Heads Up: 5 Conversation-Starter Tips for When You're Trying to Make New Friends

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Who else feels as though making new friends is kind of like dating? You keep an eye on the time you text them, you feel like you can't cancel on them since they'll think you're flaky, and you're not sure if they're as “into it” as you are at first… which is where some handy conversation-starter tips come in. When you start meeting up, especially one-on-one, it can be awkward when there's dead silence. Sometimes you feel as though you just want to blurt something out to fill the empty space. (Let us warn you: Please, do not do this.)

Unless you have friends in common, most new relationships don't have an element of “remember when” that you can rely on when there's a break in your chatting. Thankfully, the good news is that when armed with a few great conversation starters, you can learn to take the lead in any situation-from first introductions and beyond. Long gone are the days of feeling like you have nothing to say-here are the conversation starter tips you need to know now (and forever).

Let a smile be your opening line

When you're first meeting someone new, you don't want to start out with deep questions. Plus, research shows that a person usually makes up their mind about you within a 10th of a second upon seeing your face. (We're not sure how quickly you talk, but we don't think you can blurt anything out that fast.) These are just two reasons you should forgo asking something complicated, and let a big smile be your first impression instead. “It warms them up,” says Vanessa Van Edwards, author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People.

Set an intention

“The best conversationalists always set the intention for the conversation,” says Van Edwards. Decide what you are hoping to get out of your talk before you start speaking-it can be as simple as wanting to get to know the other person better or looking forward to having a chance to laugh. Giving yourself that little extra bit of direction and motivation ensures you'll bring a certain positive energy to your conversation that you might not have had otherwise.

Bring up common interests or likes

When you don't have anything to say at the moment, fall back on discussing things you both like or interests you share. This may sound simple, but it's so much easier to have a great conversation with someone when you know they'll get something out of it (especially since we all know people like talking about themselves and their hobbies). Once these commonalities are established, come up with related questions that will seamlessly move you onto different topics.

Keep an eye out for "conversation sparks."

It's always good to have a little nudge that someone is into what you're talking about with them. Since people (usually) aren't rude, they're likely not going to cross their arms and look away. The trick to seeing whether you're captivating another person's attention is by looking for what Van Edwards calls “conversation sparks.” So what are they? They're nonverbal cues that you're engaging someone with your discussion. The one “spark” no matter the culture or the generation is an eyebrow raise-once you see that sign, you know you've piqued their interest.

Just be yourself

It can be easy to get so caught up in trying to make a new friend that you can forget to be genuine. Yes, these conversation starter tips definitely help-but they're not going to work if you're not accurately representing who you are as a person. If you're bold, show that, and if you're passionate about something, don't hold back. At the end of the day, you want your new friend to like you for who you are.

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Do you have any conversation starter tips of your own? What's the first thing you say to a potential new friend?

Up next: 37 questions to use on a first date when you're tongue-tied.