In basketball, the tip off sets the scene for where the ball is going. The game can go anywhere from there, but that initial toss by the referee is the spark that lights the fire in the players’ adrenaline storage and prompts them to action. From that point, they can implement well-practiced game plans and move seamlessly with the flow of each other’s movements. In the same fashion, conversations need a beginning. So how do you get the ball rolling?
Start with curiosity
Starting is half the work. That’s what makes it so intimidating. When faced with a blank page, it’s hard to even know what color to start painting with or what medium with which you will be working. If you’re not the Bob Ross of dialogue and you get nervous around new people, it can be quite daunting to approach that pretty stranger or spark conversation with a new potential friend.
But luckily, in any situation you aren’t working with a blank slate. The person in front of you is setting you up with a slew of clues and it’s your job to Sherlock Holmes them. Never forget to be curious. If you care enough to start the conversation, that means you’re curious about the person you’re meeting. Take clues from their clothing, their body language, the situation in which the two of you find yourselves, or their relationship to the others in the room. Picture the kind of day the person might be having or try to paint a picture of how you perceive their life for the moment. You can use little clues of the tiny bit you know about them and then find a curious point where you are having trouble picturing. Especially if you’re not the most talkative person in the world and often find yourself in awkward silence, questions can be your saving grace. People love talking about themselves and there’s nothing sweeter than seeing them light up when you’re lucky enough to pick up on something they really care about.
Use your surroundings for inspiration
You've got it started now, but how do you keep passing the ball when you are cornered at the sidelines? What if you drop the ball and it bounces out of bounds and deflates into a sad orange blob? When the conversation you started threatens to die out and the other person leaves you hanging, you may look to the heavens for a saving grace, but again, it might be right there in front of you.
Put yourself in the shoes of an artist for a second and realize that inspiration comes from the ordinary. If the idea of dragons came from lizards and unicorns from horses, then your ability to pick up where the conversation left off can be similarly creative. Great concepts don’t just fall in your lap. They’re built upon something ordinary that then turns fantastical through creativity. Whatever they were just saying is a path that leads somewhere else and if you keep walking, a story unfolds, the story of your connection with the new person. Find something that you can link to another part of that person’s story or your own story and see yourself gaining their curiosity in return.
Every person is full of curiosity, a lover of entertainment. You may be under the impression that your own details, own story, is boring to others, but in fact anyone’s details can be exciting if told in a brilliant way. The best kind of humor and charisma comes from clever wording and bold ****divulgence of something subsurface.
Moreover, if you want to get closer to someone, it’s absolutely necessary to be vulnerable. We’re not talking about tmi’s, but something that you personally care deeply about or know a lot about, be it your hobby or the dilemma that has been plaguing your personal life lately. You run the risk of the person thinking you’re an oddball, but at the end of the day they’ll remember you if you say something daring and that can never hurt. If they truly dislike you, it’s not worth wasting your time on someone that doesn’t share your sentiments.
With an artful combination of your own curiosity and indulging theirs, you’ll find yourself so deep in conversation that you forget your nerves and lose track of time. The ball will keep itself bouncing with momentum and the game is won. People are complex beings, so when meeting them, it’s your job to unlock the vaults of their personality and find the gold inside.