17 July 2013
Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking for a variety of reasons, but the quickest way to get comfortable is to get know your coworkers. Once you’re settled into your new position, it’s important to get a jump on conversing with your fellow employees. You’ll be seeing them quite a bit, and having a good relationship with them will make your workday easier and more enjoyable. But how do you come up with more interesting topics to talk about than the weather? Should you find yourself stuck on how to best spark a conversation with someone, consider these easy and effective conversation starters: Ask for help. It’s the easiest way to get talking at work and a great way to show you’re outgoing and invested. It also shows a level of trust in your coworker’s knowledge. Chances are you’ll need help in a new job anyway, so why not use it as a way to start getting to know those around you? Offer help. Even while you’re still in the learning process, you can ask during any downtime you have if you can help anyone with something. Should someone accept, you can begin talking about the project at hand; should he or she decline, you can ask about the project anyway to get a feel for what others are working on around the office. On Mondays, ask about the weekend. This is a simple and common enough question that shows courtesy and almost always gets a great conversation started. “Did you see that movie/game/show?” Movies, sports, and television are great topics for conversation, and if you find common ground, they’ll provide opportunities for future conversations. Just be sure to keep conversations appropriate for work. Likewise, talk about appropriate current events. If you have a newspaper with you from your commute in to work, ask if anyone’s heard about a recent story and pass it around to anybody who might be interested. Industry news is another, more focused source of conversation. Stay up to date on topics relevant to your industry and your department. Inevitably, you should find something that will initiate a great conversation with one or more of your coworkers, and could learn something in the process. Ask about places to eat or where employees go for fun. Oftentimes, a group of coworkers will go out together and talk over lunch, or they may have a favorite place to recommend and some may offer to go with you. Try to avoid sitting at your desk quietly during lunch; it’s the easiest, and most appropriate, time to communicate with those around you in and out of the workplace. Use your surroundings. If you’re in the kitchen, make a comment about someone’s lunch smelling good, or about the coffee. If you’re at the copier and someone’s waiting for you to finish, let them know that you’ll just be a few moments more and ask if they need it immediately. You may often find that people seem relieved that you broke the silence and are more than willing to start a conversation. When going out, ask if you can get someone something or if anyone would like to take a walk. At the very least, you’ll show that you’re thinking of your fellow coworkers. At best, one or two may join you and start a conversation on their own. Ask open-ended questions. This applies to many of the above points. Asking questions that require an answer other than “yes” or “no” encourage the flow of conversation and prevent awkward silences. They’re often more interesting and facilitate more effective communication. Remember, when using any of these conversation starters or any of your own, always keep the topics work appropriate and avoid gossip. It may be easier to get involved in the social politics of the office than coming up with your own icebreakers, but don’t do it. Gossip is dangerous and can lose you respect quickly. Instead, stay positive, show interest, and be friendly. If you make an effort, you’ll often find that many others are willing to do the same.