How to Start a Conversation: Tips and Examples

  • It’s common to feel awkward or uncertain when first talking to someone you find attractive.
  • Pay attention to their body language and try opening with a question or sincere compliment.
  • If they don’t seem interested in chatting, don’t force it — and remember, it’s likely not personal.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

It can be difficult to start a conversation with someone you just met and find attractive — especially if you’re unsure the interest is mutual.

“Many people fear rejection,” says Lisa Concepcion, a certified life coach and dating expert. “They want the security of knowing their feelings are shared before putting themselves out there.”

Signs someone may want to chat

If the person doesn’t immediately strike up a conversation with you, that’s alright — they could just be shy. Here are some nonverbal cues that might suggest they still want to chat:

  • If the other person turns their entire torso toward you while talking, or even angles their feet toward you, that’s a potential sign they’re interested in you, according to Karen Donaldson, a certified confidence coach and body language expert.
  • People also tend to subconsciously mirror your gestures when they’re feeling connected to you, says Callisto Adams, a dating and relationship coach. For example, if you smile and they smile back.
  • If you start talking, they might engage by asking you questions in return or elaborating on their answers.

On the other hand, a person who gives one- or two-word responses or physically turns away from you might be signaling they’re not interested in taking the conversation any further.

Next time you’re eager to strike up a conversation with someone you’re into, experts advise trying the following strategies for success.

1. Be confident

Confidence is key to making a good impression — so if you’re struggling with overwhelming nervousness, dating coach and matchmaker Emyli Lovz recommends changing your mindset.

“Go in with the mentality of simply having a platonic conversation with zero expectations,” she says. “Then you can consider it a success even just by opening your mouth and saying something.”

Not only might adjusting your expectations and lowering the stakes help you feel less anxious about approaching them, but it might also allow you to walk away with a positive attitude, even if the conversation doesn’t lead to a date.

2. Compliment them (sincerely)

Don’t underestimate the power of a compliment: A small 2008 study found the brain equates a compliment to be just about as satisfying as a money reward.

Know, too, that a small 2013 study found compliments are far more effective when they’re sincere.

That may help explain why another 2018 study found the majority of participants said compliments having to do with their character or personality felt the most meaningful compared to compliments about their appearance, possessions, or skills.

“Making someone feel good is a great way to start a conversation,” says Donaldson.

3. Ask a question

Asking a question is a great way to approach someone, says Lovz, because it invites the other person to share information you can then use to keep the conversation going.

Since yes-or-no questions — such as “Do you like this class?” don’t really allow for any momentum, Lovz recommends sticking with open-ended questions — like “What do you think of this class so far?” — which elicits more of a detailed response.

You can also try asking for their opinion on something, like some paint swatches, cologne or fragrance samples, or what to order on the menu.

“Everyone wants to be valued,” says Lovz. “Asking for their opinion shows you care about what they have to say. It can be as simple as, ‘Do you like that drink? Do you think I should get one?'”

4. Find common ground

Researchers have found that sharing similar tastes, like music, religious beliefs, and ethical views, can make people more attracted to one another.

So, try to find something you have in common with the person you’re interested in, says Lovz. Like the fact that you ordered the same smoothie, you’re wearing swag from the same college or university, or you’re looking at the same book in the store.

Another example could be if you spot a keychain with a photo of their dog and you’re a dog owner or lover, that provides the perfect material for a conversation opener.

If you’re having trouble finding common ground with a stranger, Lovz suggests commenting on a shared experience — like the cold weather you’re experiencing at the bus stop, the movie you both just sat through, or the long line you’re both waiting in at the coffee shop.

5. Ask for help

Giving and being kind to others can trigger the release of feel-good endorphins and other pleasure-promoting brain chemicals.

Researchers often refer to this phenomenon as the “helper’s high.” That’s why Concepcion advises asking your crush to help you with something, whether it’s picking out a cologne or finishing a crossword puzzle.

“You’re making them feel important,” says Adams.

When their good deed triggers positive feelings, they just may start to associate those feelings with you.

6. Keep it simple and introduce yourself

While walking over to someone and saying, “Hi, my name is [XYZ], what’s yours?” may not seem like the most unique or interesting opener, Concepcion says this simple approach can still be highly effective.

“People like to say their own name and hear their own name said back to them,” she says. “It validates them by making them feel seen and special.”

7. Recognize — and respect — a lack of interest 

Not everyone you’re attracted to will be interested in you, and that’s OK. When you get the feeling someone isn’t vibing with you, experts advise trying to excuse yourself with your head held high knowing that at least you tried to make a connection.

“The right person for you will recognize what an amazing person you are,” says Donaldson.

Let’s say you notice the person you’re talking to is:

  • Distracted by their phone or has their head buried in a book
  • Doesn’t make eye contact
  • Keeps some physical distance or separation from you
  • Isn’t keeping the conversation flowing by asking you any questions in return

Lovz and Adams say these are all signs you might want to cut your losses and walk away.

There’s no need to be angry at the person for not showing interest, says Concepcion, because you don’t know their situation. For example, they could still be mourning a relationship that just ended and simply don’t feel ready to meet someone new.

“Just wish them a nice day and keep it moving,” says Concepcion.

Insider’s takeaway

While striking up a conversation with a crush may feel nerve-wracking, you can use a variety of tactics to put the other person and yourself at ease, start forming a connection, and reveal commonalities that suggest compatibility.

Asking open-ended questions, offering a genuine compliment, or commenting on something you’re experiencing together can all make great ways to break the ice.

No matter how you decide to approach the person, Lovz says not to put too much pressure on yourself to have a “perfect” interaction — because making an effort to get to know someone new is an admirable feat in itself.

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