Friday, June 16, 2023

How To Start (And Have) A Conversation

Editor's Note: Retreat is right around the corner. We are all going to be among friends, new and old. I collected some advice at the request of one our long time Alums, around conversation starters. This blog post shares how to show up for a conversation and what before and during your chat. The two resources I used for this blog post are adapted from works by the inimitable Dr. Marsha Linehan, the godmother of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Today Show online contributor, Sarah Fielding. Enjoy and happy reading. -Kara


GIVE Skills (adapted from Dr. Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills)  

G - Be (Gentle) - be kind, considerate, 

I - Interested - Make good eye contact, Focus on Staying in the moment, listening

V- Validate - Validating someone else’s story, experience, or emotions is powerful in creating and deepening connection between people

E - Easy Manner - Smile, be calm, light hearted, A light-hearted attitude can help to ease along a conversation. Try including a sincere compliment or giving a little special attention to the person.


What does starting a conversation look like (adapted from Sarah Fielding’s article on the Today show website)

Picture the conversation going positively or imagining you’re speaking to a trusted friend.

  • Tell yourself positive affirmations such as “I am enough” and “I am great” Do this in the morning before you head down to breakfast or before the next activity

  • Find common ground, our common ground: (why are you at retreat? Have you anything fun planned to see while we are in Minneapolis?) 

  • Just say it: “I was looking around the room for someone new to talk to and I got the vibe you might be a friendly person to chat with. I’m _____, nice to meet you.”

  • Consider: What is your intention in speaking to this person? Do you want to greet them, become friendly and create a lasting connection?

  • Once you have greeted the person, asked a couple of the above questions,  scan through this list, take a deep breath and go for more…

  • What did you think of X symposium session/panel/Retreat event earlier? 

  • How are you doing today?

  • What brings you to retreat? 

  • Who do you know here?

  • That’s a nice X you’re wearing.

  • I love your sense of style. Have you always been someone savvy with fashion or did you develop your style over time?

  • Your tattoo/jewelry caught my attention. Is there a story behind it?

  • What’s your most treasured item?\

  • Have you been to Minneapolis before? 

  • How do you spend your days? 

  • Where did you last travel to?

  • Where’s next on your list to visit? 

  • Have you read any good books lately?

  • Have you watched any good shows recently? 

  • Have you listened to any good podcasts lately?

  • Who never fails to make you laugh?

  • What books/ movies/ TV shows do you recommend?

  • Have you ever read X? I’d happily swap with you. 

  • Where did you grow up?

  • Where would you like to visit?

  • What made you laugh this week?

  • If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you choose and why?

  • What’s something you’ve always been curious to learn more about? 

  • What’s your favorite fun fact?

  • How did you get into doing X hobby?

  • What are your goals this week?

  • Have you ever tried doing X activity? 

  • What’s your favorite thing about yourself? 

  • What’s something about you that surprises people?

  • Are you a dog or cat person?

  • Who is the most important person in your life right now?

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