Building new relationships with people you barely know can be a real challenge. But in business, quickly building relationships with someone you've just met--a co-worker, a prospective customer, a supplier--is an especially important skill to have. So how exactly do you break the ice when you meet someone for the first time?

The most straightforward first step, of course, is to find common ground. After having introduced yourself, you should find something in common that connects you right away. I was personally fortunate to live in a variety of different states when I was growing up--moving every four years or so--and I can almost always find something to talk about with everyone new I meet. A common interest is what opens the door to more conversation--and keeping words up is key when you first break the ice with a person.

Talk about stuff that genuinely interests you, but also things that you think will resonate with the other person, in order to learn about him or her below just a surface level.

Although focusing on shallow topics to start--such as the weather or sports or your favorite new film--makes breaking the ice easier, your goal should be to move on to deeper topics as you gain familiarity with the other person.

In reality, all it actually takes is one joke, anecdote, or well-timed story in order to show other people that you understand them. Perhaps it's a connection about astrology, a mutual friend at work, or a common breakfast spot you shared growing up. Whatever it may be, it's the one spark that ends up transforming the interaction from being acquaintance-like to being true friendship--even if you've only known the person for a matter of minutes.

Breaking the ice, while difficult at first, is an art that can be improved and a skill that can be learned--even by the most socially uncomfortable among us.

The key to succeeding is simply to continue trying different topics until you find one that you both feel equally passionately about. Once it's been discovered, you've won the other person over.

Your relationship is sure to grow from that moment on. Turns out breaking the ice isn't so hard after all.