How to start a conversation: 5 things to say after "hello"
God, I love your lips, Angelina.
I was just thinking to myself: Well, I know it's very difficult to practice English because
you don't get a lot of practice with English speakers, but if there were a way I could
teach you how to get past "Hello" to make the conversation grow and perhaps have the
other person come back and talk to you, that would be of great value.
So this lesson is about how to get past "Hello" and make a beautiful conversation flow.
I'm going to use Angelina to help me later on when I do an example, but for now I will
See? He's like: "Tell me more. Hmm. I'm interested."
All right, so let's go to the board, shall we?
I'm going to give you five conversation openers.
You've said: "Hello", where do you go?
Personally I hate this because I teach and I hear people say:
"Hello. My name is James. I am from Japan, Tokyo."
The conversation is essentially dead.
Don't know if that's the wedding theme or the theme from Star Wars.
Doesn't matter. You understand.
You've said everything that they need to know and then they're done.
So why don't we do something that actually gets them to open up and want to tell you information?
So the first one we're going to do is this one.
Look for something that someone is wearing or has that you actually like.
You're not going to steal it, so don't think about that.
You like the t-shirt, you like the jeans, the ear rings or something, you're like: "Cool",
"Sincere" means that you really mean it and the person can feel that from you, so they'll
want to share with you because you're being honest with them.
So we look here, number one, walk up and say...
So it's like: "Hello. Love your __________ (jacket, t-shirt). That is so cool."
"Where did you get them?" or "Where did you get it?"
Notice I didn't say: "Where did you buy it?" because some of the coolest things someone's
going to be wearing won't be from this country.
It might be: "Hey. I was in India and I picked up these beads.
I was outside this ashram and..."
And now you've got a conversation you didn't even know.
Or it might be: "Oh, I was downtown in the hippie section, you know, and it was really cool, there was all this art."
You've started a conversation.
So: "Hey. Where did you get them?"
Let them say "buy". Don't bring that up.
Follow that up with right away...
As soon as you say: "Where did you buy them...?"
It might not be true right now, but it could be true, you say:
"Because I really have to get a cool present",
or: "...an interesting gift for my nephew/my brother/my sister/my friend."
Right? Or girlfriend, whatever, or your wife.
By saying that you're saying, well, one thing, you have other friends.
But number two, you're giving them: "Cool".
You're saying whatever they're wearing is interesting, cool, different enough that it
By example or by extension, that means added on you're saying:
"You're kind of cool, too, because you're wearing it
and I think it's cool, so it's got to be cool and only a cool person would buy it."
This is why it works, you've given them two compliments.
Who doesn't want to be complimented?
First you're saying I'm wearing something cool, then you're saying:
"I need to get something cool, and clearly what you have is cool."
I'm probably going to talk to you and go: "Well, you know, thanks for saying that.
And conversation started, and now you have an opportunity to maybe later on talk more,
and that's how you get your practice.
Number two, how about this one?
"Wow, you are __________ (tall)"
or: "You have __________ (really bright eyes)",
or something that has to do with the physical body.
The first one was about things. Physical.
Now we want to talk about physical.
And you followed that up with: "What do you do?"
Example, you see someone, you go:
"Wow, you have amazing skin. What do you do to make it so clear?"
Or: "Wow, you're tall. What do you do?
Do you play sports or anything like that?"
This is the follow up, as I said: "What do you do?"
Now, notice this is green and I have green up here.
You probably noticed it but didn't understand why I skipped it.
I live in North America and basically I could say this is true for a lot of Western society.
We prefer you give compliments on positive things.
Being tall is a positive thing in our society.
Alex, if you've ever seen him, he's a giant, but I wouldn't call him a giant because that's
But saying he's very tall, he'll be:
Saying, like: "You're this big huge thing", not good.
So don't talk about things that might be negative.
If someone is very big in weight, but not muscle, fat, you can't say that.
Even if you think it's delicious, they won't like it.
If you think they're too short, like: "Wow, are you ever small.
Okay? So tall is good, bright eyes, good skin, lovely teeth, great hair.
Because this is a compliment about someone's style, number one; number two is a compliment
Now, the reason we don't say negative is you can't do things...
If you've got a negative feature in your life, like you're not tall or you're fat, you maybe
can't do anything about it, so that's not nice to talk about.
But positive stuff-I know, your parents make you tall, but people don't think of that-it's
Why it works, because you've complimented the person which is good.
You've said: "Look, physically, there's something beautiful about you."
But you've also, by saying: "What do you do?" if you talk about their skin, you're saying:
"You have a talent" or: "You have a skill".
Or if they're tall, you say: "You've got to be playing sports or something."
So you're actually saying: "You have actually worked on something."
So you're not just saying: "You're beautiful", you're saying:
"You're beautiful and you've worked on something."
So let's go over here, number three.
So we got the compliment, we got, you know...
We're suggesting you got a talent or a skill.
Number three: "I'm loving the cold/the rain/the sun."
Duh, James that's the weather, everybody does that.
Everybody talks about the weather.
I'm asking you to say something different, especially if you're waiting for a bus or
Huh? The opposite of what you would think.
It's a bright, sunny summer-okay?-but the last two days, three days it's been raining.
Nobody wants rain in the summer, but you say: "How you loving the rain? I'm loving it."
They're going to go: "Ugh, I wish it was sunny."
I have a garden, and I need the rain.
You're like: "Yeah, I've got roses..."
You've brought in the unexpected.
In the winter, people don't like the cold.
But you go: "Oh, I can't wait, so much snow."
They go: "Snow, it's so bad to work in."
You go: "I ski, man, I love to ski and I love going downhill.
It's amazing for me. I love skiing."
So by suggesting the opposite about the weather, how good bad weather is.
How good bad weather can be, you will find that it makes people go: "What?"
They're curious, and then you get to tell them.
Now, why it works here is you're sharing something.
When we share with each other, we open up to each other.
You're telling me something about yourself that isn't:
"Hi. My name's James. I'm from Japan."
But if you just said to me: "Hi. I ski."
I'd go: "Get away from me, weirdo.
But by saying something about the weird, I'm like...
The weather, which is just weird, I'm like: -"Why would you say this is good weather?"
-"Yeah, I love to ski and this is the perfect weather."
Now I've told you I've got a good personality, I'm positive, and I do things.
I've shared information and I can ask you to do the same.
Well, if that's all you think...
If you're like impressed by this, we've got two more.
Oh, but before I do I just want to add a little aside.
An aside is a comment that's not directly related to the topic, but in this case it
There are two parts of conversation, speaking and listening.
Or I am giving you some hints or tips on how to be better at conversation.
But if you're really good at the talking and not the listening, it will die quickly.
So what we really want to do is emphasize: You're learning English, so you want to learn
And here's a couple reasons why.
You start the conversation, but you should listen more to get a better understanding of English.
We don't speak like the grammar or the vocabulary books that are out there.
So for you to listen to English speakers, you start getting on how we're thinking and
how you should present the information to people.
So you'll get a better understanding of English.
So when it's coming in because you're hearing, you go: "Oh, they don't say that.
They say other things, like: 'Whatda ya'", and there's a video I got on that
"Whatda ya mean? Whatda ya say?" Okay?
The other thing is to catch the other thing is to catch the other person's interest and
have the other person be able to have another conversation.
If you do all the talking, I'm going to think I've heard all I need to hear and I don't
But if you're actively listening to me and asking questions because you're listening
that have to do with the information I'm giving you, I'll probably say:
Let's have coffee later or let's meet up another time."
And that's what we want to do.
Okay, have another conversation, ask questions, listen more than you speak.
Listening more than you speak is a skill most of us don't have.
But if you actually get this skill you can become actually a better conversationalist
Cool, so I've just given my little speech for listening.
Now let's go back to what you really came here for, conversation.
Number four, you can walk up and say:
Tell me: How would you finish this phrase? I want to be the very best..."
Now, a friend of mine said: "Okay, dude, that's really, really corny." "Corny" means not cool.
I went: "Ah-ha, but the surprise..."
No one does it, so when you do it you can say anything after that, like:
"Oh, I've got to do an interview for work", or what have you.
You can follow up with that, but the whole thing is somebody asking you that question
is like: "I want your opinion."
Oh, I did. Good. Surprise, but I didn't write the second part.
By saying: "I want your opinion", I'm saying you are valuable and I think you would be
a person who would give me good information.
So that's going to make you go: "Well, I want to be the very best at...
Yes, let me think about..."
If you make a person think, they think you're intelligent.
Because if I have the answer and it's obvious, it was a dumb question.
When I don't have it, I have to think, I'm like:
"Oo, that was cool, I'll remember that for the future myself."
So the element of surprise is why it works.
Nobody would ask it, so when you do you're the first person and you're original.
Now, number five, this is my favourite.
"Hey. Did you hear about the goat and the chicken that went on the airplane?"
That's just weird for somebody to walk up and tell you some weird thing from nowhere.
After they say: "Hi. Hey. Hi." Whatever, ho.
But it works, because, and this is why I write it here, it causes arousal.
Arousal is when you want to get up and move your body, you want to do something, you're aroused.
It means you're interested, you feel alive, curious.
And this kind of a thing, that's what it does.
Because something's weird, you're like: "Huh?
You might even ask a question...
They. Sorry, they may ask you a question right away.
"Chicken and a goat on a plane flying to Texas?
What are you talking...?" All of a sudden they're actually asking:
"You talk to me. You tell me."
You're like: "Okay, you asked for it.
I'll give you the information."
So, why does it work? Arousal.
"Aroused" means you wake up and you're like: "Hmm.
It gets emotion and curiosity.
And I should explain that one, is this: Emotion...
The kinds of emotion you want are things that help people, get people angry, or excited.
Sad things make people kind of feel:
"Ohh", they don't want to do anything and they don't want to talk to you.
Or content, content is something that just makes you feel okay.
Like: "Let's have a beer and relax", and that's what you do, you relax, you're not excited.
But things that get you angry, like: -"Did you hear about the new tax?"
Now they want to talk to you about all the taxes in the world, or that chicken and goat.
They're really into that story. Okay?
Now, I've given you five conversation kind of openers, and it's not just...
You know, it's the: "Hello" thing, but it's to open it up to have a bigger conversation
So let's have an example conversation where we could take one of these things and just
How about the one we talked about, personal...?
Something on their body or something about them.
So we'll start off with: "Wow, you have great *hair*!"
Women don't do this, but I'm looking at you because I know you're going to, and I'm telling you right now:
"Stop. In the name of love, don't do it."
Gentlemen, do not talk about this area on the woman, the bum-bum area on the woman.
In case you're like: "Yeah!" Yes.
Do you remember that lady you said it to?
Do you remember how she smiled and walked away?
Hair is because she's taken time to fix it, she's put effort in it.
Remember I talked about skill?
Skin because she takes care of her skin.
Boom-boom, boom-boom, she was given those.
"You're another man who's just a rude person", so don't go there.
But you can talk about skin, you can talk about hair, you got the drift.
Right? If she has nice legs because it's muscular because she works out, yes.
If she has nice arms, you go: "Look at your arms, they're strong."
If you don't do it to your mother or your sister, don't do it to another woman.
Right? You're like: "Wow, you have great hair!"
Then you talk to the other person...
This is like: "Clearly you do something with your hair other people don't."
It's: "Yes, you have something naturally beautiful, but also you take care of yourself."
And they're like: "Oh, wow, thank you.
I shampoo it, and then I put some duck grease in my hair."
This is the: "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah", they're going to start talking.
You still have to listen, like: "Yeah, cool. Really cool."
And then you do this, this crazy thing:
-"Hi. My name is James. I'm from Japan."
-"James, you told me don't do this about 10 minutes..."
Yeah. But listen: First we had this conversation, then I said: "I'm James from Japan."
Now they're like: "Cool, you're interesting."
"Hey, so tell me more about this duck grease thing.
Or: "Hey, what are your top three things to do with your hair once you do this?
And then you'll get back to the: "Blah, blah, blah."
And here's a small hint, I say keep the first conversation short because then you're still
interesting and they have more to tell you so you'll have a reason to go:
"That's so cool. Look, I got to go, take my bus, go on the elevator, my friend's coming, but I'd love
to have another coffee because I've got to practice my English and it would be great if you could practice with me."
And they'll probably say yes because you took the time from all these things.
And please don't use all five at the same time.
Look at this jacket, it's really cool.
Oh, do you want to hear about the duck and the...?"
Don't. One at a time, just one per person.
But because you started off in an interesting way that was different, they're more likely
I come here regularly" or: "You can meet me here", or: "I'm doing this".
Be yourself, tell them you're practicing English, be interesting.
I can almost guarantee you they'll say: "I would love to chat with you again."
And don't forget what I said here about listening is important as the speaking part.
You've got five. I gave you five hints. Right?
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