Conversation Etiquette

Would you like to be less nervous when meeting new people?

Conversation Etiquette is a skill many people are nervous about when they are meeting someone new for the first time. But there is a difference between apprehension and dread and some good tips can help us overcome our insecurities.

Due to the nature of my husband's business I meet new clients and acquaintance's regularly so I know how nerve-racking it can be at first. We want people to like us but we don’t want to appear overly confident either.

The main goal of conversation etiquette should be to shift our thoughts away from ourselves and to make whomever we are talking to feel at ease, no matter what their background or job title.

How to start a conversation

You should greet your host when you arrive and they should introduce you to someone who shares your interests. If they don't, you are on your own.

Find someone who is not involved in a deep conversation, or look out for someone who has arrived at the same time. Introduce yourself and explain you are a friend/colleague of the host. Some conversation starters are:

  • How do you know the host?
  • Have you been to this venue before?
  • Do you live locally?
  • Do you work/how long have you worked at this Company?
  • Pay them a genuine (non-personal) compliment

These may seem like basic questions but the point of conversation etiquette is to find something that you have in common with each other and these are the ones most likely to give you that shared subject.

Good subjects to read up on and talk about at the event

Current Events: Keep up to date with the news and local events especially if you are attending an event in your neighbourhood.

The latest TV shows: this is quite easy with the abundance of reality TV shows that are available.

Good News: everyone likes to hear good news about their mutual friends.

Sports: Keep it general and not too specific to ensure everyone can participate.

Congratulations: Consider who might be attending the event and what achievements they may recently have, checking the guest list and doing a bit of homework beforehand can pay dividends.

Places recently visited on holiday (but be careful not to boast about the wonderful trips and hotels you have stayed in, especially in the current economic climate, use your own judgement).

Remember to Ask and Listen!

Nerves can make us talk too much. So remember to ask questions and show an interest.

Listening well is one of the kindest acts we can perform for others and is one of the key factors in acquiring good conversation etiquette.

Really listen to what the person is saying, nod, agree, provide some sort of affirmation so they know you are listening and always look them in the eyes. 

I have met a few people who do not give their full attention when they are in a conversation; they either have one eye on their smart phone or one ear listening to someone else’s conversation. It is rude and incredibly off putting.

Learn from a Master!

It is easy to notice who is confident and has good conversation etiquette at social events, they include everyone and they make it appropriate with topics of conversation that are of interest to everyone.

These people are like magnets; they appear so at ease and charismatic with the situation that you are drawn to them.

But it is not a science, it is an art and they too will have practiced so learn from them.

Feel like your efforts are being wasted?

Yep, I have been there too where I am working double time to keep the conversation going. Here are a few pointers for handling difficult people:

Are they Arrogant? Outwardly arrogant people tend to self-promote at every opportunity and brag out of context with the conversation. The best way to deal with them is to tease them, but if they lack a sense of humour then you are doomed for as long as you are willing to listen. Excuse yourself pronto.

Are they shy? Arrogant and shy people can be easily confused as both are concerned with their own feelings over the feelings of others (i.e. you) but by not giving anything back to the conversation, it is common for people to get the wrong impression. Trust your instincts.

Are they in a clique? I have experienced this on a few occasions; where my light hearted questions seem out of place within a group of people who all know each other. Hold your head up high and try and find someone who is on their own to chat with.

Are they being lazy? Finally there some who prefer to let others keep the conversation going; it's less hard work. When this happens, politely excuse yourself from their company and on to someone else who is willing to share the responsibility of making the event enjoyable for everyone.

Where can you learn more about gaining the ultimate confidence?

Dale Carnegie's 'How to Win Friends & Influence People' was given to me by my Father, and was the first self-improvement book I read as well as being one of the first ones ever written. It's content is as relevant today as it has always been and is a must for everyone who desires to influence the world around them AND achieve their ambitions.

Other Social Etiquette Skills to learn on this site:

Introduction Etiquette

Cheek Kissing Traditions

Taboo Chat

Social Faux Pas

Gift Giving Etiquette

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About The Author

The Author, Emma Dupont, runs various courses in London during the year.

Next Courses:

Children's 4-Week Etiquette Programme

3/10/17/24 March 2017

Belgravia, London


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Business Networking & Corporate Entertaining Masterclass

28 March 2017

Belgravia, London

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The English Social Season Etiquette Masterclass

21 April 2017

Belgravia, London

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The Theory of English Dining Etiquette

25 April 2017

Belgravia, London

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Elegance, Style & Poise One-Day programme

29 April 2017

Fitzrovia, London

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