What’s your favorite way to start a conversation?

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In my booklet, Hmmm . . . Little Ideas With BIG Results, I write “people are your greatest resource.” Everyone seems to believe this, but most people aren’t very graceful at starting conversations so they can get closer to their greatest resource. Basketball coach Phil Jackson writes that the champion Los Angeles Lakers were great trash talkers during games, but withdrawn and quiet during important meetings. Here are 5 Cool Ideas on how to start a conversation.

1. Work with a conversation-starting quota.

The next time you go out to lunch, pledge to yourself that you will start at least four conversations. You might speak to someone on the elevator, on the way to your car, while waiting to be seated at the restaurant, and maybe in the lobby of your building upon your return.

2. The person who reaches out has the power. 

In her book, How to Create Your Own Luck: The ‘You Never Know’ Approach to Networking, Taking Chances, and Opening Yourself to Opportunity, author Susan RoAne reminds us that luck is a “make-it-happen” communication process. I’ve learned that the person who initiates the conversation usually has influence and power over the conversation.

3. Open with small talk, but not too small.  

If you initiate a conversation about sports and the weather, most of your conversations will be about sports and the weather. On the other hand, if you open with fast-lane topics like politics or sex, you may be moving too quickly for the other person.

4. Treat the other person like a celebrity.  

Ironically, the best technique for starting a conversation is asking a question and then listening to the answer as if the other person is the ultimate authority on the subject. Ask people their opinions and then hang on every word. Smile and nod your head frequently. Soliciting an opinion is kind of like asking for help. People love to help. People also love to be helped. Most people won’t ask your opinion because they haven’t read this book.

5. Give people what they want, unless what they want is negativity.

Conversation isn’t always about what you want. Shared dialogue is primarily about what the other person wants. Go with the flow if the dialogue is fun and good-natured. Nurture conversations that are positive and up beat in tone. Excuse yourself from gripers and complainers. There are over 300 million people in the United States. Let’s start talking.

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