I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and I’m here to talk about conversations starters. Who hasn’t felt nervous when meeting new people? Which one of us hasn’t put our proverbial foot in our mouth and has fallen flat on our face when we tried to talk to somebody new?

My suggestion is to always be yourself and be genuine. Anytime we try to start a conversation with something we don’t care about or make some statement that has nothing to do with who we really are, people can tell. People are intuitive. We know when someone is using small talk or they really don’t care about what they’re saying. Why should you care? No wonder it feels awkward. It doesn’t work.

So what really is the best way to do it I think is to ask a question of somebody, but before you do so, give them something of yourself.

Here’s an example: You’re at a dinner party you turn to someone next to you and say, “Hey I’ve taking some cooking classes. What I’ve learned from these cooking classes is that I can take risks in cooking. Lately, I’ve been putting spices in that I’ve never used before, and it actually has turned out not so well sometimes, but a couple of times it’s been pretty good. Have you ever tried that before?”

What you’ve done is you offered something of yourself that you care about. You’ve even given somebody the fact it didn’t work out so well – which people love. They love that you’re a human being just like them. You’ve also asked them a question about something that actually matters to you, and they can tell. All of that will lead to more comfortable conversation. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Thanks.

By Sevin Philips, MFT