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Conversations and Making Friends

Two girls talking outside

Taking the First Step

If you want to make American friends, you may need to take the first step. Research shows that US students often don't initiate relationships with international students (see "There Is No Bridge Between Us").

Create Opportunities

  • Get to class early, sit near other students, and ask them questions.
  • Don’t spend all of your free time on your phone; try to interact with the people around you.
  • Start a study group in one of your classes. This is a great way to spend time with students outside of class, help each other academically, and start to build friendships.
  • Join a student group.

Start Conversations

  • If you see someone frequently (waiting at the same bus stop each morning, taking the same light rail in the evening, getting coffee at the same coffee shop as you), start a conversation with them. You can say something like “I see you here a lot. What’s your name?”
  • Keep reading below for information and advice on starting conversations and making small talk.

Small Talk Topics

How much do you know about good and bad small talk topics in the US? Take this quiz to find out.

This short video includes advice on introducing yourself, suggesting interesting topics, and encouraging people verbally and nonverbally.  [University of Minnesota students: to access the video click "Sign in" > click "Sign in with your organization portal" > type "umn.edu" > enter your internet ID and password.]

This funny seven-minute video includes a lot of good advice. It also explains the ARE method:

  • Anchor a good topic
  • Reveal information about yourself
  • Encourage the other person to talk about the topic

Learn how US culture is like a coconut, how your culture might be like a peach, and what you need to do to make small talk (and friends) in the two different kinds of cultures.

Read the video transcript. 

Video used with permission from Sheryl Holt's Effective Communication and Business Writing  Video Collection. Sheryl is the English Composition Coordinator for Non-Native Speakers of English at the University of Minnesota.  

Starting Conversations

This short video gives useful advice on how to enter (and exit) a conversation.  [University of Minnesota students: to access the video click "Sign in" > click "Sign in with your organization portal" > type "umn.edu" > enter your internet ID and password.]

 

Learn how to introduce yourself and ask questions:

Video used with permission from Sheryl Holt's Effective Communication and Business Writing  Video Collection. Sheryl is the English Composition Coordinator for Non-Native Speakers of English at the University of Minnesota.   

Quiz Yourself

Prepare some questions you can ask
to start a conversation with someone this week!

Keeping Conversations Going

 

Use body language to show you are paying attention and interested in a conversation. Here's how:

 

Give verbal signals to show you are paying attention and actively listening to conversations. Here's how:

Read the video transcript. 

Learn how to listen carefully and keep a conversation going.

Read the video transcript. 

Video used with permission from Sheryl Holt's Effective Communication and Business Writing  Video Collection. Sheryl is the English Composition Coordinator for Non-Native Speakers of English at the University of Minnesota.   

Ending Conversations

How you exit a conversation can vary in different countries and regions, but in the United States it usually involves three parts:

1. A time excuse

Give a time excuse (or the other person may end the conversation by giving a time excuse). You could also use body language here like looking at your watch, looking at a clock, or looking away.

  • Well, I’ve got to go to class.
  • I need to catch a bus soon.
  • It’s been nice talking to you, but I need to get going.
  • It was nice meeting you, but I should get going. I have a lot of homework to do.
  • I should go. I’m meeting my friend soon.
  • I’m going to go get some food. (Optional: would you like to join me?)
  • I’m going to go talk to… (Optional: would you like to join me?)

2. Thanks or a positive comment

Express thanks or say something positive about the meeting. This could also include making a general plan for a future meeting.

  • It was really helpful meeting with you.
  • Thank you for your time.
  • Thanks so much for your help.
  • I really enjoyed our chat!
  • It was so fun talking with you.
  • I’m glad we ran into each other!
  • Have a good afternoon/evening/weekend.
  • Have a good one.
  • I’ll see you in class tomorrow.
  • Let’s have coffee next week.
  • Text me when you’re back in town after break.
  • I’ll see you at the library this weekend.

3. Goodbye

Saying goodbye should be the last step. Phrases you can use include:

  • Goodbye.
  • Buh-bye.
  • Bye.
  • See ya later!
  • Later.
  • Take care.

 

This short video gives useful advice on how to exit (and enter) a conversation.  [University of Minnesota students: to access the video click "Sign in" > click "Sign in with your organization portal" > type "umn.edu" > enter your internet ID and password.]

 

Here are more helpful phrases to end a conversation politely.

Read the video transcript. 

Video used with permission from Sheryl Holt's Effective Communication and Business Writing  Video Collection. Sheryl is the English Composition Coordinator for Non-Native Speakers of English at the University of Minnesota.   

Quiz Yourself:

Can you correctly use the 3 steps to exit a conversation?
Test yourself with these 10 questions. 

Building Connections with Others

Join student groups or attend events on campus to meet other people!

 

This short video, "Connecting Through Questions," suggests questions to start a conversation. [University of Minnesota students: to access the video click "Sign in" > click "Sign in with your organization portal" > type "umn.edu" > enter your internet ID and password.]  Tips include

  • starting with positive comments,
  • asking indirect questions,
  • and using confident body language.

Even though the video is about business settings, the advice is useful in classroom situations too.

 

This six-minute video, "Making Introductions," explains how to introduce yourself and how to introduce two people to each other. These are both useful communication skills to help you meet people and build connections [University of Minnesota students: to access the videos, click "Sign in" > click "Sign in with your organization portal" > type "umn.edu" > enter your internet ID and password.]