Posted by: Jason | September 12, 2010

More on Saying Hello and Starting Conversations.

Last week, I talked about saying hello to people. Meeting someone, saying hi and then starting a conversation can be very difficult. Many times, I’ve seen someone come up and say hello and then stop. Sometimes they get a very worried look and freeze. They don’t know what to say and so, they say nothing.

Saying nothing makes it very difficult for the other person to help you out of your difficulties. The other person needs something, anything, to start things along. It does not matter if your English is perfect. Bad English is always better than no English. Even if what you say doesn’t make much sense to the other person, at least it’s a start. The other person needs at least a few words in order to get the ball rolling.

So, you’ve said hello and now you want to start a conversation. The best advice I can give you is to start with information about yourself. Think of it like tennis. In a tennis game, the first person serves the ball to the other person. The game doesn’t start until that ball is served. Just like a conversation.

Pick a topic. Maybe work. If you’ve just met someone and you don’t know much about them, you could start with, “What do you do?” or, “I’m glad it’s the weekend, work has been so busy.” That gives the other person a hook, or something to start with. They could tell you their job and you could come back with what you do. Or, the other person could ask you about your job and you could tell them what you do.

The weather is always a good place to start. It’s a very safe topic and it’s something that everyone can talk about. “Wow, it was so hot today.” or “Today is beautiful isn’t it?” The other person now has an open door to start talking with you. You’ve served the ball and now they can return. Just like a tennis game, things have started.

Let’s stay with the weather for a second. Imagine the following conversation:

You: “Wow, it was so hot today.”
The other Person: “Yeah, it was a real scorcher.”
You: “I was outside in the garden, and my poor flowers were just so thirsty.”
The other Person: “Oh, you have a garden? My mother likes to garden but, I’m not very good at it.”
You: “I love to garden. All the flowers. And watching things grow. It’s lots of fun.”
The other Person: “What kind of flowers do you grow?”

And so on. Again, you’ve given a bit of information (I have a garden with flowers) that lets the other person help you along with the conversation. Maybe you could ask about the other person’s mother’s garden. Or you could change the subject to something else. The trick is, always try to keep the ball going back and forth. Just like in tennis.

Now, just for a little bit of listening fun, I’d like to introduce you to a very excellent listening resource: Business English Business English Study has a number of listening exercises about many different companies. Listen to the following presentation about Coca Cola and answer the questions below.

Click me – Coca Cola

1. What percent of people recognize the Coca Cola name world wide?
2. What is Coca Cola’s image?
3. How many countries does Coca Cola sell in?
4. When was the recipe invented?
5. Where is the company headquarters?
6. How many people know the Coca Cola secret recipe?
7. What kind of events does Coca Cola sponsor?

Answer the questions in the comments for this post and I’ll post the answers next week. Until then, have a great week and start a conversation with someone today.


  1. Bad English is always better than no English

    >I think so. “ganbarimasu”

  2. Hi Jason:)
    Is it ok to answer those questions tonight ?
    You know, my audio is broken, but I can use another computer later.
    I need to repair audio system, must be expensive !!

    • You can reply whenever you like. I’ll be posting the answers tonight.

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