You may be incredibly shy and not a little awkward, but you deserve to take part in conversations as much as the next guy or girl. As a big part of our social structure, conversation can bring many benefits, from business relationships to friendships, favours to romance, and if you have spent your life so far struggling to make conversation with someone you haven’t met before, we have a few ways in which you can get to know someone quickly with some conversation starters that are not scary in any way.

Ask a question

This is a classic way in which confident people start a conversation, so don’t let them steal all the glory. Basically, you ask a simple question that has an easy answer attached to it. For example, you could ask them if they know the best bar in town, or what they think about a major news event. Believe it or not, questions (unless they are intentionally confrontational) are the least threatening aspect of conversation, and most people will happily answer a question without thinking you’re being annoying. So get a list of easy questions together in your head and next time you meet someone you want to talk to, ask away.

Ask for some advice

Again, this is completely safe as a conversation starter and people will be more than happy to engage. If you want to make it super successful, ask for advice the other person is clearly able to give. If they’re a doctor, ask for some advice about a (non-embarrassing) medical condition you or a friend have or once had. If they are in retail, ask their opinion on the price of whatever. It all helps a conversation start, and if you are playing to their expertise, they will enjoy talking to you.

Talk about what is happening around you

If you’re at a party, talk about the food. If you’re at a school football game, talk about the tactics. Basically, look at the world around you and pick out a conversation topic. The other person is immediately engaged because they are seeing the same things you are.

Focus on the children

If they have kids, and you should know this soon enough, ask about them. People love talking about their children (even if they’ve just had a huge row with them) and it’s a great way to open up a long and engaging conversation. Talking about children opens up levels in all sorts of places, including discussions on education, finances and so on. It’s a classic way to get a conversation going.

If you are struggling with starting a conversation with anyone, try the tips in this article. They are all great ways in which you can break the ice and get to know someone. It could become the start of a great friendship. In any case, it means you don’t have to feel awkward or shy anymore.