How to Start a Conversation with Someone on the Train, Bus or Subway

Have you ever wanted to talk to an attractive person on the bus or train but ended up waiting too long and letting him or her get away? Follow these steps to quickly spark a conversation the next time you're smitten, and never lose the love of your life (or at least the love of the week) again.


  1. Image titled Start a Conversation with Someone on the Train, Bus or Subway Step 1
    Understand the environment. Everyone is just trying to get from point A to point B, and they may get off the bus, train, or subway at the next stop. Thus you can't hesitate if you're going to talk to someone. Keep in mind that few people actually want to talk to strangers on their trip, but some will, especially if you seem nice and interesting. Be decisive, but don't be aggressive.
  2. 2
    Carry a prop. Bring some reading material that you can pretend to read. It will make you feel and appear more comfortable. Don't wear headphones unless you want to appear unapproachable.
Image titled Start a Conversation with Someone on the Train, Bus or Subway Step 2
  1. Image titled Start a Conversation with Someone on the Train, Bus or Subway Step 3
    Scope out the situation. OK, so someone has caught your eye. Before you try to initiate a conversation, make sure they're not with their significant other. If they're with anyone at all, proceed with caution, but remember, their companion may just be a friend or relative, or he or she may be a complete stranger who has the same idea that you do.
  2. Image titled Start a Conversation with Someone on the Train, Bus or Subway Step 4
    Position yourself for success. If you see the person while at the bus stop or train station, wait until he or she gets on the bus or train before trying to converse. Follow them in discreetly and sit opposite them if possible. You'll have a good chance to make eye contact this way, and besides, you might appear somewhat invasive if you sit down next to them. If they're standing, stand near enough to them to be able to speak with them, but don't get too close for comfort.
  3. Image titled Start a Conversation with Someone on the Train, Bus or Subway Step 5
    Try to make eye contact. Making brief eye contact can show the person that you're interested and help you gauge whether he or she is interested in you. Glance at the person (don't stare) and try to hold their gaze for just a second or two. Don't look away before she does! This shows confidence. Try to make eye contact again after about 30 seconds. If the person makes eye contact with you again, they probably find you attractive. Don't be too obvious, but make sure the person can see that you're looking at them. If they can't see you, you can't expect them to make eye contact.
  4. Image titled Start a Conversation with Someone on the Train, Bus or Subway Step 6
    Smile when making eye contact the second time. A small, but genuine smile makes you appear interested, friendly, and approachable. If the other person smiles back, you're probably in luck.
  5. Image titled Start a Conversation with Someone on the Train, Bus or Subway Step 7
    Use appropriate body language. Don't cross your arms or turn away from the person. Make yourself appear open and comfortable, and exhibit good (but not freakishly good) posture. Don't look at your watch or a clock constantly, as it will give the impression that you are in a hurry and the person might not talk to you, because they don't want to bother you.
  6. Image titled Start a Conversation with Someone on the Train, Bus or Subway Step 8
    Read the person's body language. If he or she exhibits open body language toward you, that's a great sign. If the person turns away or buries his or her head in a book, that's not so good.
  7. Image titled Start a Conversation with Someone on the Train, Bus or Subway Step 9
    Ask the person a question. A question is a great way to start a conversation, but not just any question will do. Ask an open-ended question that requires more than a "yes" or "no" answer. For example, ask, "How do you get to the Eiffel Tower?" instead of "Does this bus stop at the Eiffel Tower?" What you ask isn't really important, as long as it's not invasive, insulting or insane, e.g. the Eiffel Tower questions might seem dumb in New York.
  8. Image titled Start a Conversation with Someone on the Train, Bus or Subway Step 10
    Keep conversing. Listen attentively to the person's response to your question and then just make small talk. If the person is interested in you, the conversation will probably flow fairly naturally (unless he or she is shy) and you may be able to get a phone number or email address. Then casually be the first to leave. This will establish a self confidence in both of your minds. If the person isn't interested, you'll probably be able to tell pretty quickly.


  • If the person is sitting and you're standing, position yourself so that your crotch isn't in the person's face.
  • When making eye contact, keep your facial expression light and friendly, rather than straight and serious.
  • It can take some courage to actually talk to a stranger on the bus or train, but remember that this is really an ideal situation. If the person isn't interested, you probably won't see them again, and even if you do, you can just sit far away from them.
  • If a person hunches over or turns away from you, or if he or she fails to make good eye contact, they're probably not interested, but not necessarily so. Some people are just shy, and public transportation tends to accentuate this shyness. Don't expect much from a person who shows negative body language toward you, but at the same time don't assume he or she is not interested. If you're particularly brave, take a chance.
  • Get help from a friend. If you have friend, bring him on the train/subway/bus with you. Sit near the person you want to talk to, and start talking about something interesting or surprising. If you notice the person looking over or listening, smile and include them in the conversation by asking them what they think.
  • If the person makes eye contact and displays positive body language, but you can't get up the nerve to talk to him or her or you have to get off at the next stop, write down your phone number or email address on a piece of paper (a newspaper will work), smile at the person as you get off the bus or train, and hand them the piece of paper. If the person calls or sends you a note, great. If not, no big deal. Keep in mind that this is a very low-percentage approach, so don't expect a call. If you have time, it's best to just muster the courage to talk to the person.
  • Look for a ring. Look to see if your potential paramour is wearing a wedding or (if they're a woman) an engagement ring. If they're wearing a ring (ring finger of left hand) they're off limits. If they wanted you to approach them, they would have left their ring at home on the dresser.
  • If you get shot down and feel embarrassed, just get off at the next stop and board the next bus or train. Maybe someone else will catch your eye. If so, try again. Even if someone might be interested in you in other situations, they might not feel like talking on their commute, or they might be preoccupied. Don't take rejection personally.
  • If you have friend, bring him/her on the bus with you and talk about some interesting or surprising things that has happened or something about you such as "Guess what! I did..." Something that grabs the person's attention and might make them comment and from there you could converse with your friend the person. With a friend you might feel more comfortable. If the person talks with his/her friend a lot maybe you can figure out what the person is interested in, if he/she has pets and then you could talk about such things and they might join in.
  • You can gesture to the woman you're attracted to who is wearing headphones and signal her to take them off. Then precede with normal attraction. If she is interested, she'll keep them off.


  • Overall, don't worry if you get shot down. It's not an exact science; you don't know what kind of day the person you are trying to make a connection with is having. Maybe it's just a bad time. Don't let a failure shape how you think about yourself, or discourage you from trying again.
  • Don't stare at the person. Brief eye contact can show you're interested; staring can show you're creepy.
  • While the eye-contact test is a good way to gauge a person's interest in you, it's easy to misconstrue an innocent glance or, sometimes, a look of disgust for interest. Don't shy away from trying to talk to the person, but don't feel shocked or hurt if they don't seem interested when you do.
  • Sometimes, a person you strike up a conversation with will ask you for money. If you feel like you're being pressured to give them some, even when you honestly don't want to, tell them a clear and confident "No." Stay in control of your situation.
  • If you arrange to meet someone you've met on the bus or train, be safe. Meet in a very public place, and tell a friend or relative where you're going.
  • Some public transport systems are known for consistently being clogged with people who are in a hurry or just generally "Not in the mood" for being spoken to.
  • Avoid talking to someone if they're either reading a book or newspaper, or listening to music with their MP3 player (they may not want to be disturbed, and want some privacy). This is actually an imaginary barrier. You can make eye contact with the girl you like who is wearing headphones and gesture for her to remove them. You can then proceed with a normal conversation. If she is attracted to you and interested she will keep her headphones off. Finally, number close.

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Conversation Skills