Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How to Start a Conversation

One thing I love about the Savior is that he reaches out people individually. Throughout His ministry, we find countless examples of Him asking questions, listening, and taking genuine interest in people's lives.

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He took the time to speak to the woman at the well, even though she was a social outcast in her village.

He wept with Mary and Martha when he learned that Lazarus had passed away.

To Mary Magdalene on that first Easter Morn, he tenderly asked, "why weepest thou?"

And the list could go on and on for ages.

Even though I'm obviously not as good at serving those around me as Christ was, I know there are some simple ways that I too can make a difference in the lives of others around me. One of the service opportunities that I think we miss the most is giving the gift of conversation. Throughout school, church, socials, and frankly most of life in general, opportunities to reach out and talk to people abound. However, starting conversations can be quite the adventure.

For example, take a regular day in the life of Sarah:

Random Person: Hey!

Sarah: <voice cracks> hey-llo [What kind of word is this? That's what I get for trying to say hey and hello at the same time.]

<awkward silence>

Sarah: So, I heard you like pineapple on your pizza? I too enjoy fruit on my savory slice of pure heaven.

Random Person: <Backs away slowly with confused expression on face.>

Know what I mean?

Fact is, talking to new people [or old friends] can be pretty nerve racking sometimes. With that in mind, here is my best attempt at giving helpful advice on the subject. [Take it at your own risk. ;)]

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1. ONE LINER

Try some trusty old humor. For example, this beautiful sentiment from conversationstarters.com might just win some points. [Yes, people. That website really does exist. It's pretty sweet.]
Question: Do you know much a polar bear weighs?
Answer: Just enough to break the ice.
 Hahahaha If someone said this to me, I'm pretty sure we would be friends forever. ;)

Or what about a knock knock joke? Going through the classic "orange you glad I didn't say banana" joke might get a giggle or two. [If not, at least you can stall for a while with the  repeating bananas until you think of something better to say.]

2. QUESTIONS

People love talking about themselves. It takes some courage, but being brave enough to ask a couple of simple questions can open doors to lots of new friendships.

Warning! Remember not to ask a lot of personal of questions right away. For example, asking people what their most traumatic childhood memory is might not be the best way to get a conversation going. However, taking time to think of questions beyond the usual "how are you" and "what's your favorite color" can really ease up the pressure of typical formality. Some of my favorites include:

- What color is your toothbrush? [ahh...a timeless stake dance classic]

- What's your favorite kind of ice cream?

- What are the top 3 things on your bucket list?

- Stripes or polka-dots?

- If you could choose between being a squirrel or a rabbit for a day, which would you choose?

- If you could be any Disney Princess, which one would you be?

- Do you prefer regular bacon or turkey bacon? [Who knew you could use bacon to create a riveting conversation?]

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See how fun it can be? Don't be afraid to reach beyond the normal monotany and create some of fun questions of your own. You might just be surprised at the interesting answers you receive.

3. LOOK AROUND

Use your surroundings. Talk about the math test next week. Ask about the weather. Discuss the flock of oddly aggressive ducks that has invaded the walking path. You get the idea.

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4. COMPLIMENT

Never underestimate the power of a sincere compliment. Not only can it brighten someone's day, but when it's specific and sincere it can really show you care. [Plus, you can work it into a conversation starter. Score!]

"I really like your hair! How did you get it to stay in that bun so nicely?"

"Wow, you are great at drawing! Where did you learn how?"

"That's a really nice book you've got there. Do you like to read?"

5. COURAGE, MY FRIEND

Don't be afriad. Most people won't eat you alive just because you try to talk to them, and if they do they are probably really struggling and scared themselves. I take comfort in these words from King Benjamin found in Mosiah 2:17:


Even if it's as small as starting a conversation with someone who is lonely or down, your efforts will make a difference. You are on the Lord's errand. He will help and guide you.

So get out there and start some conversations! You never know what awesome things might come to pass as a result.

Happy chatting!

Sarah

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