We all have to get started with a conversation with someone new even if they are quite unlike us. Some non threatening topics to break the ice, discuss:
- the weather
- compliment their clothing, hair style or some jewelry without into a sexual harassment category
- ask about something in common you may have with them, kids, job, hobbies
- throw out some humor and get the conversation started with a laugh
- ask some open ended questions about what do you think about something, sports, local economy, current news without judging
That should be a start. Avoid politics, hot debated topics or religion. You don't know anyone right off the bat to see where they stand on any of that.
Once a conversation gets going see if they are more the talker type or the listener type. If talker for them just ask short questions back. If they are the listener type, you talk and see if they are in agreement or differing viewpoint than yours and go down those paths of agreement. Sprinkle in LOTS of humor. Almost any kind of stress is completely broken up with humor. Maintain warm eye contact showing true sincerity and interest in another.