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After the summer holidays, I'll be a senior in high school. My year consists of about 100 people, and I approximate that I've never had a word with 30-50 of them. It's not that there were no occasions - while I generally don't share classes with these people, I have happened to sit next to them on the bus on a school trip or similar situations. It feels like a missed opportunity to meet someone new or make a new friend, but I just have no idea how to start a conversation - and how to keep it going once it started.

I've had a few ideas, but I don't think they would work out:

  • Talk about the holidays. This is only applicable shortly after holidays (and we don't usually have trips at those moments) but then again I don't think a 'stranger' would openly talk to me about how they spent their holidays. (I don't think I would do this anyway.)
  • Something school-related. But that's rather boring, right? Especially if we don't share classes, what could we say?
  • Interests. But I don't think I could hold a semi-long conversation with someone about my passion for computer programming if they don't do coding themselves.

So does someone have suggestions for "small talk" to have a conversation with someone at school you've never talked to before?

  • Welcome to IP.SE :) Can you please clarify : 1. you're not afraid of talking to them 2. you can manage to start talking to them 3. but you just don't know what to talk about or, once you started, how to have them interested in the subject ? – OldPadawan Aug 2 '17 at 12:55
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    @OldPadawan Afraid, nah. I could manage to start talking - I just haven't done it before, because if I don't know what to talk about, it would go like "Hi." "Hey." (maybe a few more lines) but then it dies in an awkward silence without we really had a conversation. Especially if I initiate the conversation, I assume I'm expected to have something ready to talk about. – Titanium Aug 2 '17 at 13:04
  • @OldPadawan <comments removed> If you have an answer, please post it below. These on-going discussions in comments is not how this site is supposed to operate. Thanks. – Robert Cartaino Aug 2 '17 at 14:36
  • Could you add a country tag to this question, and edit this question and add some information about the cultural context? The answer to this question will depend on your cultural context. – user288 Aug 4 '17 at 3:50
9

What I usually do, instead of talk, is listen.

To trigger this even the briefest of questions should serve.

Downside is that the conversation is really short if the other person doesn't jump into the conversation. But nothing is lost, yes? You opened the door, you cannot force a person to come through.

Upside is that anyone eager to talk will carry the conversation effortlessly. The initial question can be something trite from the here and now. About the situation, the looks/wardrobe choices of the potential conversationalist, anything really. (Compliments are best, though.)

The real question is, do you want to talk?

Any follow-up questions will present themselves from what is being said, continuing the flow.

I started a friendship continuing to this day with this technique. We did one time arrange to go hiking - not a great success for me as I fell over my feet in the forest. But it gained me a great friend that was shy to start a conversation but as a human being had plenty to say.

5

The easiest way to invite someone into a conversation is to identify the most obvious thing that you are both aware of, and comment on it.

In this situation you've both seen each other before but you don't know each other. Unless aliens are landing, that's easily the most obvious thing, for both of you.

Hey I've seen you before, but I don't think we've met. My name is XXX. ( Extend your hand and smile warmly )

Never avoid the "elephant in the room." It's usually the most meaningful topic.

Tips...

Try not to plan the conversation. It's impossible to predict what will happen, and it's unhelpful to limit your options on where the conversation will go.

It also puts you in a mental frame where you are trying to create a result, like get this girl's snapchat, or make friends with that guy. You can't control that, so don't invest so much mental effort trying to plan the conversion. These things will happen naturally if the connection develops that way.

It's common to think that you need a reason to say hello, and a list of topics prepared to feed the conversation. In practice, those things get in the way. Try saying hello without any plan, you'll be surprised how quickly the conversion takes a life of its own.

I regularly do this on the bus, just for kicks. It's turned into friendships, dates, 4 hour chats over coffee. Even day trips on the ferry to tour my city. Adventure is good.

2

If you don't mind being a little awkward, just be honest and say something along the lines of:

"I've seen you in ____ class and I'm trying to get to know my other classmates better. Hi, I'm _____ and I'm interested in/one of my hobbies is ____. How about you?"

They will likely reply in kind unless they feel awkward or are in a hurry and maybe you guys can chat about hobbies/interests for a while.

Alternatively, I often will make small-talk with someone for a while such as: "what did you think of ___ assignment/test.", "Did you hear about __ announcement", etc. If that starts to die down, I often blurt out: "what are you into?/What are your hobbies?"

TL;DR: ask what their hobbies are. That give you an easy topic of conversation. Maybe it is a mutual hobby and you guys can connect over it, maybe its not mutual. Regardless it will provide a handy topic of conversation, and you can follow up later: "Hey did you end up going/doing __ last weekend? How'd it go?"

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