5 Conversation Starters for When You Need to Make Small Talk
Can’t think of anything to say? You’re not alone; these five smart conversation tips for small talk are especially helpful for people with introverted personality traits, to whom making conversation may not come naturally.
“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative,” said Mark Twain. You might use that quote if you need to end a conversation. Or you could read 6 Ways to Get Out of a Boring Conversation at a Party.
That said, however, making conversation about the weather works if all else fails! These five smart conversation tips will spark discussions — plus, they’re easy to remember because they’re interesting. For more fascinating facts about everything from Shakespeare to astronomy, read Know It All: The Little Book of Essential Knowledge by Aldridge, Humphrey, and Whitaker.
1. Talk about your oddest job ever
Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), and he was a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi – a river that played a huge role in his The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. To make small talk, ask questions such as “What’s the most unusual job you’ve had, and what did it teach you about life?”
- Conversation tip: Offer your own answers to your questions — and really listen to your conversational partner’s answers. Follow up with questions who, what, when, where, why, and how.
2. Favorite newspaper or magazine
“The first English-language daily newspaper, The Daily Courant, appeared in London in 1702,” write the authors in Know It All. To make small talk, ask, “If you had to choose three newspapers or magazines to read for the rest of your life, what would they be?”
- Conversation tip: When you’re making conversation with both strangers and people you know well, you don’t often know in advance what will take off and what will flop. Don’t be afraid to introduce offbeat questions or topics — it will be appreciated!
3. Time races by
“Einstein reasoned that if the speed of light is constant, then the passage of time would depend on your movement,” write the authors in Know It All. “This means the passage of time can differ slightly for different people, and even for clocks.” To make small talk, ask questions such as “What makes time speed by for you – what activities, hobbies, or people? What makes time drag for you?”
- Conversation tip: Ask questions about your conversation partner’s hobbies and interests. The more interest you show, the more interested and interesting you’ll become!
If you’re an introvert, read How to Make Conversation for Introverts: Tips for Small Talk.
4. Investing money
An early example of an equities market existed in the second century BCE in Rome, but it wasn’t until after the medieval era that many European countries established markets. And, the stock markets crashed after 9/11 and the oil crisis in 1973 (and of course right before the Great Depression). To make small talk, ask “What was the first stock you invested in?”
- Conversation tip: If you’re unwilling to share your answers to a particular question, then don’t ask other people that question! And, remember that different people have different levels of “conversational tolerance.”
5. The most amazing sights
The original 7 Wonders of the World are Egypt’s Great Pyramid at Giza, the Lighthouse at Alexandria in Egypt, Greece’s statue of Zeus on Mount Olympus, the Colossus of Rhodes, Turkey’s Temple at Artemis, Persia’s Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. To make small talk, ask a question such as “Have you seen any wonders of the world? Or, what wonderful sights have you seen, that you think should be a ‘wonder of the world'”?
- Conversation tip: Talking about travel, vacations, and experiences overseas is a great way to connect with people and keep the conversations lively. Another great conversation starter is asking where the next vacation is…and sharing what you’re planning!
If you have any questions or tips on these smart conversation tips for small talk, please comment below. And, if you need tips for making conversation on a first date, read 10 First Date Conversation Tips.