What To Say To Begin A Conversation
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.
It’s relatively easy to begin a conversation with a man. You can ask, “What business are you in?” Men tend to define themselves by the jobs they do, the positions they hold.
But a polite way to begin a conversation with a woman is not that easy if she is a woman of means, and may not hold a job. In fact some wealthy couples take pride in the wife’s not working, and would consider it a breach of etiquette if your conversation opener implies that the woman needs to work.
In an earlier article (“Starting a Conversation” March 19, 2011.), we had this recommendation: “What are your interests? or “Tell me about what you really like to do?” These are not perfect as conversation openers, but they are better than most alternatives.”
We now have a better alternative, which works not just as a conversation opener with a woman, but works equally well man-to-man.
Here’s how I discovered it. I was at a dinner recently with assigned seating. At my table were two couples and a single man, all of whom knew each other . They chatted with one another, but left me out of the conversation for quite a little while. After a few minutes, the man to my left turned to me and politely said, “Please forgive us. We’ve been chattering away. Please tell me about Gene.”
It was such a gracious conversation opener that I decided to share it. “Please tell me about you (Susan, Debby, Bill)”
It is a wonderful way to begin a conversation because it gives the other person an opportunity to showcase whatever he or she wants to mention. A woman can tell you if she is an attorney or surgeon or engineer. If she is a stay-at-home mom, she can tell you. And if she is on the board of umpteen charities, she can tell you that. It’s her choice. You pick up the thread and ask her to tell you more about which boards or what kind of engineer.
A small percentage of individuals will ask, “What would you like me to tell you about me?” So be ready for this question with a response like, “What do you most like to do?” “What makes you happy?” or “What are your interests?”
Next time you meet someone interesting, try out this wonderful conversation opener: “Tell me about you.”