At times you may find yourself in social situations where you feel awkward or uneasy. Whereas it’s unabashedly simple for many people to start a conversation with a stranger, being shy, you find yourself tongue-tied.

How Do You Start a Conversation When You’re Shy?

It’s easier exchanging dialogue with a gregarious chatterbox who goes on incessantly about his new BMW or his three-year-old’s potty habits. But what about a situation when you would like to get to know someone better, but are terrified to open your mouth because you only have one line that you regularly use as a conversation starter, and once you’ve used it your mind goes blank?

Most People Like to Talk about Themselves

Take the “BMW potty-daddy” for instance. He’s probably told the same story about his son falling asleep on the toilet no less than six times yet he’s already scanning the room for his next “victim.” Unfortunately, his egocentric colloquial skills do not lend themselves to enjoyable chitchat for anyone other than himself. Balance is the key to good conversation. You talk, I talk.

Conversation Starters: What Do You Say After Hello

If you haven’t met the other person, start by introducing yourself. “Hello, I’m Nancy.” They, in turn, will most likely tell you their name. But if they don’t, go ahead and ask them a question. “How do you know Bruce and Monica?” (Or whomever the host is) or else; “I’m Bruce’s sister, how do you know him?” When they answer, you can respond with another question relating to the answer. For instance, if they say, “I went to college with Bruce;” You can ask, “were you in the same graduating class?” and so on.

Conversation Starters: Be Complimentary

A compliment works well to initiate conversation using Florida words, for example: “I love your jacket, do you mind if I ask where you bought it?” or; “Great haircut… I’m new here. May I ask where you get it done?” When they reply, you can continue with something like, “it’s so hard to find a good stylist in a new city.” If you are speaking to the host, you may feel more comfortable giving them a compliment about their home or their child. “I’ve met your daughter Kendra, she’s such a nice young lady.” Or, “I’ve heard your son Paul is an excellent hockey player.”

Don’t Give Up

If the conversation starts to fade, don’t throw in the towel and walk away. Just put another conversation starter out there. If you absolutely can’t think of a question or compliment; go with the good old dependables such as the weather, latest news, or politics. Stay away from religion.

Honesty is the Best Policy

When in doubt, don’t be afraid, to be honest. A person isn’t going to think less of you just because you don’t know a lot of people or that you are shy. Chances are they will appreciate your candor and may even find it charming. If it’s scary to put yourself out there, ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” Relatively speaking, the worst that can happen really isn’t too awful.

Don’t Forget to Listen

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in trying to think ahead of what we’re going to say that we don’t bother to listen to what the other person is even saying. It’s imperative to be a good listener for several reasons. First of all, attentive listening is respectful and validates what the other person is talking about; but more importantly, paying attention is going to provide you with linguistic ammunition for the remainder of your conversation.

Shyness Doesn’t Go Away Overnight

It takes practice to become confident at being an adept conversationalist. You don’t have to become a public speaker overnight. Push yourself a little further each time you are in a social situation and don’t worry about being the life of the party. Stand tall; smile so you are approachable, and make eye contact. If something happens that embarrasses you; don’t fret. The sun will rise the next day and life will go on. Put it behind you and don’t let your shyness keep you from meeting people and participating in social activities.