31 Good Things To Talk About With Anyone
Have you ever been in that uncomfortable situation at a party when you have no idea what to say to the person standing in front of you?
You want to engage in conversation, if only to be polite, but you feel too shy, tongue-tied, or just at a complete loss for something intelligent to say.
So you stand there shuffling your feet, looking anywhere but at the other person (or people), praying you'll be magically teleported out of the room.
Most of us have felt this discomfort in social situations on occasion, but there are those with more naturally reserved personalities who struggle socially more often than not.
When my son was little, he was shy and reserved in new situations. He would hold back and remain quiet until he felt more comfortable joining in with the group.
As he got a older and would go to sleepovers, participate in after-school activities, and interact with more adults, he was involved in situations that required he introduce himself and speak up.
We discussed how important it is in certain situations, especially when meeting adults, to confidently introduce yourself and make a bit of small talk.
I knew mastering this skill would provide immediate positive results and give him a sense of self-assurance. And I knew it would pay off in the future throughout school, when he got his first job, or in any situation when making a first impression.
I taught him to smile, look people directly in the eye, extend his hand, and have one or two questions or comments handy to engage the person he was meeting.
I reminded him it would be uncomfortable the first few times he did this, but in time it would feel more natural and easy.
Over the next few years, I can't tell you the number of people who remarked to me, “Your son is so polite and poised. I was really impressed with the way he introduced himself.”
Of course that made me feel proud, but also it gave me a great sense of comfort that he had mastered one of the most important skills anyone can have — the ability to confidently meet someone new and start a conversation.
For anyone who is reserved, shy, or feels uncomfortable in social situations, starting a conversation can be overwhelming. You feel self-conscious and awkward, and often the fear and anxiety is triggered just anticipating the situation.
31 Good Things To Talk About With Anyone
One of the biggest concerns about meeting new people or participating in group conversation is not knowing what to say and fearing you'll embarrass yourself.
But if you learn the four simple skills I taught my son, and you practice them in manageable and small situations, you'll eventually be able to start a conversation with ease.
Remember . . .
- look the person in the eye
- extend your hand
- have a few questions or topics of conversation handy to engage the other person
If you need some ideas for conversation topics, here are 31 you might consider.
Choose a few that resonate with you, write them down, and keep them in your wallet or purse for those times when you are in new social situations.
1. Comment on something attractive about the person's attire or appearance which shows you are noticing them in a positive light. We all love a bit of sincere flattery. “What a beautiful dress. Where did you get it?” “Those glasses are cool. I've been looking for frames like that.”
2. Remark on the event or the surroundings. This is a great fallback discussion topic when you feel flummoxed. “I've been looking forward to this party all week. How do you know (the host or hostess)?” “Do you know the band who's playing tonight?” “I've never been to Sharon's home before. It's incredible don't you think?”
3. Bring up something positive or interesting about the person you are talking to. Show genuine interest and curiosity in this person. “Jack told me you recently moved here. How do you like the area so far?” “I've heard you're an amazing tennis player. Do you play for a league?”
4. Bring up a current event. Just be sure it isn't a controversial topic like politics or religion. Sports, a music event, or a positive news story are usually safe ground. “Did you happen to see the hockey finals in the Olympics? What an incredible game.”
5. Ask about the person's career or profession. Have some follow-up questions in mind as you learn more about this person. “So tell me what you do?” “You have an interesting job. How did you get into that?”
6. Remark about something funny or interesting that happened to you recently. People love stories and hearing useful information. “I have to share what happened on the way over here today. It was crazy.” “Did you notice the new restaurant on the corner? I tried it the other day, and it was fantastic.”
7. Bring up something you've recently read or a movie you've seen recently. Talk about why you liked it or how it was meaningful to you. “Have you read The Goldfinch? I haven't read such a great novel in a long time.” “I just saw the most amazing movie, and I can't stop thinking about it.”
8. Ask about the person's family. This is an easy topic for people to discuss, as we all like to share the positive things happening with our kids and family members. “Tell me what your children are up to these days.” “Do you have family in town?”
9. Remark on the person's name if it's interesting or unusual. “Barrie is such a different name for a woman. How did you get it?”
10. Say something about the weather (boring but effective). “Can you believe how much snow we've been getting? I've been trapped in my house for days. I'm so glad to get out!”
11. If you notice someone standing alone, approach them and introduce yourself. “Hi, I'm Barrie. I wanted to introduce myself. What brought you here today?” “Hi I'm John. Are you as clueless as I am about the agenda for this event?”
12. If you want to join a group of people already talking together, approach them and wait for a break in the conversation and introduce yourself. “Hi, I'm Barrie Davenport. Do you mind if I join the conversation — you look like you are having so much fun.”
13. Say something humorous or self-deprecating. Humor is a great way to break that awkward tension. “If I'd known there would be so many glamorous people here, I'd have worn my tiara.” “I'm sure glad I'm not cooking for this hungry crowd.”
14. Bring up one of your own hobbies or interests. “I recently got a new bike, and I'm so glad it's finally stopped raining so I can test it out. Do you ride?” “I love these hors d'oeuvres. I need to ask Susan for the recipe to share with my cooking class friends.”
15. Comment on the food or wine. “Have you tried the pasta dish? It is delicious.” “What do you think of the wine? I haven't tried it yet.”
16. Ask about the person's youth or past. Everyone has a story to tell and interesting things to share about themselves. “Where did you grow up?” “What did you do before you got into sales?” “I also lived in Cincinnati growing up. What part of town did you live in?”
17. Ask about alma maters. “Where did you go to college?” “Did you go to school here in the Atlanta area?”
18. Remark on something you've noticed the person doing. “I saw you talking to David. Did you know he recently bought a new house?” “I noticed you drawing in your journal. Are you an artist?”
19. Ask a question about travel. “So if you could visit any country in the world, what would it be?” “What is the most memorable trip you've ever taken?” “I hear you are visiting from London. How has your trip here in Chicago been so far?”
20. Ask about the person's day or week. “Did anything interesting or exciting happen in your life today?” “So what has your week been like? Has the rain kept you as shut-in as it has me?”
21. Comment on what you have planned for the week which will open the door for questions or comments from the other person. “I have to be in New York this week for a meeting, and I'm looking for a new restaurant to try. Do you know anything good?” “My kids are visiting from San Francisco this week, and I'm thinking about taking them to the new art exhibit.”
22. Remark on a possession the other person has. “I love your car. What made you decide on a convertible?” “I hear you just bought a new house. Are you all settled in?” “How do you like that iPhone 8? I've been thinking about upgrading.”
23. Ask a slightly disconcerting or funny question. “So tell me, what is the most spontaneous thing you've ever done?” “So if you had to have dinner with one person from history, who would it be?”
24. Mention something you're working on, and ask for an opinion. “I'm working on an essay about climate change. What are your thoughts about it?” “I've been trying to grow tomatoes, but they aren't taking off. Have you had any success growing them?”
25. Comment on the music playing. “I really love this music. I don't think I've heard this band before. Do you know them?”
26. Follow up on a comment you heard the person make. “So I heard you say you were recently in Paris. Was that for business or pleasure?” “I couldn't help but overhear you say you work in IT. I do as well and wondered who you work for.”
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27. Tell a story or make a joke. But be careful not to do so at someone's expense or to share something inappropriate (unless you know the group well). “A few years back, I was at an event just like this, and something really funny happened.” “You won't believe what just happened in the other room.” “I have to tell you a story about something similar that happened to me last week.”
28. Ask for help with a problem or question. “I'm trying to decide between a Mac and a PC. What do you think is the best option?” “Do you know what the schedule is for the evening?”
29. Invite someone to open up and be vulnerable by doing it yourself. “You know I was really nervous about coming here tonight, but everyone here is so friendly.” “I really wondered if Amy was going to invite me, but I'm so glad she did.”
30. Talk about recent TV shows you've been watching. “I finally finished watching all of the seasons of Breaking Bad, and I'm so sad it's over. Have you watched it?” “So what are you binge watching on Netflix these days?”
31. Take a risk to get to know the person better or have a second meeting. “I really enjoyed talking to you. Would you like to grab coffee sometime soon?”
Engaging with new people can be intimidating, but you can't allow fear and anxiety to prevent you from the joys of conversation and developing new friendships and relationships.
It all begins with that first smile and introduction. Challenge yourself to initiate conversation by preparing with some of the topics I outlined, or come up with your own conversation topics to get the conversation started.
Do you have any favorite opening lines or conversation topics? Please share them in the the comments below.