Conversation Starters: How to Gain Anyone’s Trust in Seconds

Conversation Starters: How to Gain Anyone’s Trust in Seconds
Gwen Lamar
Gwen Lamar

Gwen Lamar

6 min read0 reads

When you don’t have good conversation starters at your disposal, new interactions can go something like this:

conversation starters

Awkward — but avoidable.

Whether you want to spark replies from prospects or simply lighten up your water cooler talk, you’ve come to the right place.

Below are 5 effective conversation starters, email examples, and the science behind why they work.

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5 Good Conversation Starters That Establish Trust

1. Mention a Shared Interest to Increase Your Likeability

We all know the old adage: “Birds of a feather flock together.”

According to the Similarity-Attraction Effect, people want to be around others with common attitudes, values, and preferences.

Why? Social reinforcement.

Interacting with someone who has your shared beliefs or interests validates your own feelings.

Pro tip: Avoid using a generic shared interest and instead steer towards an uncommon commonality. Adam Grant, author of Give and Take puts it best:

Similarities matter most when they’re rare. We bond when we share uncommon commonalities, which allow us to feel that we fit in and stand out at the same time.

How to do this:

  • Search social media for a shared interest, hobby, like, or dislike.
  • Reference the shared interest at the beginning of your conversation.

conversation starters

2. Use a Mutual Connection to Establish a Bond

As humans, we’re wired to connect with other people. Bringing in a mutual connection transforms you in the eyes of your recipient from someone reaching out with a need into another person just like them.

How to do this:

  • Find a mutual connection on LinkedIn: Go to the “Highlights” section of their profile to see any connections you have in common.
  • Let your recipient know about the connection: Include how you know that person. Chances are, your recipient will let the person know you reached out.
  • Include positive details about the connection: How we talk about other people reflects how people see us. If you say something nice about someone, people will associate those traits with you.

conversation starters

Here’s a brief template to get your conversation started:

Hi {!First Name},

I noticed on your {!social media} that you’re connected with {!mutual connection}. {!How you know mutual connection}. Such a {!quality 1}, {!quality 2} person.

3. Ask For Their Opinion to Build Trust

As humans, we love to talk about ourselves. We spend 40 percent of our day doing it.

In a research experiment, volunteers were given two options: answer a question about someone else and receive money or answer a question about themselves and receive no payment.

Despite the financial incentive, volunteers willingly gave up 17 to 25 percent of their potential earnings for the opportunity to talk about themselves.

In another experiment, neuroscientists proved through MRI scans that talking about ourselves increases activity in the pleasure center of our brains.

How to do this: Ask for someone’s opinion early on.

According to Keith Ferrazzi’s best-selling novel Never Eat Alone, here are three elements that should be included in your question:

  1. Set the stage: Give your recipient a moment to switch gears and become receptive to your ask.
  2. Give a reason: We crave explanations and need to know why we’re wanted to do something.
  3. Provide an escape clause: When you give someone a way out, you double the chances they’ll say yes. It’s a classic copywriting formula.

Check out this email campaign sent by Content and Engagement Manager Elise Musumano that won a 38% reply rate:

conversation starters

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4. Do a Favor to Get One in Return

If you help someone advance their goals, they’ll feel obliged to return the favor.

It’s the Law of Reciprocity.

In an experiment that highlighted reciprocity in tipping behaviors, waiters gave customers a piece of candy and then let them select a second one before leaving the bill on the table.

Their tips increased by 21%.

What does this mean? People feel obliged to return an act of generosity, even when they didn’t ask for it in the first place.

How to do this:

  • Find a piece of content that would help your recipient in his or her role.
  • Link to the content in your email, explaining upfront that you thought they might find it useful.

conversation starters

5. Use a Little Flattery to Win Your Way In

Flattery (whether sincere or not) can create a positive impression on you and your company.

A recent study indicates that insincere and genuine flattery are equally effective. So, even if your recipient knows your ulterior motives, they will still think highly of you.

How to do this:

  • Look at their LinkedIn for personal/professional accomplishments (recent promotion/title change, work anniversary, the publication of an article, etc.)
  • Set a Google alert for their company so you’re the first to know when any major announcements come up.

Here’s how you can add your recipient’s accomplishments to the first line of your cold email:

conversation starters

Major takeaways

The best conversation starters put the spotlight on the person you’re speaking to. Here’s how:

  1. Mention an uncommon commonality.
  2. Use a mutual connection to establish a bond.
  3. Ask for their opinion to build trust
  4. Do a favor to get a favor in return.
  5. Give them a compliment to win an in with just about anyone.

conversation starters


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