Are your conversations weird? Awkward? Uncomfortable? Do you hide in the corner at social events waiting for others to you? Not sure what to say or how to get started?

No worries. You are not alone. Many people find themselves in work and social situations where they just don’t know what to say. To help with this dilemma last week, I shared my Don’ts and Dos of Real Conversation. So, I thought this week I would offer some tips on how to START a conversation.

5 Tips for Starting a Conversation Without It Getting Weird.

Have a plan.

First, know who you want to talk to and what you want to say to open. Second, think forward about where you would like the conversation to go. Perhaps your goal is to build rapport. Maybe it is to establish credibility. It could even be to set the stage for a valuable connection.

Be genuine.

Canned openings don’t work. People are too dynamic to feel comfortable with an opening that feels like it was lifted from a bad self-help book. Begin with with something memorable, yet still applicable to the setting you are in. Keep in mind for example, how you approach a new team member at work is different than how you approach a leader at a business social. (And very different than opening a conversation at a bar on a Friday night.)

Be yourself.

Own who you are and relax a little. After all, a conversation is just a couple people chatting and it is perfectly okay to infuse a little bit of your personality into it. Act as who you really are and people will intuitively know it and often times become more open to chatting with you.

Avoid the weather.

Boring! It is an old, tired, donkey of an opening. Furthermore, nobody wants to take a ride on the old mule so they might just walk away from the conversation the first chance they get. If it is a beautiful, sunny day, most people already know. If it is raining cats and dogs, most people already know. If they don’t and they are curious, they will ask you or check their smartphones. In other words, using weather to start a conversation has been used over and over again and has little impact.

Introduce yourself, of course.

You may be thinking “duh!” However, I didn’t want to assume you thought of this already. Why? I have had people make this mistake, because they launched into a conversation eager to talk with me and I had to kindly interrupt and ask who they were. Awkward. So, decide if you will use your first and last name or first name only and consider adding your company name or position too.

Happy conversation starting this week!