We’ve all been there, standing awkwardly in the elevator with a coworker in silence. When you find yourself in this situation you have two choices: pretend like you’re busy on your phone or actually have a conversation. Of course it would be all too easy to whip out your iPhone and start mindlessly scrolling through your apps but why not challenge yourself and start up a conversation?

It may feel like the only thing you have in common with coworkers is work but you’d be surprised what you can find out about someone by just asking questions. You never know, you may just find out they’re as obsessed with Pokémon as you are.

Here are some ideas to help you have better conversations with your coworkers.

Start with a simple “how was your day?”

Never underestimate the power of small talk. Asking a simple question can help you start a conversation. If you’re not getting much engagement in return, feel free to offer up something interesting that happened to you that day. This could be as simple as a cool lunch spot you found near the office or something interesting you heard in the news that day.

Ask questions

If a simple ‘how was your day’ wasn’t enough, ask a question. Everyone loves to talk about themselves or to showcase their knowledge. Try asking about what projects they are currently working on. This will also help you to get insight into what other sides of the business are doing, which is always a good thing.

If you work with this person closely on a daily basis and already know what projects they are working on, ask them about their personal life. Don’t be weird about it though, some people prefer to keep work and life separate. Simple questions like ‘what are you doing this weekend?’ or ‘what did you do last weekend’ open the doors for the person to get as personal or impersonal as they want. Make sure to ask open-ended questions so you’re sure to get more of a response than just ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

Flattery goes a long way

You will always be able to find something about your coworker that you like. Maybe it’s their glasses, their outfit, or a new nail polish colour, whatever it is offer up a compliment. If you’re complimenting an accessory or piece of clothing, you can even ask where they bought it to start more of a discussion.

Find common ground

Finding out what you have in common with a coworker is a great way to get the conversation flowing. For example, a lot of people love taking vacations. Finding out if they have any upcoming trips or where they took their last vacation is a great way to spark a meaningful conversation. Finding out if they have pets or children is another good start.

To help in this area, make sure you listen around the office. We’re not saying you need to eavesdrop on every conversation but sitting at your desk all day with your headphones on isn’t going to be a great way to find out more information about the people around you. Make sure to show you’re open to conversation if the opportunity presents itself.

Stay professional 

When it comes to office conversations the best way to ensure success is to divert certain other topics. Being an office gossip may spark a conversation right away but will have a negative lasting effect on your reputation at the office.

Talking about your personal relationships are also not a great idea. No one wants to hear about the latest fight with your boyfriend or mother, keep that for your friends outside of work. Other personal topics like religion or political viewpoints may not be a good idea to bring up in the workplace either. You never want to make another person feel uncomfortable so choose your topic of conversation to match your audience.

Taking the time to get to know the people you work with will help to increase your job satisfaction. It’s always nice having a friend or two in your workplace. Plus, you can never have too many friends!