conversation starters: reduce the awkwardness

Conversation Starters. Let There Never Again Be An Awkward Moment

Being on our phones and online all the time, and not communicating face to face have made us emotionless, less empathetic, and has killed the art of conversation. Communication is key to all relationships (professional and personal). Depending on your profession, you may need to gain the trust of people quickly. Having conversation starters that you are comfortable using can greatly help you connect with others.

A Comment On Anesthesiology

As an anesthesiologist, one must gain the trust of patients within minutes of meeting them, or minutes before whisking the patient back to surgery. This is in addition to gathering essential information about their medical history and answering all of their questions.

Since this is the part of the case that patients become the most anxious about, it’s important to have an approach to conversing that puts them at ease.

Some Go-To Conversation Starters

The first way to connect with someone and gain their trust is to make a great first impression. As a physician, that means being professional and confident. Beyond the anesthesia conversation, it’s crucial to come across as sincere. The second anyone thinks that you’re playing them, they will lose all faith and you’ll lose all credibility.


So, what are some go-to conversation starters that work? Stick with what you know.

Specifically for anesthesiologists:

1. When people question your ability or get nervous about the medications they’ll get and their effects, reassure them that anesthesia is pretty safe (truth) and that you’re with them the whole time (truth), and then:

think of me as your very expensive drug dealer.

Dr. Vig

They laugh.

Every. Single. Time.

2. Most patients receive some sedative medication before heading back to the operating room. Considering distracting them with a question:

What’s your drink of choice?

Let them know that the sedative they’ve just received is the equivalent of having their favorite drink! It’s a great segway into talking about favorite cocktails or wine, preferred restaurants, or even personal stories related to the topic.

3. As patients are going to sleep, tell them that they’re on the beach with that drink in hand and bid them sweet dreams.

Employing these conversation starters and getting to know your patients on a bit of a personal level can make all the difference in their experience.

How To Choose Conversation Starters

It doesn’t really matter what you talk about when attempting to start a conversation. However, there are some general rules of thumb to consider, and this can vary depending on who you’re trying to talk to and the situation you’re in.

Always Stay True To What You Know

Don’t make things up. Whether you’re networking or on a date trying to make small talk and really want to come across strong, don’t say something just because you think it’ll impress someone. It’s the worst way to start a conversation and often will end badly.

Talk about what you know, what you’re comfortable with. On the same note, admit when you don’t know something about a topic.

Always Tell The Truth & Maintain Your Sincerity

This should be obvious, no matter what the situation. People have a remarkable way of figuring out if you’re lying. There are tells (everyone has them), and for yourself, trust your instincts about others!

Be Courteous

For every bit of information you offer up about yourself, ask two questions. Conversation starters help get the flow going, but it’s not just about you (or them).

Don’t Force It

You may be the suavest conversationalist out there, but if someone doesn’t want to talk to you, then take it in stride. Reading those signals and following them is also a sign of respect and will just contribute to the good impression you’re making.

Choose Open-Ended Questions

Don’t be super specific in your conversation questions. A great way to get people talking is to let them talk without restriction. Open-ended questions allow them to interpret your question and fill in the blanks as they see fit.

Just make sure you listen so that you can continue the conversation from there ­čÖé

What Are Some Good Conversation Starters To Use?

Actual topics will depend on you, what you know, what you want to ask someone, and how you feel most comfortable connecting with someone.

The “what’s your drink of choice” question works because the vast majority of patients have either had a drink at least once in their lives or do drink regularly. However, if the conversation is naturally flowing on some other topic, then go with it.

What you choose to use to strike up a conversation will depend on the situation you’re in.

An Introduction

Introduce yourself. Sounds obvious, but often all you have to do is make the first effort and the person you’re talking to will take it up from there.

Travel Related Conversation

Travel stories, talking about recent trips, or commenting on popular destinations is one way to get started.

Funny Conversation Starters

If you’re good at jokes or making something funny, then use this as your go-to. Making people smile or laugh is a great way to put them at ease and engage them further.

Ask Questions

Ask about hobbies, or talk about them e.g. cooking, movies, music, reading. Make these questions open-ended and broad so that you can get a sense of what their interests are. Once you know, you can make questions more specific, or offer up things you like.

Depending on the time of year, ask questions about how holidays are spent, vacation plans, weekend getaways. On the same note, ask about someone’s new year’s resolutions, for instance, and if they ever really kept their new year’s resolutions and followed through with them.

Depending on your audience and how the conversation flows, talking about trying new things or asking if they’ve done “anything exciting lately” is one way to break the ice and get to know someone.

Conversation Starters When Networking

If you’re at a networking event and meeting mutual contacts, a great way to get started is by asking/talking about how you each know your mutual friends. Follow-up questions may be where someone is from, how they came to be at their current jobs, etc.

Sports Conversation Starters

If it comes up, talking about your favorite sports team is another great conversation starter or comment on a recent game or your favorite players!

First Date Conversation Starters

Making small talk on a first date can be super painful. Some solid ways to get the conversation going is to ask about the person’s background, where they grew up, or about their work. If you’re at dinner or getting drinks, then you can use that to help you get the conversation going.

If the date is going well you can delve into some deeper questions about what the person is looking for or their dating history.

Find Your Groove

It took me a while to choose the questions I use while at work. Knowing what works for you, and the majority of people and situations you’re in really just takes practice.

It can be intimidating to break the ice when meeting new people and get the conversation going, but don’t let that stop you from trying. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be with yourself and how you speak, and you’ll be more comfortable in awkward situations.

Final Thoughts

Conversations starters are good to have in your back pocket so that you are prepared for that small talk when you’re with people you don’t know. If you hate making small talk (as many do), then hopefully these tips will help you stay true to yourself, and make the conversation a bit more authentic and interesting.

So get out there, push the boundaries of your comfort zone, and find out what your go-to preferred conversation starters are.

Happy Chatting!

Images courtesy of unsplash

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