Thomas should be the one writing this post–not me. I’m not particularly great with social interactions, which is strange because I’m the president of my student council and yada, yada, yada. I’m not the only one in the ninja gang that has this problem, either. I’m not going to name names, but there have been many a time the ninja gang has mused among themselves: “What do normal people talk about?” What do ordinary people talk about that doesn’t revolve around literature or a specific fandom?
I’ve found that it varies from person to person. For example, when my mother wants a conversation starter, she immediately talks about health issues–that is, all the things that are ailing everyone she knows. It seems to work rather well. Everyone she talks to about these health issues seems fascinated by broken bones, allergic reactions, surgeries, gluten intolerance, radiation treatment, and heart attacks. If you’re under the age of thirty-five, however, this tactic is likely not going to work for you. So lets move on to a few more realistic ways to start conversations.
1) “Did you do your homework?” and variations of such. This category covers anything school related, from “Isn’t that teacher a bore?” to “Gak! I can’t find Somalia on the map!” Of course, this will only work if the person you’re striking a conversation with goes to the same school you do. Thus, it is somewhat limited. I’d advise you to use it sparingly, because it can be a real downer and a bore, and it only goes so far, unless the assignment you’re talking about is really interesting. Cough.
2) An ordinary common interest. If you don’t know much about the person you’re talking to, you can start with something that a lot of people have in common. Like dogs. Who doesn’t love dogs? Ask if he/she has any pets. Or ask if they ski. Common sports can be a great topic of conversation. It’s easy to go off on tangents from these.
3) Childhood. Talk about things you did as a kid. If the person is your age, likelihood is they played similar games and did similar activities. Talk about how times have changed since then. This usually only works if you’ve already been talking for a while, though, because it’s an awkward conversation starter. It works better as something to keep the conversation going when it’s dying.
4) Jokes. Nothing breaks an awkward silence like laughter. Of course, if you tell the joke and nobody laughs, then things only get worse, so you have to be careful with this one. Don’t tell a lame joke. This is harder than it seems, because when you’re racking your brain for something to say, the first joke that pops into your head is often a lousy one. Also note that inside jokes don’t work here. If you have to explain too much to make your audience understand, then it usually falls flat. Go with things that most people would get. Blonde jokes are good. Other stereotype jokes are also good. Puns are usually bad. Knock-knock jokes are always awful. Never tell a kn0ck-knock joke as a conversation-starter.
5) Observe your surroundings. Is there something interesting to point out? “Ooh, look at that, um, bicycle over there! Doesn’t it have nice, um, tires?” If there is nothing interesting to comment on, move on to another tactic.
6) Observe your surroundings in a different way. Where are you? If you’re at a dance social, you could always ask something along the lines of, “So where did you learn to dance?” This can sound rude, however, so it’s better to word it like, “So have you ever been to one of these things before?” or “How long have you been dancing?” If you’re at a college visit or something of the sort, ask about other colleges the person is interested in, and other college-y stuff. If you’re at an airport, ask where the person is going, coming from, if they’re visiting family or on vacation. If you’re at a cosplay convention, you already know that the person you’re talking to has similar interests. Ask about their favorite anime, how long they’ve been cosplaying, what conventions they’ve been to, etc. But whatever you do, do not ask what their OTP is. Likelihood is that you will be stuck there for an hour listening to babble that you never wanted to hear. You may be scarred for life.
And those are Raven’s thoughts on conversation starters. I use these techniques all the time. By the way, I take no liability for anything that goes wrong following these steps. If you mess it up, it’s your own darn fault.