How to start a conversation | 3 important questions!

Lesson Overview

Let’s practise how to start a conversation with a colleague…. And how to keep a conversation going! We’ll practise asking and answering important questions – and practise starting a conversation with me at the end of the lesson!

Are you ready to start a conversation and practise speaking with me? Let’s do it!

Video Transcript

Oh gosh, how do you start a conversation with a colleague at work? What should you talk about? How can you be cool and calm and funny and not make a fool of yourself?

Starting conversations in English is something that my mmmEnglish students worry about. I’ve got some really useful tips to help you start a conversation with someone at work. And most importantly, you’ll practise starting a conversation with me towards the end of this video.

So if you thought you were just kicking back to watch this lesson, no, no, no, no. You are going to practise starting a conversation with me later on.

Now, I know that many of you feel comfortable and are capable of talking about your work and your area of expertise. That means the general area in which you have specialised skills or knowledge. But it’s when you have to chat casually about other things not related to work, when it gets tricky, when you start to feel stuck because you can’t think of anything interesting or funny to say? That is what we’re going to practise today.

I’m going to go through three extremely common topics to help you start a conversation with your colleagues. I’ll share the questions that you can use to start the conversation. I’ll talk about the possible answers and show you how to follow up with a question or your own experience to help keep the conversation going.

1. Talking about the weekend

The first one is absolutely essential.

  • What did you do over the weekend?
  • What did you get up to over the weekend?
  • How was your weekend?

Or if you’re towards the end of the working week, on Thursday or Friday, this question switches to be about the coming weekend.

  • What are your plans this weekend?
  • Anything special planned for the weekend?

All these questions are a really nice way to share personal experiences. They can help you to find out what you have in common with your colleagues, but also allowing you to be curious in your colleague and show some interest in them. These questions often lead to discussions about hobbies, about travel, family, or maybe some interesting activities that they’re doing or they did.

What’s also important about this question is how you follow up. So you could either share that you have an interest in common, and that you’re into whatever they’re talking about, or you can share a similar experience. Or, you can show interest because it’s different, it’s not something that you would normally do so you can ask questions to find out more about it.

Let’s try this out together. Ask me this question.

  • Oh, I just spent some time working in my garden and around the house.

You could say:

  • I’m really into gardening. What types of plants do you have growing in your garden?

So here, you’re showing interest. You’ve found a way to connect over that shared interest. But what if you’re not into gardening? That’s okay. Let’s just think about this.

Clearly, I like working in my garden, so you could definitely ask me to talk more about that. Or you could transition to share something personal about yourself.

  • Oh, that sounds relaxing. My weekend was quite hectic, so some time spent relaxing at home sounds lovely.

This comment leaves them with an obvious opportunity to ask about your weekend and why it was so busy. So make sure you’re prepared to share what you did over the weekend too.

And that goes for all of the questions we’re covering today. If you’re asking the question, make sure you’re also able to share your experience or respond to that question, just in case it comes back at you.

Before we move on, this question can be answered with a simple and slightly disappointing:

  • Not too much, nothing special.
  • Nothing special – had a quiet one.

Okay, but I’m supposed to think of a follow-up question now. We need those quiet weekends every now and again! Then pivot.

2. Talking about books and movies

  • Have you been watching Black Mirror on Netflix?

I’m assuming that because they didn’t do much over the weekend, they may have watched some TV. So I’m creating an opportunity to talk about something else.

And this topic is another great way to start a conversation with a colleague, talking about what you’ve been reading or watching lately.

But, it feels a little strange to start the conversation with a question like: “So, what book are you reading at the moment?” Or: “So, what are you watching on Netflix?”

If you listen to native English speakers, you’ll notice that they usually start this type of conversation by sharing something that they’ve been reading or watching and use that as a way to start the conversation to share a little bit about themselves and then start exploring the other person’s preferences. And that was just as I did earlier.

  • Have you been watching Black Mirror on Netflix?

I don’t know if they like watching TV series or if they like watching this show so I need to find out and if they say: “Yeah, I love it!”

Awesome. Then you can chat about your favourite episode, your favourite character.

If they say: “No, what’s it about?”

Well, you can explain. “Oh, it’s great. Each episode is standalone, so the storyline isn’t connected, but it’s set in a dystopian future, so if you’re into sci-fi, you’ll love it.”

If they say: “Nah, I tried, but I couldn’t get into it.”

Then you can ask: “So what shows are you watching?

Or they might say: “I don’t really watch telly, I prefer reading.”

So then, what can you ask? “Oh, I need a new book to read. Have you read any good ones lately?”

See how, at all of these points, no matter what the answer is, I’m just adjusting or adapting my conversation to follow along, depending on the answers.

If you’re feeling nervous about all the possible ways that a conversation could go, then I recommend you plan all of this out in advance. Brainstorm the different scenarios and what you could say in each of those situations. It will help you to feel prepared. It will help you to feel like you can anticipate what’s coming, no matter what they say.

3. Talking about holidays

Last question. If you’re coming up to a public holiday or a holiday season, then this is a really lovely way to start a conversation.

Right now, it’s November, so the end of the year is coming. Christmas is coming. Here in Australia, it’s our summertime as well so it’s when we have our long holidays. So you can be sure that this question is coming up very frequently in every office in Australia at the moment.

  • Do you have any trips planned over the summer?
  • What are you planning to do over the Christmas break?
  • Are you going away for the holidays? 

Asking about future plans allows your colleagues to talk about their upcoming trips, special holiday traditions. It’s always a really positive topic that can spark interesting discussion. You get to learn lots of interesting things about your colleagues when you ask these questions.

  • We’re heading up to Brisbane to visit family.

So you could say:

  • Oh wow, I’d love to visit Brisbane one day! What are you planning to do while you’re there?

Or, if you have had this experience yourself, then it’s a great time to share a recommendation.

  • Ah, I went to Brisbane last year. Make sure you visit the beach at Southbank. It’s a really nice area.

To feel confident starting a conversation with your colleagues, you need to get really comfortable talking about these simple everyday topics. If you’re nervous about starting a conversation in English, feeling comfortable and experienced is an important step towards that confidence.

So what I always recommend to my students is building up that confidence and your fluency in a place where the pressure to be perfect is low. You need to learn how to really enjoy these chats and practise responding to different answers. There is a whole community of women inside Hey Lady! who do this every single day.

So if you are a woman and you want to build your experience and your fluency as an English speaker then come along and join us. Check the description down below for a code which will give you a fifty per cent discount on your first month.

Practice: Keep a conversation going

Okay, so now I want you to put all of this into practice.

You’re going to start a conversation with me. I’m your colleague. You’ll see a question come up on screen to help you start the conversation. Ask me out loud. This is really great speaking practice. Get used to saying these words yourself, moving your mouth, using those words in that way. Listen to my reply and then think of a way that you can follow up to keep the conversation going. It could be a question, it could be sharing your own experience, but that’s your challenge. Keep the conversation going.

  • I had a quiet one, but I did go for a beautiful hike up in the hills on Sunday.

How can you continue?

  • That sounds nice. Where did you go hiking?

Want me to check your question? Hit pause and drop your question down in the comments below. Then come back for the next question.

  • No, I missed it. I don’t even know who played. 

How can you continue?

  • Oh, it was a great game, close until the very end. The Magpies ended up winning. Do you follow footy, or is it not really your thing?
  • I feel like every man and his dog has seen Oppenheimer. I still haven’t seen it yet. What did you think of it? 

How can you continue?

  • It was incredible. It was long, but if you’re interested in history and period drama, you’ll be engrossed until the end.

I hope that you enjoyed the lesson and that you feel a bit more confident about starting a conversation with a colleague. Make sure you let me know how it goes.

Here are all of my socials and places you can catch me.

It was lovely to have you with me today.

Bye for now!

Links mentioned in the video

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