How to join and leave a conversation

July 20, 2018

Are you going to an event where you don’t know anyone but would like to make new acquaintances?

It’s not easy to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, especially in a foreign language. However, these tips will get you started easily.

Observe the situation and listen

Before joining a conversation, it’s wise to observe the situation first. The body language of the others will tell you if it’s a conversation that is okay to join. You will notice very quickly if they are discussing personal matters and no one else is welcome.

When the topic is more general, you can worm your way in to the group. Listen to what the others are talking about. What do you know about the topic (and can talk about in a foreign language)?

Even if you don’t dare to open your mouth at first, always remember to make eye contact with the person who’s talking. Eye contact will make you look more receptive.

Be polite

If you aren’t familiar with the others, introduce yourself. You don’t need to start with the story of your life – it’s enough to tell your name. If you also want to tell where you’re from, you might start an interesting conversation!

When joining an already existing conversation, it’s crucial to be polite. Wait for a convenient opportunity and try something like the following phrases:

Entschuldigung, ich habe zufällig gehört, dass…           Excuse me, I happened to overhear…
Haben Sie gerade über … gesprochen?                         Were you just talking about…
Habe ich richtig gehört, dass…                                      Did I hear correctly that…

Darf ich mich Ihnen anschließen?                                 May I join you?
Entschuldigung, ist dieser Platz frei?                             Excuse me, is this seat free?

Don’t be afraid to start a conversation

Sometimes it’s less awkward to start a conversation with an unknown person than to stand there and say nothing. You don’t need to come up with a profound phrase to get started: the best phrases are connected to the situation you are in. ”Where do you know the bride and groom from?” or ”Those paintings are amazing!” are very neutral ways to start chatting.

If you’re at an occasion where people are playing parlour games or singing karaoke, don’t be afraid to ask if you can join in too. A friendly request will most likely be accepted, and the activity will give you an excuse to talk with many people.

Note that the expected answer to the question ”How are you?” can be quite different depending on the country you are in. For example, Finns might take the question literally and answer very honestly, but Germans are expected to answer ”Gut, danke”.

Ending the conversation

There are many ways to end a conversation easily. Just like when joining the conversation, it’s important to remember to be polite when ending it.

You can end the conversation by saying you will go get a new drink, need to find the men’s room or that you’d like to look around. If you are at a business event, this is the point where it’s natural to give your business card or ask your conversation partner for one.

To end the conversation, you can say ”It was nice to meet you” or wish the others a pleasant evening. ”See you” is a much-used phrase, and despite its literal meaning, it’s not a binding agreement to get in contact with your conversation partner later.

War nett, mit Ihnen zu plaudern             It was nice talking to you
Schönen Abend noch!                              Have a nice evening
Auf Wiedersehen!                                    See you


If you need any tips for maintaining the conversation, read the following articles:

Learn German


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