicate small talk and create conversation that matter and make connection and engagement really easy.
I put all these videos and ideas for free. There’s tons of resources and free videos. If you’re somebody who likes to read and you want to go deep the book would be really nice. If you’re like me and use spark notes all throughout your educational career and rarely read a book, you would love this deck of cards. They’re called We! Connect Cards. They’ve got 60 really brilliant questions that are rooted in 3 years of research and testing to weed out cruddy questions and put only really great questions forward.