The funny thing about workplace get-togethers, networking nights, and other social events is that, far too often, most people are too shy to actually talk to each other. Sure, there are those who can automatically walk up to anyone and talk about anything from the turnout of the event to the rearing of babies, but how rare are they?

So why is it so excruciatingly difficult to start a conversation? The root of the problem, aside from natural shyness, seems to be not knowing just how to start talking to someone in the first place. What do you say? Should introductions be made first? Some of us might have experienced carefully preparing the perfect introduction, only to find out that somebody else has gathered the nerve to talk to your target first.

An easy remedy for this is to plan what to say beforehand. To help you get used to the idea of initiating a conversation, here are questions you could ask:

(First published as "What are Friends For? How Effective Communication Spells the Difference in Successful Networking" in the "Good Money" section of Good Housekeeping Philippines' September 2010 issue. Adapted for use in Female Network. Additional reporting by Jennifer Chan. Screencap of Gossip Girl courtesy of The CW.)

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