Do you want to talk to a girl or guy, but you’re afraid of the conversation drying up? Maybe right now you’re thinking of speaking to someone you’re attracted to. Maybe you even have a date planned. It can be hard to converse with strangers, dates, and people you meet at parties. How do you know what you are supposed to say? Prepare fun and interesting topics of conversation and listen to others carefully in order to put yourself and everyone else at ease. But you just want to make sure you don’t run out of good things to talk about. You’re not alone if you’ve been in this situation before. I certainly have, many times. And I can understand that you want to prevent this from happening to you again, especially if you’re talking to a person who you like. So without further introduction, here the detail tips that you can refer back to anytime. You’ll notice most of them are fairly straightforward and “ordinary.” That’s because you don’t need to be talking about aliens and obscure philosophy in most conversations. Often simple and obvious topics are enough to kick-start your brain again.
Learning way to Small-talk
Sometimes people dismiss small-talk for being superficial or shallow. However, small-talk serves an important social function: it allows relative strangers to become acquainted with one another without causing either party stress or discomfort. Allow yourself to engage in small-talk without feeling bad or shallow. Small-talk is important talk too!
Pay attention to your environment.
Appropriate topics of conversation can depend quite a bit on the specific event you are attending. For example, you cannot talk politics at a work event, but political conversations are appropriate at a candidate’s fundraiser. Similarly, you will likely not want to “talk shop” at a friend’s party, but you might want to do so at a work event. In general it is a good idea to:
- Consider the common thread that brought you both to the event (work, a mutual friend, a mutual interest).
- Steer clear of controversial topics unrelated to the event.
- Remain polite and casual.
Ask questions that are simple but open-ended.
An open-ended question is one that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” and instead requires a more in-depth, personalized response. Ask your conversation partner some simple, basic questions about their lives that will allow you to get to know them without violating their boundaries. As a rule of thumb, anything you might be asked while setting up an online profile is game.
- What’s your hometown? What was it like?
- Where do you work? What keeps you busy?
- What did you think about (such-and-such) movie?
- What kind of music do you like? What are your top five bands?
- Do you read? Which three books would you bring with you onto a desert island?
Put a unique spin on the usual getting-to-know-you questions.
There are a number of traditional small-talk questions that have to do with your hobbies, job, and family. Think about a few twists you can incorporate in order to let your small-talk go a bit deeper without violating any personal boundaries. Some good options include:
- What’s the best surprise your life has thrown you so far?
- What’s your oldest friend like?
- What would be your ideal job?
- What’s one thing you think you would be really good at if you made the time to pursue it?
- What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Find out what the other person is interested in.
People love having a chance to share their passions; if you’re having trouble coming up with topics of your own, let the other person do all the heavy lifting by asking about a hobby, passion, or plan that they’re particularly excited about. This will put the other person at ease. They might even return the favor by asking about your interests.
- Who’s your favorite author/actor/musician/athlete?
- What do you like to do for fun?
- Do you sing or play any instruments?
- Do you play sports or dance?
- What are your secret talents?
Focus on positive topics.
People tend to bond more effectively over topics that are positive instead of negative, or critical topics. Try to find a topic about which you are both passionate instead of resorting to insults or criticisms in order to generate conversation. For example, don’t make small-talk at a dinner party about how much you hated the soup: talk about how you enjoyed the dessert instead. It is also a good idea to resist debating with your conversation partner. Share ideas respectfully without resorting to negativity.
Focus on conversation quality, not the quantity of topics.
If you get too wrapped up in the idea of having a lot of things to talk about, you might forget that one good topic can sustain a conversation for hours. Only when you’ve dried up a topic should you move on to the next. Of course, a good conversation tends to flow from topic to topic without effort; if you catch yourself thinking, “How did we end up on this subject?”, congratulations, you’ve got a good conversation going!
While the topic of conversation is important, your friendly demeanor might even be more significant to starting a successful conversation. Your relaxed attitude will put the other person at ease – and they will be more receptive to you because of it. Smile, pay attention, and show your concern for other people’s welfare.
Ask follow-up questions.
One of the best ways to find something to talk about is to encourage your conversation partner to share her thoughts, feelings, and ideas. If your conversation partner shares a detail about her life or tells a story, demonstrate your interest by following up. Make sure that you ask relevant questions. Do not steer the conversation toward yourself. For example, you might ask things like:
- “Why do you enjoy that (sport/show/movie/band/etc.)?”
- “I like that band too! What is your favorite album of theirs?”
- “What first drew you to (their interest)?”
- “I’ve never traveled to Iceland. What would you recommend a tourist do there?”
Defuse heated conversations.
Even if you try to avoid controversial topics, sometimes they happen anyway. Whether you or another person brings up a heated discussion topic, you can try to defuse it in a polite, careful way. For example, you might say:
- “Maybe we should leave the debating to the politicians and move on to another topic.”
- “This is a difficult topic, but I doubt we’ll solve it here. Perhaps we can leave this for another time?”
- “This conversation actually reminds me of (a more neutral topic).”
If you can give your conversation partner a sincere, honest, appropriate compliment, feel free to do so. That might spark a conversation and will help your conversation partner feel appreciated and comfortable. Some compliments might include:
- “I like your earrings. Might I ask where you got them?”
- “The dish you brought to the potluck was delicious. Where did you find the recipe?”
- “Soccer is a strenuous sport. You must keep yourself in great shape!”
- You can also gush about the host of your event, especially if both you and your conversation partner are acquainted with the host.
Find common interests but embrace differences.
If both you and your conversation partner share a passion, that is terrific. However, you can also take the opportunity to learn about new places, people, and ideas that you are unfamiliar with. Strike a balance between finding common ground and demonstrating curiosity about what is new to you. For example, if both you and your conversation partner play tennis, you might ask what kind of racquet she prefers. If you play tennis and she plays chess, you might ask about how chess tournaments are run and whether they differ from tennis tournaments.
Share the floor equally.
Finding suitable topics to discuss is an important part of being a good conversationalist. But knowing when to be silent is also key. After all, you want your conversation partner to enjoy talking with you as well. Aim for a 50-50 split in your conversation to make sure everyone feels appreciated and valued.
Pay attention to current events.
You will be more likely to have interesting things to say if you have interesting thoughts about the world. Pay attention to the news, popular culture, art, and sports. These will all provide you with easy ways to craft an interesting conversation that will be engaging to multiple persons. Some great conversation starters related to current events include:
- How a local sports team is doing
- An important local event (such as a concert, parade, or play)
- New movies, books, albums, and shows
- Significant news items
Show off your sense of humor.
If you are gifted with the ability to tell good jokes and funny stories, feel free to use that as you seek topics of conversation. Don’t force your sense of humor on others, but you can incorporate it into your conversation in a polite, friendly way. Be sure that your sense of humor is not one that relies on insults, too much sarcasm, or scatological humor however. These can be off-putting.
Don’t pretend to be an expert in a topic with which you are unfamiliar. Be honest and share your passions with others. Don’t force yourself into being something that you’re not.
- While it helps to be witty, funny, and interesting, don’t worry about meeting those high standards. Simply be a pleasant, friendly version of your authentic self.
- For example, rather than pretend to be an expert on traveling in Spain, you can simply say, “Oh! I’ve never been to Spain. What is your favorite part of traveling there?”
Don’t be afraid of conventional or amateur thoughts.
Sometimes people are hesitant to contribute to conversations because their ideas are not unique, unconventional, or creative enough. However, you shouldn’t be ashamed of having thoughts that resemble other people’s sometimes. If your knowledge of Monet doesn’t go past what you learned in high school, feel free to share what you do know and learn from others with more experience.
Consider previous conversations with this person.
If you’ve met your conversation partner before, ask a specific question related to your previous conversation. Were they preparing for a major work project or sporting event? Did they talk about their children or spouses? If you demonstrate that you were listening carefully in a previous conversation, they will feel appreciative and might open up to you.
Think about interesting events from your own life.
Think about the strange, interesting, baffling, or funny things that happened to you recently. Have you had any funny encounters or odd coincidences happen? Mention these to your conversation partners as a way to open up conversation.
End the conversation politely.
If you notice that you or your conversation partner is distracted or bored, politely exit the conversation. Simply make a polite excuse to mingle elsewhere and start other conversations. Remember that a successful conversation doesn’t have to be a long one: short, friendly conversations are important too. Some polite ways to end a conversation when its run its course include:
- “It was great to meet you! I’ll give you a chance to mingle with some other people here.”
- “It was a pleasure to talk to you about x. Hopefully we’ll run into each other again.”
- “I’m afraid I have to go say hi to (my friend/the host/my boss). I really enjoyed meeting you!”
Finding Deeper Topics to Discuss
Ask deeper questions as your comfort level increases.
Starting with small-talk is great, but deeper conversations can be even more satisfying. Once you and your conversation partner have grown comfortable with the simple questions, begin to ask more probing questions to see if he is receptive to a more substantive discussion. For example, if you’ve been discussing what you both do for a living, you might ask deeper questions such as:
- What is the most rewarding part of your career?
- Have you encountered any difficulties in your job?
- Where do you hope to be in a few years?
- Is this the career you expected, or did you take a nontraditional path?
Recognize the benefits of deep conversation.
Even introverts are usually made happier by engaging in conversations. In general, small talk makes people happy and substantive conversations make people even happier.
Test deeper topics slowly.
Don’t spring intimate conversations on somebody: introduce the topics slowly to see your conversation partner’s reaction. If they seem happy to engage, you can continue. If they seem uncomfortable, you can change the topic before any damage has been done. A few examples of ways to test out potentially hazardous conversation topics include:
- “I saw the political debate last night. What did you think?”
- “I’m pretty involved in my local church group. Is that something you’re involved in?”
- “I’m passionate about bilingual education, though I realize that’s a controversial topic sometimes . . .”
Have an open mind.
Convincing others of your point of view leads to negative emotions in your listener, whereas showing curiosity and respect for others leads to positive emotions. Don’t use topics of conversation as a soapbox: use them as a way to engage others. Listen respectfully to their opinions, even if they disagree with yours.
Test the waters with small details.
Sharing small, specific details from your own life and experiences is a great way to figure out whether someone else wants to engage with you. If you get positive responses, you can continue on that topic of conversation. Otherwise, steer the conversation in a new direction.
Answer a general question with a specific story.
If someone asks you a general question, answer it with a specific, brief anecdote about your experiences. This can help keep the conversation moving and inspire others to share their own personal experiences.
- For example, if someone asks you what you do for a living, you can tell a story about a weird thing that happened to you during your commute.
- If someone asks you what your hobbies are, you can talk about a time when you competed in an event instead of simply listing off all your hobbies.
- If someone asks you what movies you’ve seen lately, you can talk about a funny encounter you had at the movie theater.
Be honest about yourself.
Studies show that disclosing information about yourself can cause you to be liked more. While you shouldn’t overshare, being honest with others about your life, thoughts, and opinions will make people feel more comfortable sharing details about themselves. Don’t be too reserved or play your cards too close to your chest.
Ask deeper questions if your listener seems open to it. Questions about moral dilemmas, personal experiences, and vulnerabilities can lead to bonding, especially among people who have gotten to know each other a bit already. If, after testing the waters, your conversation partner seems open to deeper discussion, consider asking some more personal questions. Be sure to gauge your partner’s comfort level at all times, however, and steer the conversation to more casual topics if things begin to get awkward. Some questions could include:
- What were you like as a kid?
- Who was your biggest role model when you were growing up?
- Do you remember your first day of kindergarten? What was it like?
- What’s the hardest you’ve ever tried not to laugh?
- What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever seen?
- You’re in a sinking boat with an old man, a dog, and someone who’s just gotten out of prison. You can only save one. Which would it be?
- Would you rather die as a total unknown who did great things or as a world-famous hero who didn’t actually do the thing you were credited with?
- What’s your biggest fear?
- What’s the most embarrassed you’ve ever felt?
- What’s one thing you wish you could change about yourself?
- How different is your life from what you imagined it would be like when you were a kid?
Quick Tip: Less Questions, More Statements About Yourself
I’ve worded most of these conversation topics as questions, but here’s a quick warning: Asking too many questions in a row can sometimes make the other person feel like they’re being interrogated!
I recommend you use these topics I’m giving you… to think of statements to share about yourself.
For example, instead of asking them directly “What countries have you traveled to?”… instead answer the question yourself first. So you might say something like: “I went to India and Belgium last year. I love visiting countries with great food.“
By making a statement like this, you’ve introduced the conversation topic of travel without asking a question directly. Best of all, you shared something about yourself first, which makes the other person want to open up more. Because of the law of reciprocity, the other person will usually share what countries they’ve been to automatically, or they may ask you a question about your travels.
The lesson here is that conversations usually flow smoother when you make more statements instead of always asking questions. Other people do love talking about themselves, but you have to contribute to the conversation, too. Asking too many questions can even annoy some people and make you seem needy.
50 Interesting Conversation Topics To Talk About With Anyone
If you find out what a person’s hobbies are, you instantly know a lot more about them. Hobbies are things people do without being paid to, just because they enjoy them. Some examples are: yoga, photography, working out, meditation, shopping, etc.
The best question I’ve found for finding out someone’s hobbies is:
- What do you do in your free time? Simple and effective. This also has the benefit of being an open ended question. If this doesn’t get you a great reply you can ask more specific questions like…
- Do you play any musical instruments?
- Do you draw, paint or do art?
- Do you like dancing?
- Talk about technology, gadgets, cars. (Best if you’re a guy talking to another guy. Yes this is a shameless stereotype, but I’ve yet to meet a girl who enjoys talking about computer specs with me — though I’m sure they exist!)
Some people say you shouldn’t talk about work. I think that’s ridiculous. When you stop and listen to what people usually talk about, work and school are at the top of the list.
After all, people do spend several hours a day at these places. And their work or school are often related to an area they’re very passionate about. Their coworkers are also some of the people they spend the most time interacting with.
However, be warned: for some people these topics can be boring. Older people may be sick of talking about their work, and other people may only be doing a boring job for the money, like a student cashier or construction worker.
- What do you do/study? (Yes, the simplest and most common way to start a conversation.)
- What is your most (or least) favorite subject in school?
- How do you get along with the people you work with? (People love talking about their relationship and frustrations with other people. Yes, it’s gossip, but you also learn a lot about how the person works this way.)
- Do you love working there or are you doing it for the money? (This can be a playful question on a date, not a good idea at a networking event.)
- What is your dream job? Another way to ask this: If money didn’t matter, what would you do with your time?
Many of the most memorable experiences in people’s lives came from traveling. When you’re in an unfamiliar place, in the middle of a new and strange culture… that’s gonna make a big impact on you.
And even if someone hasn’t traveled a lot yet, they usually have dreams of traveling in the future. Either on vacations or later in retirement.
- What countries have you traveled to? (If you two have visited the same country, you may be able to talk about those shared experiences for hours.)
- What was your biggest experience of “culture shock” in another country?
- Where in the world would you love to live most? Why?
- How does your home country compare to here? (If they were born/raised in a different country.)
- What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you while traveling? (Be careful with this one, although you will get some interesting responses. I’ve heard people getting robbed by taxi drivers, getting scammed for a few bucks, etc.)
- Have you ever traveled by yourself? (Or you can ask would they?)
- Do you speak any other languages?
Walk around in public, and you will always hear people talking about movies, TV shows and books. For some reason, people love talking about stories and the characters inside them they feel like they know. There’s always new ones coming out, so the topic never really gets stale.
- What’s your favorite movie (or TV show) ever?
- Which movie/book/show are you ashamed to admit you love? (Lots of people read books like Twilight or watch reality TV as a guilty pleasure.)
- Which movie are you most looking forward to being released?
- What kind of books do you usually read? What was the last one you read? (This question is great if you’re on a date and trying to find an intelligent person!)
- What kind of music are you into right now? (A study found talking about music preferences leads to a quicker connection because music reveals your values to others!)
- What concerts have you been to? (If someone spends the money and time to go see an artist live, it means they like them a lot.)
- What movies have you watched more than once? Or what books have you read multiple times? (I’ve watched the Breaking Bad TV show 3 times already because it’s my favorite.)
- Do you play video games? (When someone is REALLY into video games, it’s a large part of their daily life.)
This is a light and fun topic. Everybody eats, and most people enjoy talking about their personal taste in food. If this is your first conversation with someone, then don’t try to figure out the meaning of life. Find out what type of food you should try!
- Talk about a recent restaurant you or they went to. How was it different than others, why was it good, why was it bad?
- What type of cooking do they do at home? Do they dislike it or find it relaxing?
- Do they usually cook food from a specific culture? (For example, maybe their parents are from Vietnam and that’s 90% of the food they eat.)
- Do they follow any specific diet? Like vegan or paleo for example. This can tell you A LOT about their personal values. (Don’t ask this to a fat person, they will probably get offended if they are sensitive about their weight.)
The challenge with talking about past experiences, is that you usually don’t want to get too personal too quickly. If you do, the conversation may start to sound like a therapy session.
On a romantic date some of these questions may be appropriate. In other situations you’ll want past stories to come up more spontaneously, as they relate to whatever topic is being talked about. For example, if the topic of some new music trend comes up, you can mention what type of music you were into as a kid.
- Where did you grow up?
- What were you like as a kid? (Behaved, rebellious, quiet, attention-seeking, etc.)
- What did you want to be when you grew up? (You can also turn this into a funny question by asking them “What do you want to be when you grow up?”… even if they’re an adult.)
- What were your past jobs like?
- Do you have any siblings?
- Find out if you two shared any common interests as kids. (Maybe you were both interested in Pokemon, Harry Potter, etc. This can be an amazing way to build a lot of rapport quickly.)
This one is something most people miss… Back when I had a hard time carrying conversations, I’d often desperately try to think of new random topics to talk about out out of thin air. I would search my brain for something cool to say… like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat. As you can guess, this didn’t work that well.
What I’ve now realized is that making small observations about your environment is a great way to restart any conversation. Instead of racking the inside of your brain searching for something to say… instead try looking around you and pointing something out in the environment. This will often naturally lead to other things you two can discuss.
- If this is your first time meeting… Why are you both here now? If it’s an art gallery or a business networking event… that is the best topic to start the conversation with.
- Make a comment about something they’re wearing. Maybe it’s an interesting piece of jewellery or a compliment about their shirt.
- What other people are nearby? (Talk about what they’re doing, guess what their personality is like, maybe even make up a funny conspiracy story.)
- Is there anything new, unusual or different about your environment?
- Put more attention into your physical senses… Is there music playing? Some smell that you didn’t notice before? Are you eating something? What can you feel touching your skin?
People love talking about what they are looking forward to. The challenge here is not to sound like a job interviewer with something like “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
- What are you doing this weekend? (Very common conversation topic. This is a great way to start a conversation with someone you already know.)
- What local events are you looking forward to? (This could be a festival, holiday, concert, protest, or anything.)
- Would you prefer to live in the city or on a farm?
- What’s your main goal right now? What are you trying to accomplish?
Almost nothing is more fascinating to most people than talking about how people work. Why? Because much of the meaning in our lives come from our connections. And to get what you want in life, you have to know how to handle people.
Talk about men or women. I’ve seen guys connect very quickly talking about women, what they do, and how they operate. And I’ve heard this is even more true when women talk to each other about men.
- Ask them what their friends are like? Are they very similar to each other, or opposites?
- Have they had with the same friends most of their life, or made a lot of new ones?
- Ask about their family. Who did they live with? Were they strict, or easy going?
- Talk about some interesting idea you know from psychology. If you read a lot of psychology books like I do, this is easy. You can tie it into a story they just said.
- What do you believe is true that most people would disagree with you on? (This is a bit of an unusual deeper question, but I’ll put it in here since it’s really powerful. In fact, one of the most influential investors in the world says this his top interview question.)
20 Topics To Get The Conversation Started Again
- What’s your earliest memory of feeling wonder?
- What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
- Tell me your most embarrassing story—I promise not to judge!
- If you could take a pill that made you smarter, a la Bradley Cooper in Limitless, would you?
- Where did you go on your very first date?
- What’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled?
- How much money would it take to make you happy?
- If you could keep any kind of animal as a pet, what would it be? What would you name it?
- What is the best present you’ve ever given?
- Have you ever been jealous of your best friend?
- What’s your favorite (or least favorite) word?
- If you wrote a sitcom about your life, what would you name it?
- What was your biggest achievement—before you turned 10?
- Tell me every nickname you’ve ever had and how you got them.
- What do you most fear?
- What is the best possible thing I could ever do for you?
- Is anything worth giving up sex for?
- What was the first thought you had when you saw me for the first time?
- If you could have a second home somewhere, where would it be?
- How would you spend your last day if you knew you had only one more to live?
Demonstrating Good Conversation Skills
Pay attention to eye contact.
People who make eye contact are usually the ones who wish to engage in conversation. Eye contact can also help you determine whether a topic of conversation is one that your conversation partner will enjoy. If he begins to seem distracted or look elsewhere, you should consider changing the topic, asking your partner a question, or politely ending the conversation.
Embrace the occasional silence.
Silences happen. Feel free to embrace these silences, especially with those with whom you are already close. Don’t feel obligated to fill every break in a conversation with your opinions, questions, and stories: sometimes these breaks are natural and positive.
Create intentional breaks in the conversation.
Pause every once in a while as you speak. This will allow your partner to change topics, ask you questions, or end the conversation if necessary. Be sure that you are not monologuing.
Resist the urge to overshare.
If you are first getting to know somebody, you should withhold your most intimate details until you get to know them better. Oversharing might make you appear gossipy, inappropriate, or shocking. Keep things factual but appropriately intimate until you become better acquainted. Some topics to avoid oversharing about include:
- Bodily or sexual functions
- Recent breakups or relationship turmoil
- Political and religious opinions
- Gossip and salacious stories
Avoid sensitive topics.
Topics that people do not like discussing in the workplace include personal appearance, relationship status, and socioeconomic status. Political and religious affiliations can also be taboo, depending on the context. Be sensitive to your listener and try to keep things casual and light until you have a better sense of what they are interested in.
Avoid long stories or monologues.
If you have a funny story to share, make sure that it is brief or that it has something to do with your listener’s interests. Just because a topic is interesting to you doesn’t make it interesting to others. Feel free to share (briefly) your interests and enthusiasms, and then gauge your listener’s responses. Let them ask you follow-up questions (if they are interested in learning more) or change the subject (if they’d rather discuss something else).
Take the pressure off yourself.
It is not just your responsibility to keep the conversation going—it takes two to tango. If the other person is really not interested in your conversation, find another person to converse with. Don’t beat yourself up over an unsuccessful conversation.
Demonstrate active listening skills.
Maintain eye contact and listen carefully when your conversation partner is speaking. Do not appear distracted or bored. Show that you are engaged and interested.
Have open body language.
Conversations will go more smoothly if you smile, nod, and show interest with your body language. Don’t shift too much, cross your arms, look down at your toes, or stare at your phone. Maintain an appropriate amount of eye contact and face your conversation partner openly.