Sunday, September 5, 2010

Conversation Staters

Conversation starters from the pros

By Maggie Kim          Do you think some of these might work

                                     for us gays?  ;-)  

Conversation starters from the pros
Everyone knows by now that “Come here often?” doesn’t cut it when it comes to kick-starting a conversation. Never fear, tongue-tied singles: We’ve got a comedian, a former ambassador, a hairdresser, and others willing to spill their tips on chatting up (and dazzling) just about anyone.

Denise Fennell, stand-up comic and lead actress from the Off-Broadway hit, Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding
“The art of what I do, as far as improv, is about initiating conversation with strangers. I look at someone and try to find something on his or her body that I can connect with; I look at clothes — shoes, ties, whatever. I think guys find it endearing if you say something like, ‘I bought my dad the same shirt.’ It’s less of a come-on that way. I also think girls can get away with sillier things. I’ll stare at people until they notice me and say, ‘What are you looking at?’ and it totally works in terms of breaking the ice. You have to realize that the worst thing that can happen is he (or she) won’t respond and then you didn’t have a chance anyway — so you’ve got nothing to lose.”

Cristophe, celebrity hairdresser to Bill Clinton, Nicole Kidman, and Liv Tyler
“Don’t play it cool. Being intimidating and aloof is no way to start a dialogue, or a relationship. Being casual and friendly goes a long way towards establishing trust with someone. Also, use the fact that everyone has an image or fantasy of who they are inside. Tell the person he or she reminds you of a certain celebrity and maybe continue the conversation by asking, ‘If you could be any celebrity, who would it be?’ You’d be surprised by some of the answers you might get! It taps into who a person really feels he or she is, or aspires to be. It’s about finding out what someone’s dreams may be. Then you can start connecting.”

  Jill Kargman and Carrie Karasyov, socialites and coauthors of the book, Wolves in Chic Clothing
Jill: “Eavesdropping can be a clever entry point into a conversation. Let’s call it the ‘accidental eavesdrop’ because you don’t want to be rude. But especially somewhere like New York, where people are literally on top of each other, it’s easy to overhear something and join in with something fun and clever. It’s a good tactic.”
Carrie: “Do something crazy with your girlfriends. My friends and I used to play a game where one of us would go up to a guy the other thought was cute and say, ‘My friend over there is psychic and we can prove it.’ We had a whole system worked out, but the guys would go along because they’re always up for an outrageous story.”

Danny Millan, owner of Where Brooklyn At! clothing company and former NYC lounge owner
“Treat the person you want to talk to as a human being — as opposed to someone you’re trying to pick up. You can just say, ‘I’m not trying to hit on you, but you’ve got a beautiful smile.’ And if that’s the end of the conversation, let it be the end of the conversation. Be respectful and don’t force it. Everyone appreciates being told something nice, no strings attached. Be earnest, give a real compliment, and maintain eye contact when you’re talking. Women are very quick to pick up on these nuances.”

Donald P. Gregg, former ambassador to South Korea
“I think showing you have a sense of humor is a real door-opener. A willingness to be self-deprecating is often helpful. And remember that sometimes it’s a question of not saying too much — not falling all over yourself. Being low-key is good. And remember: staring over your shoulder or looking beyond the person you’re talking to as if to see who else is there — that’s a killer.”

Dr. Joy Browne, clinical psychologist, syndicated national radio show host and author of Dating for Dummies
“Pick something in the environment around you that you can comment on; for example, say, ‘Isn’t that the ugliest painting you ever saw?’ It’s something another person can focus on, comment on, and it’s also non-threatening. Or just be bold! Once I was invited to a party. I walked in and there were about 50 women — attractive, smart, well-dressed — but virtually no men. I walked up to the little cluster of men and said, ‘My friends and I are over there in the back, and they triple-dog-dared me to invite you guys over.’ The worst that someone can say is no, but so what?”

Paula Froelich, columnist for the New York Post and author of It!: Nine Secrets of the Rich and Famous That’ll Take You To the Top
“Start with a compliment; there just aren’t enough compliments going around. A guy once looked at me and said, ‘I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just want to tell you I think you are really beautiful.’ It was short, simple and sweet and I was so flattered I was speechless, which rarely happens. But make sure it’s sincere and honest. Having a good conversation is about finding common ground, and that requires listening. You may only be interested in his or her body, but you won’t get any closer to the body if you don’t work the brain.”

Maggie Kim is a musician and writer in New York City. She lives at In answer to the question, “Come here often?” she replies yes.


Gary Kelly said...

I was about 10 or something when I met a kid in the local hood and took a liking to him right away. So I said, "You wanna be best friends?" And he said, "Yeah."

Hehe. Kids are cool.

But when I was older, about 30, I took a liking to a bloke your age who was a regular at a club I went to. He scared me to death and I didn't have the nerve to approach him. So I wrote little poems and asked his friends to give them to him, pleading with them not to tell him they were from me. Yeah, right.

One night he approached me and said, "Are you the guy who's been writing the little poems?" So I blushed and smiled and we became best friends.

There ya go.

I used to be nice once.

jimm said...

Conversations are most difficult for me (and i've only written 2 poems in my life, so...)

So i try to listen and hope i can keep up. Eventually i jus fall too far behind, then lose interest. ppl think im bored when actually im not.

Recently, in a bar, i spontaneously commented on someones kool tatoo, but failed to hear the response. Not a terrific way to make a good first impression. Should work for other ppl, though.

Gary Kelly said...

Ya gotta think positive, Jimm. I stayed in a backpacker hostel one time and befriended 2 young Japanese guys who were in Oz on a surfing holiday. We could hear each other, no problem, but we couldn't understand each other. So we quickly devised ways of communicating that turned out to be a lotta fun. By the end of the week, we were all best mates.

One of them told me he worked in a "booton" factory. He kept saying "booton" and made all kinds of gestures to explain what he meant. Took me ages to realize he meant "button". Hehe.

If a person can't understand you for whatever reason, I think the onus is on both parties to make an extra effort to bridge the gap.

I don't think you should feel embarrassed about being hard of hearing, Jimm. It's not your fault. Let others know. Make them aware. Never apologize for being you.

Coop said...

And the moment happens when you're not totally ready.
Hair looking good? Nope. Nice clothes? Nope. And you're not feeling perky until you lay eyes on him.

Coop said...

As far as being friends... making friends goes... I don't think I've ever made the first move.

Some of my closest friends have muscled their way into my life. And, through them, I've met many more people.