Contentless Conversation Starters: Don’t Ever Start A Conversation This Way

By Min Liu | Verbal Skills

Contentless Conversation Starters

Many people think it is polite to start a conversation with “How are you?” or “What’s up?“. These ways of starting conversations are what I call “contentless conversation starters” and they are actually very impolite. Learn WHY in this article.

I used to have a coworker who would come into my office multiple times a day and ask me “How are you?

I would be in the middle of working on something and while I’m always happy to have people initiate conversations with me, I hate it when people start them with contentless conversation starters.


First, these are just the most uncharismatic, uninteresting, and vanilla ways of starting a conversation with another person.

But even more importantly, I find it very impolite.

It is impolite to initiate a conversation with someone and put the burden of making conversation on to them.

It’s like those signs that you see at stores: “You break it, you buy it“.

If you start a conversation with someone, you own it.

This is basic social contract stuff, except most people don’t know that this particular social contract exists.

This is basic social contract stuff, except most people don’t know that this particular social contract exists.

This is why girls don’t like it when most guys come up to them and start talking to them at a club, at a bar, or anywhere else.

It’s not because they’re against a guy approaching them, but what usually happens is that most guys use a contentless conversation starter and end up putting all the burden of moving the interaction forward on them.

That’s not cool fellas.

It’s like buying someone a birthday cake but not giving them any candles or bringing the matches. 

What are they supposed to do with the cake without candles or matches?

That’s how someone feels when you start a conversation with them with “How are you?” or “What’s up?

I would rather than someone start a conversation with “Hey Min, you’re looking uglier than usual today.”

Even though that’s a little bit messed up, at least I have something to work with. Does that make sense?

You have to get the ball rolling a little bit when you initiate conversation with another person.  At least a little bit.

How Should I Start a Conversation Instead?

Instead of using a contentless conversation starter, here are two easy ways to start a conversation without putting the burden of “getting the ball rolling” on the other person.

#1: Making an Observation

The first way to get the ball rolling is to make a mere observation.

Even “You’re looking uglier than usual” is an observation and it gets the ball rolling.

Of course, you don’t usually want to start a conversation with that particular one unless you’re kidding, but just make an observation about the other person or about the circumstances you’re in.

The observation doesn’t even have to be particularly creative or interesting. It’s just to get the ball rolling.

#2: Making a Statement

The other way to get the ball rolling to to make a statement.

An example of a statement is “I’m just having the best day today.”

This gets the ball rolling. The other person knows what’s next.

Oh really? What happened?

And, you’re off to the races.

With both of these ways to start a conversation, you are then able to move the conversation forward.

#3: Other Ways To Start Conversations

The two ways I just talked about are “good” ways, but not “great” ways to start a conversation. They are ways that get the ball rolling, metaphorically speaking, but not rolling at a high velocity.

If you want to learn some much better ways to get a conversation rolling, then get a free copy of a manifesto I wrote, The Conversation Manifestoby signing up below.

Raise your right hand and repeat after me:

I promise to never, ever use a contentless conversation starter again.


About the Author

Min Liu is a corporate lawyer, Amazon #1 bestselling author, the founder of The Art of Verbal War, where people learn to EXCEL in verbal skills, and in the words of his readers, he's the "big brother you never had".

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