Starting the first conversation...What do you do?

Let's face it: if you want to move forward in this world with a bit of fun, you'll need to have a set of good social skills. Yes, you need to be able to converse effortlessly with those you encounter in both your private life and business life. If you want to ooze confidence and intelligence and therefore be an appealing persona in both work and social life- you'll need to know how to strike up a conversation.

Don't panic if this sounds nothing like you at all. You simply need to tune the appropriate skills and I'll give you a couple of tips here how to get started.

Ok, here are the tricks of the trade:

Number one. If you don't know the person at all you're about to talk to, introduce yourself, look the other in the eye and shake hands. If you do know the other, skip the handshaking and introduction because you'd look a bit silly.

Number two. You need to be a very interesting person to others. This means that you'll have to keep yourself informed on what's happening out there in the big wide world. So, watch some TV, listen to radio shows and read newspapers, magazines, and books. Build your own little library of topics in your head of which you think are intriguing, funny or interesting. Memorise them carefully and you can dish them out during the conversation. A great subject that a lot of people can relate to these days is healthy living, healthy eating and taking care of yourself.

Number three. Offer a sincere compliment. Don't lie and say you love someone's hair when you think it's revolting, but if you like his or her shoes, or a handbag, say so. There is nothing like a sincere compliment- it will make the other warm up to you instantly. There is however a fine line between a sincere compliment and being a bit creepy. Being creepy means that you're too personal which will make the other feel uncomfortable- and probably run for the hills.

Number four. Us people love to talk about ourselves. Therefore never underestimate the power of questions. A simple, friendly question can go a long way. Don't ask the 'no' 'yes' questions but ask open ended questions that will get them talking. Again, keep the questions light and not invasive (as in don't be creepy). Do not ask too many questions if he or she is not responsive to them. Some people just need to learn how to fine tune their social skills.

Number five. Once you've got people talking about themselves, make an effort to be a good listener even if the topic is painfully boring. If you listen carefully you'll often find an invitation to continue the conversation. The trick here is to alternate and find the balance between talking and listening.

Number six. This can be a bit scary at first, but casually try to look the other in the eye during the conversation. Don't stare, but just make eye contact. This is the sign of self confidence which really boils down to a learned skill. You'll find that by acting confidently you'll gain new self confidence which will make it easier to start conversations with others.

Number seven. A great way to impress others is to remember small details about them. Asking about a holiday, relative, pet or whatever else not to personal is a great way to start a conversation. It shows your genuinely interested in others and they will think of you as attentive and interesting.

So by practising these skills over and over again they will become second nature. You'll develop a self confidence and it will become increasingly easy to start a conversation with others- even if you don't really have anything to say!

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