I’ll keep your secret if you keep mine.
You’re here because you’re shy around new people, and guess what? So am I.
Or at least, I used to be.
I still feel a bit guarded when I meet new people, but after years of forcing myself to get out there and feel the fear but do it anyway, I’m getting better at it.
And a big part of that is knowing what topics are easy to get into and which ones to avoid unless you want to run into total awkwardness.
So, I’ve put together a list of 12 easy things to talk about when you feel shy around new people that I hope will help you as much as it has helped me.
1) The weather
Hey, I know it’s a terrible cliché, and it won’t win you any prizes for conversationalist of the year.
But if you need to break the ice on a freezing winter day or get someone to warm up to you on a hot summer night, a comment on the weather can at least get you started.
Just know when to end it.
Most people will sense this as an opener and will respond with something light and even humorous.
After that, don’t go on about how the weather today compares to the stats from the past 20 years. And you might want to avoid connections to climate change as this topic is still amazingly controversial to many people.
“Hey, do you have any pets?” might be a strange opener.
However, you might spy a cute dog pic on the person’s phone or cat hair on their pant leg.
Go on and ask about it.
People who seem fierce and intimidating will very often break down into little softies when you get them talking about their beloved pot-bellied pig or showing you pics of their cute little puppy.
If you have a pet, tell an anecdote or two. If you don’t, ask questions and maybe let them know you’re thinking of adopting.
The way to a pet owner’s heart is through their little bundle of fluff!
For many shy people, sports is a highly intimidating subject of conversation.
People often have an intense passion for certain sports or teams, and it makes you feel like you have to have a lot of know-how to join the conversation.
If you do, great!
But if not, letting a person know you’re interested in learning about it is a great way to get someone talking.
So don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you see on TV or what you’ve heard in the sports news.
Sporty people love to share their sporting knowledge!
Unless you’re meeting naturalists on the beach, chances are you’re both going to be robed when you encounter a new person.
If you like what they’re wearing, hand them a compliment for an easy way to start a conversation.
If they’re wearing something unique, you can ask about the garment, where they got it, and perhaps even its origins.
You can even make a comment on what you’re wearing – maybe you feel over- or under-dressed, or perhaps you’ve tried something new.
Just don’t be too self-critical. You can make a little joke about what you’re wearing, but avoid “I look terrible in this!” as a conversation starter.
In the days before on-demand TV, you could strike up a conversation about a hit show and have an excellent chance the other person had heard of it or watched it.
These days, with Netflix, Prime, HBO, Hulu, and more, it’s pretty rare to meet someone who watches the same shows as you.
But that means this is an opportunity.
Ask a new person, “What do you watch?” or “Can you recommend something I can really get into?” and they’ll usually be more than happy to talk about what they like.
What if they tell you they don’t watch TV? Great – this lets you know they’re a very active person, and you can ask about their hobbies and interests!
Movies are a little easier, thanks to a smaller number of them coming out and bigger advertising budgets than for TV shows. Usually!
A lot of us shy people like movies because they allow us to follow stories and observe social interactions from the safety of our sofas.
So, if you’re a movie buff, go ahead and invite people to talk about one of the latest flicks you’ve seen.
If there’s a movie making a big splash at the present time, then you can ask if the person has seen it or plans to, and hopefully, the conversation will travel on from there.
7) Food and drink
If you’re at a party or some sort of catered event, and definitely at a bar, club, or restaurant, there’s bound to be food and drink around.
Unless the food is positively atrocious, complaining about it will probably make you look like a snob.
Instead, try to find something positive to say or at least ask the other person’s opinion.
That can lead to talk about food in general, which may also follow onto culture or family things that can be really interesting.
After all, everybody has to eat and drink, right?
The obvious question is, “What do you do for fun?”
And the answers are often really surprising.
That big brute takes jazz dance classes in the evenings.
The diminutive woman over there is into medieval sword fighting.
And talk about your hobbies as well. You might feel like building Star Trek ships is nerdy, but you can re-frame it as retro.
People these days are a lot more open-minded about unusual hobbies than in the past. As long as you’re positive about your passion, most people will probably be interested in what you have to say about it.
9) The place you’re at
When you’re meeting new people, you’re going to be at some location, so why not talk about it?
If you’re in a park for a BBQ, you can talk about how nice it is or even talk about the last time you were there.
Maybe you’re in a building that’s got an interesting design or great architecture. If either of those things interests you, they can be platforms for conversation.
Most people are happy to talk about their work.
This is especially true because few people ever ask, in spite of this being something they spend about half of their waking hours doing.
Normally, light conversation at work stops at “What do you do?” but if you express real interest in a person’s actual role and daily tasks, they’ll be happy to tell you.
Get ready to do a lot of listening! But at least you can see this as an opportunity to learn new things about the wide world of work.
11) Geography / Where you’re from
“Do you know the deepest lake in the world?” is an odd way to start up a conversation. It’s Lake Baikal in Siberia, but this isn’t a school quiz.
Instead, why not ask a person where they’re from? If they’re local, you can talk about the places you each like to visit in the city.
If they’re from somewhere you’ve been, you have something you can relate to. Or if you haven’t, asking them about their home can really get them talking.
Of course, you can talk about where you come from, especially if it’s different from them. Compare and contrast; just don’t make it into a competition, and you’ll probably end up having a really good conversation.
12) Who you know
If you’re shy, people might not exactly be your thing.
But why not use conversations with new people as an opportunity to learn more?
You can ask them, “Who do you work with?” at an office function or, “How do you know the host?” at a party.
You might find that you know people in common, and that should help make the person more relatable and reduce your shyness.
Talking tips for shy people
You’ve got some ideas of easy things to talk about with new people.
Now it’s time for some tips on how to talk to improve your chances of having a great conversation:
*Make an effort to keep eye contact a little longer than you normally would. This helps you appear genuine and interested.
*Speak a little louder than you normally would so you don’t have to repeat yourself.
*Relax. Even try some deep-breathing exercises beforehand or a glass of liquid courage.
*Be positive. Negativity is pretty off-putting for strangers.
*When in doubt, listen. Let the other person the talking, and they’ll probably really enjoy the conversation!
When you’re shy, meeting new people is intimidating. But with some practice and armed with some conversation starters, I hope you’ll find it’s not as hard as it looks.