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10 Phrases To Effectively Start a Conversation, According to Psychologists

Hint: kicking it off with a compliment can go a long way.

There are lots of good reasons to start up a conversation with a perfect stranger. Whether you’re at a party, work function, or community event, you might find yourself standing around with several individuals you’ve never met before. You’d like to talk to someone, but like many of us, you’re just not sure where to start. Luckily, we’ve got all the details on how to start a conversation, according to psychologists.

“There are a variety of reasons why someone might want to strike up a conversation with a new person,” says licensed psychologist Dr. Lauren Kerwin. “The goal of any conversation can vary greatly depending on the individual’s personal or professional needs at the time.”

She lists several potential goals of a conversation, which can include:

  • To network or for professional reasons
  • To gather information or to learn something new
  • To build friendships/relationships
  • To improve your communication skills
  • To boost your self-confidence
  • To share interests with someone
  • To follow social norms and etiquette

Julia DiGangi, PhD, neuropsychologist and author of Energy Rising: The Neuroscience of Leading with Emotional Power (Harvard Business Review, September 2023), says that the goal of starting a conversation is to satisfy a basic neurologic need: connection.

“Because language is one of the most remarkable capabilities of humans, the way we talk to each other is one of the strongest drivers of connection, safety, curiosity and joy,” she explains.


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