The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday September 20th

Column: An introvert's guide to making conversation

Two students sit and talk on the lawn in front of the bell tower on March 9, 2021.
Buy Photos Two students sit and talk on the lawn in front of the bell tower on March 9, 2021.

College life… when you say those words, what comes to mind?

The answer is probably something related to partying, drinking, sports or socializing of some kind. All these things require a certain level of extroversion and putting yourself out there in order to have a fun time. However, a largely forgotten demographic at school is introverted.

Not everyone likes to go out every weekend, and some might instead enjoy things like reading a book or watching a movie without all the commotion that comes with hanging with others.

Being an introvert myself, I understand the struggle that we face in speaking our minds or talking to people we barely know. It can also be overwhelming when everyone around us is seemingly out partying or always doing something — and the feeling that we’re being left behind or perceived as being socially awkward creeps in. 

Since the University intends to operate mostly normally for the fall semester, there will be a lot more students on campus soon — and therefore more opportunities to meet new people. However, this also presents a struggle for many who might not be the best at making conversation.

"Why don’t you just put yourself out there more?"

This is a response that we often hear, but the people who say this fail to understand that it’s not always so easy to introduce yourself and maintain a conversation with someone you just met.

Instead, here are some potential ways to approach conversations that I have used, which could be more helpful than the generic “put yourself out there” advice:

  • Common interests. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is incredibly helpful in starting conversations with new people. For example, if you like soccer and see someone wearing a jersey of a popular team, you immediately have multiple avenues to take the conversation — such as talking about what’s happening in the soccer world or asking if they’ve played in the past.
  • Classwork. If you encounter someone who’s in the same class as you, then that immediately provides an easy conversation starter. Ask them how they feel about the class, or whether they’ve started on an upcoming assignment. Then, once the conversation is flowing well, you can easily transition the discussion to other subjects unrelated to the classroom.
  • Compliments. Giving compliments to new people is definitely an easy way to start a conversation. Who doesn’t like to be recognized for something? It can be a small compliment, such as the clothing they’re wearing, or something big, like one of their achievements. Whatever the compliment is, make sure to follow it up by expanding it into other areas. For example, if you compliment someone about their Nike jacket, follow it up by asking them if they have other Nike products, or whether they prefer it to other brands like Adidas.
  • Food. Whether it’s complaining about how dining hall food isn’t the best or discussing your favorite restaurant on Franklin Street, everyone perks up whenever the topic of food comes up. Talking about this subject also raises the possibility to hang out with the person you just met by inviting them to the restaurants that you are talking about.
  • Music/TV. Another easy conversation starter is talking about music, TV shows or movies. Almost everyone our age consumes these types of media on a daily basis, so there are always things to talk about. For example, "Avatar: The Last Airbender" was immensely popular on Netflix last year, so just mentioning the show in passing probably would’ve gotten a reaction from people. Even though its popularity has declined this year, the point still stands. If a show or movie is immensely popular, then talking about it with others should be very easy.

There are many more ways you can approach and talk to people, but the important thing is to always be nice and genuine. You shouldn’t feel like you’re always obligated to talk to new people, but at the same time, you shouldn’t completely close off the opportunity to meet them.


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