Okay. So you open the door by introducing yourself, and asked an appropriate question and made a comment. Or maybe the other person opened the door, and you've answered their first question or two. What's next?

The next step is to listen carefully. Be genuinely curious and interested in the person. Listen carefully to what they say, so you can ask more questions about the topics they bring up. For example, you ask a general question: "How's your project going?" She answers, “It's hard.” What's your next question?

The hint, of course, is the word "hard," so you ask, “Why is it hard?” This could lead to a great small-talk conversation. Asking for more information is not rude, it's small talk.

You also should try to sound interesting and say words that encourage more conversation, like these.

  • I see.
  • Oh?
  • Mmmm.
  • Really?
  • That's interesting.

Body language also matters. Smile and try to have direct eye contact with the other person. For some cultures this is uncomfortable, but it matters in the United States, and people will feel that you're not interested if you look away too much. Also, sit comfortably, and look like you're enjoying this conversation. Remember this isn't an interview: it's a conversation.

  • Smile
  • Eye contact
  • Comfortable posture

Finally, be interesting. You have a lot of interesting things to share, and that will encourage more conversation and possibly a nice connection with the person or a later deeper friendship. Share something interesting you've done, places you've traveled, or hobbies you enjoy. Your experiences are unique, and often people want to hear about them.