- How To Mingle And Talk To People At Parties
- A big factor in how well things will go are the party’s characteristics
- Don’t psych yourself out and place too much importance on how well you socialize at parties
- How to approach people and start conversations at parties
- Free training: “How to double your social confidence in 5 minutes”
- Dealing with conversations in big, rowdy groups
- Getting into a partying frame of mind
- How much to move around and mingle with different people
- When you get drained at parties
- Leaving the party
- 7 Small-Talk Tips for Holiday Parties
- Prep Talking Points
- Talk Yourself Up
- Play the “Conversation Game”
- Remember to Follow Up
- Avoid “Conversation Killers”
- Bow Out Gracefully
- Take a Breather
- 20 questions: Conversation starters to keep the party lively
- 20 topics to get you going
- Your First Stop Should Be the Bar
- Be brave.
- Be a host with the most.
- Have 3 Go to Topics That You Can Always Fall Back On.
- Architecture works.
- A compliment goes a long way.
- Don’t forget to ask questions.
- The questions should be open-ended.
- Never start a social conversation with “So what do you do?”
- Avoid sensitive topics.
- Put your phone away.
- Hold your handbag or drink in your left hand.
- Stick to the bite-sized hors d’oeuvres.
- 16 Conversation Starters For When You Meet Someone New At A Party
- 1. Ask Their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Score
- 2. Ask Follow-Up Questions
- 3. Ask A Genuine Question
- 4. Find Out Why They Are There
- 5. Ask How They Know The Host
- 6. Try A Random Question
- 7. Ask Them To Describe Their Last Meal
- 8. Ask What They Like On Their Pizza
- 9. Compliment Their Style
- 10. Go Off The Beaten Path
- 11. Talk About What’s Happening In Front Of You
- 12. Go Story-Fishing
- 13. Talk About Something You Noticed
- 14. Find Common Ground
- 15. Share Your Passion
- 16. Ask Them Their Favorite Drink
- How to Be Social at a Party (With People You Don’t Know)
- First, Get Over the Fact You Don’t Enjoy Going Out
- How to Be Social at a Party and Confident with Strangers
- Have No Expectations
- Bring Props or Seek Them Out
- Look the Part First, Then Act It
- Introduce Yourself, Don’t Wait On Others
- Be the First Person of Contact
- Talk About Others, Not Yourself
- Compliment Others and Find Commonalities
- Never Force Yourself on Anyone, Especially Groups
- Position Yourself Strategically and Move About
- Find a Balance Between Being Creative and Respectful
- Ask Open-Ended Questions That Inspire Creativity
- How to Make Small Talk Like a Pro
- Be Social: 7 English Small Talk Topics for Starting Friendly Conversations
- Why Making Small Talk Is a Big Deal
- Body Language Is Also a Language
- Small Talk for Every Occasion
- 7 English Small Talk Topics for Starting Friendly Conversations
- 2. Universal Topics
- 3. The Day
- 4. The Workplace
- 5. Observations
- 6. Common Interests
- 7. Questions
- And One Last Tip About Learning English Small Talk
- 4 Conversation Starters To Get You Through This Holiday Party Season
How To Mingle And Talk To People At Parties
There are two broad types of social problems people can have with parties. The first is that a lot of people don’t like them that much. They find parties boring, stressful, and draining. They want to know to avoid them, or minimize the damage if they have to go to one.
The second issue, which this article will cover, is when someone wants to go to a party and socialize at it, but they’re not sure how to do that. Some problems people run into are:
- Feeling shy and awkward about approaching people to start conversations.
- Not knowing what to say when they’re chatting to someone. Introducing themselves, as well as the ensuing conversation, can feel stilted and forced.
- Not knowing how to break into group conversations. This particularly comes up if it seems like everyone at the parties knows everyone else. It can feel hard to intrude on a bunch of friends.
- Not knowing how to speak up and stand out once they’re in a group conversation. This especially applies if the discussion is loud and energetic and all over the place.
- Not being great at dealing with the rowdy, zany aspect of parties.
- Just not knowing what to do with themselves. Is it bad to stand around too much? Are they obligated to make the rounds and try to talk to every last person there?
- Feeling like a party is a big social exam and that how well they do at mingling is some sort of reflection of their overall value as a person.
This article is pretty long and will go into detail about how to handle these situations. The bulk of it is more practical tips, which I’ll get to soon. It’ll quickly start off with some more general attitudes that can be helpful to have. I’ll cover how to generally talk to people, not how to ‘own the party’ and be the most awesome center of attention on the premises. This article is also about parties where you don’t know a lot of the people there. It’s not really about a ‘party’ in the sense of eight good friends getting together to at someone’s house to have some drinks and play poker.
A big factor in how well things will go are the party’s characteristics
As with making conversation, some of your results will be influenced by your level of social skills. The rest is out of your hands though, and is determined by outside forces, like the mood of the person you’re talking to. Parties are the same. Some factors that will affect your experience at a party are:
- What kind of party is it, and is it suited towards your strengths and personality? Some parties are quiet and orderly and everyone breaks into little groups to have stimulating debates about politics and philosophy. Other kinds are loud, crowded, and chaotic and everyone’s drinking a ton, clowning around, and getting into crazy antics.
- What type of people are there? Are they the type you’d naturally get along with? Or are they mostly from a crowd where you wouldn’t have much to say to each other, or who wouldn’t give someone like you a chance?
- How well does everyone there know each other? If they know each other really well, are they open to talking to strangers? At some parties most of the guests are friends that go way back, and they’re mainly there to catch up with each other. They’re not consciously trying to be cliquey and exclusive, but their old buddies are taking up most of their attention and they can unintentionally brush people they don’t know aside. At other parties there aren’t a ton of connections between the attendees, and everyone is friendly and open to meeting new facwes. Some parties are big enough, and so few people know each other, that everyone starts to treat the place more like a bar, and stick mainly to the friends they came with.
- Do you want to be there, or were you dragged to the party by someone else? This can affect your motivation towards wanting to mingle. If you want to be there you may put a lot of pressure on yourself to meet a bunch of people. If you’re just along for the ride, like you’re keeping your partner company at a stuffy staff party, your attitude may be more, “Okay, what’s the bare minimum number of people I have to chat with so I don’t seem totally unfriendly?” or “How can I find one interesting person to talk to for most of the night, so I don’t have to mix anymore?”
Basically, if you go to a party and the deck is stacked against you, you can’t put too much blame on yourself if the night turns out to be a bust. Some parties will be a good match for you, and you’ll do well at them. Some just won’t go your way. It’s not really your fault, and it’s not a matter of, “Well if I had better social skills I could have an amazing time and click with everyone at any type of party” All but the most charismatic people will sometimes find themselves at get togethers that aren’t the best fit for them.
Parties are just one way people get together and socialize. For the average person they only come up occasionally. Yeah, there can be a fun and energy that you can only get at parties, when you get enough people together who are all in lively, outgoing mood, but they’re not the be-all-and-end-all of social interactions. Some people put too much pressure on themselves, and see how well they get along with strangers at a party as the ultimate test of their social worthiness. They think if they can’t be the life of the party and get everyone to love them by the end of the night then they’re not good enough. Or they feel they have to have some completely zany time like out of a college movie.
If it’s important to you to be able to mingle then you should definitely work on it. But at the same time, realize there’s more to life, and plenty of people have great social lives even if parties aren’t their strong point. Being good at mingling and standing out in big groups isn’t the only way to be socially successful. Other people realize this too, and if they see someone looking a little shy or hesitant at a party, they’re a hundred times more likely to conclude, “I guess parties aren’t their thing. They aren’t for a lot of people” than, “Wow, what a sad, pathetic individual.”
Regarding feeling you have to have a cah-razzzzy time, lots of people are content to go to a party, mostly hang out with the friends they came with in a low key way, have some drinks, and maybe talk with a person they don’t know or two. That’s all they need to do to consider it a good night. They don’t feel they’ve failed if they haven’t done four keg stands and jumped off a roof into a pool and made forty new Facebook friends.
How to approach people and start conversations at parties
There are two parts to this. The first is getting over any nerves or hesitation you have about talking to people. The second is knowing what to say to get the conversation rolling.
Getting past your nerves about chatting to people
There isn’t any guaranteed magic way to make your nerves disappear. There will always be that moment where you just have to push past your anxiety, walk up to someone, and start talking to them. Fortunately, there are lots of strategies that can take the edge off those feelings of inhibition, and make them easier overcome:
- If possible, do things earlier in the day to socially ‘warm up’. Hang out with your friends. Chat to cashiers or store clerks. Call a family member you like talking to and catch up with them. When you’re at the party you can continue to warm up by being social with the people you came with.
- At the party start by approaching the people or groups you’re least intimidated by, and then work your way up to the ones that make you more anxious. A fairly well-known approach some people take is to find someone there who seems even more uncomfortable and out of place than they are, and then talk to them and try to make them feel at ease. The idea is that once you’ve talked to that first person the ball gets rolling and things get easier from there.
- Here are two opposing suggestions that can each work in their own way: Some people find it helps to dive right in and start socializing before they have time to think too much and talk themselves out of anything. Other people find it can help to give themselves time to acclimatize to their surroundings, and give themselves time to calm down and collect themselves.
- Some people find they can ease themselves into socializing by giving themselves a role at the party which requires them to be talkative. Like they may take it upon themselves to introduce people to each other, or make fancy drinks for everyone in the kitchen, or greet everyone at the door, or be the unofficial iTunes party DJ.
- Of course some people drink to lower their inhibitions. I think within reason this is pretty harmless, standard behavior. In general a mild buzz is all you need to feel a little braver. If getting drunker is your thing that’s fine, but as you drink more it starts to socially disadvantage you as much as it helps.
These articles go into more detail about handling social fears:
How To Face Your Social Fears (Gradually)
Coping With Nervousness Before Optional Social Behaviors
The question of when to arrive
When they show up can play a role in how comfortable people feel socializing with the other guests. Some people find it’s good to arrive early (not overly early, of course, since that can inconvenience the host). That way there are fewer guests there and they can talk to people under more laid back circumstances and in smaller, more manageable groups. If the other guests are trickling in, they can also chat to and get to know each new group as it arrives. This doesn’t work for everyone though, and some people feel more awkward, exposed, and on the spot if they’re at a party early with hardly anyone else. It’s also less of an option if you don’t know the people who are throwing it that well.
Another option is to arrive later on. That way there will be lots of existing groups to join when you get there. Some people also like that they can disappear into the crowd and not feel like they stand out. They may like that if they find it awkward to talk to one person, they can quickly escape to someone else, rather than, say, being stuck having to make conversation with just the host and their two good friends for twenty minutes. Again, there are downsides to this approach as well. Some people find a room full of guests who are already all talking to each other intimidating. Everyone may already be into their conversations as well, and the groups can feel more closed and harder to break into.
Starting conversations with people at parties
When it comes to approaching strangers, people can tend to want a set of lines and openers that will work on everyone they talk to. It doesn’t happen like that. As I said, sometimes you’ll try to talk to a person or group and it just won’t pan out for reasons that have nothing to do with you (e.g., someone could have just had an argument with their ex, and not be in the mood to meet anyone). On the flip side, if the conversation is slanted to go in your favor, it doesn’t really matter how you start it. It’s more about how the discussion goes after the opening line.
So keeping in mind that any of these can work equally as well, some ways you could start a conversation are:
- It won’t always be an option, but you can ask the person throwing the party to introduce you to everyone.
- Just go up to someone and introduce yourself, “Hey, what’s up? My name’s Jason.”
- Ask people how they know everyone else at the party.
- If one comes readily to mind, make some sort of situational comment, like say something about the type of beer someone is drinking, or the T-shirt they’re wearing, or the internet clip that everyone has gathered around someone’s smart phone to watch. Don’t feel you have to come up with a situational comment though, because it seems more natural and nonchalant. If you don’t think of one, it’s totally fine to just introduce yourself more directly.
- At many parties people are doing much more than just standing around and talking. Little groups may have broken off to do all kinds of activities, and you can start a conversation that way. Like if some people are watching TV, or playing video games, or beer pong, or cards, you can join them and then get to talking with everyone as you take part.
- You can also initiate some sort of activity to get people talking, like starting a game of cards, or suggesting a board game if it’s that type of get together.
See the article How To Start Conversations for more information.
Starting conversations with groups
The same general principle applies to approaching groups, that your opening line shouldn’t make or break you, and that the trickiest part is often just feeling brave enough to initiate the conversation in the first place. Also, realize that at a party it is totally acceptable, even expected, to try to talk to a group that is already discussing something. Sure, some groups are more closed off than others, but there’s nothing inherently wrong about trying to squeeze yourself into an ongoing conversation.
- If the group looks pretty friendly and open, you can just go up to them and introduce yourself, “Hey, I’m Steve. How do you guys know each other?” or, “Hi, I’m Janet. I’m Fatima’s friend. What were you guys talking about a second ago?”
- You could jump right into a particular topic, if you’ve gotten the sense the group would be up for talking about it: “So what did you guys think the game last night?”, “Have you all seen (some movie that just came out)?”, “So what does everyone here think of (recent news story)?”
- If you’ve overheard the group talking about something you’re interested in, you can quietly maneuver closer to the group, listen for a bit, then chime in with your opinion during an appropriate pause.
- It’s okay to join a group and just hang back and follow the conversation for a while. You’re not socially bombing if you’re not talking every second. Being a listener is socializing too. When there’s a point where you can contribute, speak up and say something. In the meantime you can appear engaged and in the mix, and set the stage for your future contribution by looking interested, and adding little throwaway statements like “Ha ha, yeah totally” or “Oh, that happened to my friend too, anyway, you were saying?…” You could also ask the odd question to the speakers. These small lines don’t mean a ton, but they can make you seem a lot less quiet.
- Don’t be afraid to try to talk to a group that seems like they all know each other really well. If you’re interesting company and you contribute to the discussion they’ll often by happy to talk to you. However, if they are being more closed and exclusive, maybe because they’re filling each other in on some life development of a mutual friend of theirs, don’t take it personally and move on. Maybe try again later.
- Like the sub-section above mentioned, you can often slide into group conversations by way of an activity.
Also see: How To Join A Conversation
Article continues below…
On the link below you’ll find a training series focused on how to feel at ease socially, even if you tend to overthink today.
It also covers how to avoid awkward silence, attract amazing friends, and why you don’t need an “interesting life” to make interesting conversation. .
What to say to people once you’ve started talking to them
A lot of the conversations we have with people we don’t know happen more naturally. We’re assigned to work with a new co-worker, or we start talking to someone in class, or we see a movie with a friend and they bring a buddy along. When you’re approaching strangers at a party things are much more on the spot; You’ve started talking to this person, now you’re expected to keep the interaction going.
As much as it would be a helpful thing to have, it’s impossible to give advice where you map out someone’s entire conversation for them. The path a discussion can take is way too unpredictable to do that, and even if it were possible, it would be too hard to remember everything. In general here’s how party conversations usually play out:
- Some conversations will start off with an introduction and an opening line. After that you’ll often spend a few minutes on standard getting-to-know-you questions like, “How do you know the person throwing the party?” or, “What do you study?” or, “Where do you work?” Yep, these questions can be uninspired, but they get things started by helping you fish around for a more mutually interesting topic you can discuss (See: Some Thoughts On The Point Of Small Talk). Once you’ve hit on one, you can talk about that.
- Other conversations will start with you talking about some interesting topic right away, and skipping the introductions for the time being. This may be because your opening line lead right into the subject, or due to your jumping into a conversation that was already covering it. You’ll hopefully have a good discussion on that subject. After you’ll naturally get around to, “So my name’s Ron by the way. How do you know everyone here?” Feeling you have to exchange introductory resume info with someone right off the bat can sometimes get in the way.
- I’m tempted to write something like, “This is a party, so keep your tone and topics light and fun.” However, this isn’t totally accurate advice to give. What’s appropriate to talk about really depends on the guests and the type of the party. This is something you’ll have to try to get a read of. Sometimes the atmosphere is more cerebral and it’s fine to talk about politics or international development. Also, even at more wild parties there will be situations where, say, three avid readers find a spot off to the side and have an in-depth discussion about literature.
- If you’re trying to chat to someone and the conversation is feeling really forced and uncreative, no matter how much you try to keep things moving in a fun direction, it may be a sign you just weren’t meant to talk to that particular person. You might not have much in common, or they’re not in a friendly mood, and so on. At a party with a lot of people there you can’t be expected to hit it off with all of them. Just politely move on.
Here are a few more articles on keeping conversations going:
Some Popular Overall Approaches For Making Conversation
How To Think Of Things To Say When Making Conversation
Ways To Deal With Awkward Silences In Conversations
How To Be Less Quiet And Contribute to Group Conversations
Ending a conversation
At parties guests naturally drift around and chat to a number of people. And as I keep mentioning, you’re not going to connect perfectly with everyone. Don’t worry too much about getting out of a conversation when it isn’t going anywhere, or you want to see who else is out there. There are lots of easy ways to do it, and people generally don’t get offended if you move on to someone else. You can say something straightforward like, “It was good meeting you. I gotta catch up with some other people, but I’ll talk to you later hopefully.” Or you can use one of several reasonable excuses like:
See: How To End A Conversation
Dealing with conversations in big, rowdy groups
This article goes into a lot more detail about it, but overall a lot of people say they’re okay having polite one-on-one conversations, but they’re not as good in loud, crazy dog-eat-dog group discussions. Those often occur at parties, especially when there’s drinking involved. The piece I just linked to goes into more depth, but in general:
- Realize you need to be more forward and assertive about speaking up and claiming your time to talk. It’s also expected and okay to do this. Everyone’s excited to talk and wants to say something, so if you politely wait your turn you’ll get overlooked. When it is your turn to speak, you’ll also get quickly talked over if you’re too soft-spoken and meek, or you take too long to get your point out.
- Just accept what these conversations are and what they aren’t. They’re not going to be civilized or go too in-depth about any particular subject. They’re fun and jokey and the topic will jump all over the place.
- If the group is really big, try to split off a sub-conversation.
Getting into a partying frame of mind
This point doesn’t apply so much to those more refined, orderly parties. To appreciate more rowdy parties you need to be in a certain mindset, and this doesn’t come naturally to everyone. I talk about it more in this article: Regular Logical Mode Vs. Light Fun Mode In Social Interactions. Essentially, some people are fine when social interactions are more structured, subdued, and focused on logically discussing a particular area. They don’t really know what to do with themselves with things get more crazy and goofy, and people seem more interested in making loud jokes and performing wacky stunts than sitting around and talking about environmentalism. They may even look down on people who are in a fun, partying mentality, and see them as annoying and immature. They can have a better time when they learn to switch gears and socialize in a way where they try to have some nice mindless fun for its own sake.
This article may also help you get into a more fun frame of mind:
How To Be More Fun
How much to move around and mingle with different people
People sometimes think of mingling like it’s a mechanical process. I know some advice on how to do it can unintentionally give the impression that you need to approach it that way. In practice it’s not really a matter of, “I will spend the party making the rounds and speaking to people. I must talk to 75% of the people there. I will make each interaction six minutes long. I will acquire the following information from each person…”
In my experience at parties it’s best to go with the flow, talk to the people who seem fun and interesting to you, and see where the night takes you. If you want to try, go for it, but don’t feel you have to talk to every last guest. There’s no party rule that says if you’re a bad person for not doing so. A lot of people don’t. You’ve got to make decisions, and often you’ll decide you’ll have a better time if you keep chatting to the really funny people you’ve met in the kitchen, as opposed to breaking away to introduce yourself to that new insular looking couple that just showed up.
For whatever reason, two metaphors come to mind when I think about mingling at parties. The first is to see a party like a fairground. At any party there are all these sub groups, conversations, and activities going on. One group is talking in the back yard, another is on the front porch, some people are playing video games downstairs, four guys are playing flip cup in the garage, some women are telling travel stories in the living room, some roommates are talking in the kitchen, three people are doing shots in there as well, and so on. At the party everyone is moving around throughout the evening and visiting the various ‘fairground booths’. Some people will stick to one for a long time. Others will check out a bunch quickly, then go back and forth between two of them. As the night goes on new things to check out will pop up. There’s no ‘right’ way to see all the attractions, you just have to wonder around and head towards whatever looks fun.
The second metaphor, which gets at the same idea, is that I picture people at a party as a bunch of ping pong balls floating in a tub of water. The balls will all drift around on the water’s surface. For a time a few balls may cluster together, but then they’ll break up and maybe temporarily group with a few others (I have no idea if this is actually how a bunch of ping pong balls would behave in water, but let’s go with it). Basically, the movement of people from group to group is spontaneous and chaotic. Someone may to be talking to one group, then see their friend doing something fun and leave to watch what they’re doing. Then they need to use the bathroom and run into someone else on their way back, and end up going outside with them. Again, go to a party intending to just drift along like this, don’t feel you must start at the front door and systematically work your way around the room or anything.
When you get drained at parties
Some people get drained easily while socializing, and if there’s one situation that’s going to do it, it’s going to be a party, especially if it wasn’t totally their choice to attend. Again, see the linked article for more thoughts, but some things you can try are:
- Have a pre-set excuse for needing to leave early, like that you have to work the next day, or you have to visit your aunt, or you’ve got to meet someone else later and can only drop by for a bit.
- Join an activity that will give you an excuse to be more low key and take a break, like plopping down on a couch to watch a bit of a movie, or playing cards. Maybe there’s a smaller, more intimate conversation on the back deck that’s more your speed.
- Find reasons to get away for a bit. Volunteer to run down the corner store on your own to buy more snacks or drink mix. If the other guests won’t think it’s too rude, step aside and pretend to have a text conversation on your phone.
- Regular tiredness and feeling socially drained often blur together. Doing things to fight normal fatigue can also socially reinvigorate you. You can have some caffeine, or if you get sleepy, just wait twenty minutes or so to catch a second wind.
Leaving the party
Some people find this really awkward and don’t like having all the focus on them while they announce to everyone that they’re leaving, or when they have to find a bunch of people and say their goodbyes to them. I don’t think there’s one right way to make an exit, and you don’t necessarily have to track down every last person you know to tell them you’re taking off. In terms of things feeling awkward, that’s just something you can get used to if you do it enough. In general, it is polite to let at least your good friends know that you’re leaving. Just say you’re heading out, and don’t feel you have to have a five minute going away conversation with each of them. If you’re taking off early, don’t make it seem like a big deal. Every party has some guests who have to head out early.
7 Small-Talk Tips for Holiday Parties
The first batch of invites to holiday parties has started arriving. And while there’s a lot to love about these festive gatherings, having to meet so many new people and make so much small talk can be overwhelming-even to those born with the gift of gab.
“Most of us are very self-centered in these situations, and think that everyone in the room notices that we have no one to talk to or knows that we feel uncomfortable,” says small talk expert Debra Fine, author of Beyond Texting and The Fine Art of Small Talk. Happily, she says that’s untrue. At parties, everyone (except the host) is thinking about themselves-their outfits, their friends, and their plans for later. They’re absolutely not wondering why you are standing alone by the cheese platter. (So don’t panic-though you might want to read Effortless Tips to Avoid Overeating at Holiday Parties.)
The easiest way to master small talk, says Fine, lies in getting outside your own head. “You should always assume the burden of your conversation partner’s comfort,” she says. Once you stop worrying about how you’re coming off and start focusing on making the other person relaxed, insecurities falls away, leaving you free to dazzle. These eight tips will help you do exactly that.
Prep Talking Points
Before the party, think up a few questions. (For this time of year, Fine suggests, “What are your plans for next year?” “Are you making any New Year’s resolutions?” and “What are your holiday plans-any fun traditions?”) Then call out a few topics you can talk about if you’re asked. Maybe you’re training for a marathon or have family coming to visit. This way, you’ll have all the conversation fodder you need to avoid awkward moments.
Talk Yourself Up
If you don’t know anyone else at the party, introducing yourself can feel intimidating. To make it easier, Bill Lampton, Ph.D., president of Championship Communication, suggests talking about yourself. First, just introduce yourself. Then, bring up your topic of choice, which can be as simple as how you know the party’s host or as complex as how the season impacts your work schedule, (“Boy, am I busy. November is our busiest month at work!”). Finally, invite your speaking partner to weigh in: “Does your job pick up this time of year too?” Bam-instant convo!
Play the “Conversation Game”
A trap many people fall into is answering other people’s questions incompletely, says Fine. It’s understandable. After all, “What’s new?” is often code for “Hello.” But when you’re trying to make small talk, responding, “Not much, you?” is a surefire conversation stopper. Instead, Fine says to make a point of offering a real answer. “If someone asks just, ‘How’ve your holidays been?’ rather than just saying fine, I might say, ‘Great, both my sons are coming in from the east to spend a week with us. I’m really looking forward to it.'” That way, she says, you’ve offered up more conversation topics-your kids, holiday travel, visitors, and so on.
Remember to Follow Up
Avoid “Conversation Killers”
A good rule of thumb is to steer clear of asking anything you don’t already know the answer to, says Fine. That means no “How’s your boyfriend?” if you don’t know for sure that they’re still together, no “How’s your job?” unless you can guarantee she’s still working there, and no “Did you get into Penn State?” unless you know she did. Stick to broader questions, like “What’s new?” or “Any plans for next year?”
Bow Out Gracefully
Been cornered by a chatty Cathy since you walked in? Take a cue from talk show hosts. When they’re running out of time during a news segment, they’ll signal their interviewee by saying something like, “There’s time for one more question,” or “We only have about a minute left…”
Obviously, you can’t be so blunt in real life, but try dropping hints-or, as Fine calls it, “waving the white flag.” First, acknowledge what the other person has been saying: “Wow, your kids sound really accomplished.” Then wave the white flag: “I just saw my friend walk in and I want to say hi…” And finally, offer one last remark or question. “…but before I do, tell me, how did Sally end up doing on her SATs?” “This lets both of you get out with dignity,” says Fine.
Take a Breather
If you’re introverted, shy, or even just feeling tired or sick, parties can be stressful. That’s why Fine suggests giving yourself a built-in breather. Before a get-together, she’ll give herself a goal-usually something like talking to two or three new people. Once she’s fulfilled her quota, she takes a time-out, relaxing alone. This gives her extra incentive to socialize, without getting burned out-guaranteeing she’ll have a good time.
- By Mirel Ketchiff
20 questions: Conversation starters to keep the party lively
Being with people can be exhausting, even (or especially) people you love. Being with people means you have to talk. And the holidays are all about being with people. It can get to be a drain of psychic energy, especially for introverts, to constantly have to think of things to say.
Thankfully, there are plenty of creative conversation starters to jazz up holiday socializing, even if you dread small talk more than you fear Aunt Agnes’ Jell-O mold.
These 20 prompts will help keep the conversation interesting without treading into unpleasant territory. (For more on that, check out Keeping the peace at the holiday dinner table.) One little reminder: No matter how desperate you are, don’t bring up politics.
20 topics to get you going
- Where did you grow up? As they say, everyone grew up somewhere, and has an infinite supply of stories about their hometown.
- What is your dream job?
- Have you ever met anyone famous? Or, if you could meet one famous person, who would it be?
- Ask about their favorite books, movies and albums of all time. People are passionate about their favorite media. And the best part is, you’ll get to share yours too.
- What is the worst movie you’ve seen recently?
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
- Pay a compliment, the more genuine the better. And think outside the box. Do you like the way they talk? Their personal style? Their sense of humor?
- What popular trend most annoys you?
- What was your favorite subject in school and why?
- Tell them about a recent news story you found fascinating – that could be the truck full of eels that overturned on the highway, a Florida horse rider charged with a DUI. Then, ask them to share one of their favorites. It’s a weird world out there.
- What was your all-time favorite vacation and why? And where are you still dying to travel?
- What’s your sign, and do you believe in astrology?
- What’s your favorite word? Best-case scenario, the whole table chips in and you learn a bunch of new words.
- What was your favorite toy as a child?
- Do you believe in ghosts… and have you ever seen one?
- Ask about their pets. There is roughly a 100 percent chance they’ll pull out their phone and start showing you pictures. So not only do you have something to talk about for a few minutes, but you also get to see some cute animal photos.
- What is your guilty pleasure?
- Who is your oldest friend, and how did you meet them?
- If you could invite one famous person to this Thanksgiving dinner, living or dead, who would it be? Make sure to have your own answer ready, and be more creative than Jesus or Gandhi (my go-tos are Oscar Wilde and Rasputin).
- What do you feel most grateful for this Thanksgiving?
When all else fails, bring out the party games: Party games do the work of socializing for you – a blessing for introverts like me.
You’ve got your timeless classics – charades, Jenga, Apples to Apples, etc. If your family is as weird and irreverent as mine (which is to say, very weird and irreverent), you might get a kick out of Cards Against Humanity, a party game for horrible people. The goal of the game? To fill in the blanks with the worst, most evil and offensive answers possible.
This game made for the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever hosted (although it came at the expense of hearing my dad say some things I’ll never be able to unhear).
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. But you just want to make sure you don’t run out of good things to talk about.
That would be embarrassingly awkward, wouldn’t it?
Imagine both of you sitting near each other. There is a sudden pause in the conversation, and you know that you should say something now, but your brain seems to have stopped working. All you can think of is some boring question or stupid comment, but nothing interesting or good enough to actually say out loud.
You feel an awkward silence slowly descending like a dark cloud, and you start to panic inside. You feel like you’ve become a total idiot because your mind has become totally blank. It’s like you’ve lost your whole personality. You can barely even remember your own name at this point, let alone an appropriate thing 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.
Well, good news! I’ve put together this cheat sheet of 50 interesting conversation topics you can use at any time to rekindle the conversation, even if you feel it start to go downhill. You can go over this list before a first date or a party, whenever you need to have a few good things to talk about in mind (just in case).
And don’t worry, almost all of the topics I suggest are “normal.” This means you won’t hear me tell you to say lines which a normal person would never talk about in real life.
For example, many of the “conversation tips” articles you’ll find on the internet are embarrassingly cringe-worthy. They often give you silly suggestions like: “If you made a TV show about your life, what would you name it?” Who really says something like that? I know I wouldn’t.
So without further introduction, here is the list of topics 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. (Unless you want to!) Often simple and obvious topics are enough to kick-start your brain again.
I’ve also put them into groups to make it easier for you:
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?
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.
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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.)
Whew! That’s a lot of topic suggestions!
I hope you’ve picked up at least a few that can help you in your next conversation. One last point in conclusion…
What Makes A Conversation Interesting?
Often people assume that the topic of your conversation has to be super-interesting. Not really true. I’ve heard comedians describe themselves making a sandwich… and hundreds of people sat listening with riveted attention.
So the lesson here is:
WHAT you talk about doesn’t always have to be incredibly interesting. You can make almost any conversation interesting if you are not afraid to openly share your unique perspective, personality and opinion.
And if you find that your conversations feel “boring”… the problem here could be that you are simply exchanging facts with the other person. You are making the mistake of not going deeper, and finding out how you or they operate as a person.
Here’s an example: Talking to someone about baseball statistics is boring. Talking to them about their favorite baseball team, baseball player, how you played baseball as a kid and how it shaped you… suddenly the “boring” conversation topic has become VERY interesting because it has become emotionally relevant to the two of you.
Take these conversation topics and tips with you… and best of luck!
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Etiquette expert Myka Meier, who teaches classes at the Plaza Hotel, knows a thing or two about talking to strangers. Below are her tips for how to conquer any cocktail party or social setting where you want to make a few new acquaintances.
Your First Stop Should Be the Bar
“The most social place to meet someone at a cocktail party is at the bar! People often separate from larger groups to go get cocktails and it makes conversation easier to start because you’re suddenly next to one another and it’s easy to say hello. Bonus tip: Right when you enter a room, get a drink. It doesn’t have to be alcoholic, but it instantly makes it look like you are there to stay and mingle.”
The bar is a prime spot for conversation at any party. Slim AaronsGetty Images
“Yes, it takes a swift act of confidence, but the best way to meet someone is to walk up and introduce yourself. You can simply say, ‘Hi, I wanted to introduce myself, my name is…’ It sounds so basic, but people tend to wait to be introduced, and by doing so they often miss out on many connections. If you’re the host, it’s your job to make sure people all know one another’s names as early into the party as possible to get conversation going.”
Be a host with the most.
“Never introduce someone by ‘mirror introducing,’ as in, ‘Sarah please meet Martha, Martha this is Sarah.’ It gives them nothing to talk about. Instead, try giving one interesting fact about each person so they can start conversation easier. Here’s an example: ‘Sarah, may I please introduce you to Martha. Martha just moved into the neighborhood from Boston, and Sarah has been my neighbor for five years and plays on our club doubles team.’
Have 3 Go to Topics That You Can Always Fall Back On.
“They should be timely and relevant topics that you are knowledgeable about. If you are a cocktail party in New York and love performing arts, for example, it might be, ‘Did you hear about the New York Ballet’s new show?'”
“Believe it or not, architecture is a general topic that tends to work well as a conversation starter. Talk about the room, the building you are in, the interior decor, or the view.”
A compliment goes a long way.
“Make sure to give it right when the conversation starts and not minutes in to ensure it doesn’t come off as an afterthought or disingenuous. Never compliment someone on their marital or religious jewelry.”
Don’t forget to ask questions.
“Sometimes when people get nervous, they tend to only talk about themselves. A good conversation goes both ways.”
The questions should be open-ended.
“That way, the person can’t answer with a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ essentially putting the task of another question back to you. Even simply, ‘So how do you know Jasper (insert host’s name)?’ If you can’t think of anything open-ended to ask, try asking someone about their upcoming weekend plans.”
“It can come across opportunistic and may be seen as code for ‘so how can you help me?’ or ‘how much money do you make?'”
Avoid sensitive topics.
“We know to avoid the obvious ones like politics, religion, sex, vices, illness or money, but a less obvious one is asking about family specifics. ‘So are you married?’ ‘So do you have kids?’ While these seem like innocent questions, someone may answer, ‘I’m going through a divorce’ or ‘We’ve been trying for 5 years,’ which can start the conversation on a negative, down note—one from which it’s rather hard to recover. Love their outfit? Never ask someone where something is from—he or she may be uncomfortable revealing the brand, which would imply value.”
University of Southern CaliforniaGetty Images
Put your phone away.
“You want to look approachable, and with your eyes locked to your glowing screen and not with others, you instantly make yourself a no-go to talk to. Don’t forget to smile, or at least have a softened expression. A smile is a universal symbol of friendliness.”
Hold your handbag or drink in your left hand.
“Your right hand stays open to shake hands.”
Stick to the bite-sized hors d’oeuvres.
Cocktail parties often have fabulous nibbles, but only take ones small enough so that you don’t have a mouthful when socializing. The whole point of a cocktail party is to be social.
Getty Images Related Story Sam Dangremond Contributing Digital Editor Sam Dangremond is a Contributing Digital Editor at Town & Country.
16 Conversation Starters For When You Meet Someone New At A Party
The stage is set: You’re at a party, you’re wearing a cute outfit, you’re feeing yourself — and someone new walks over to you and says hi. So what should you talk about if you meet someone at a party? There have got to be some simple icebreakers that don’t feel forced or canned that you can whip out in such a scenario, so as to impress and dazzle your new conversation partner without making it too obvious or showy.
So I asked a fabulous group of relationship experts how best to handle this situation, and they came up with icebreakers to help you not be so awkward when you meet someone IRL. Yes, plenty of people go the online dating route these days, but if you’d rather go old-school — or if you just happen to run into a dapper stranger out and about, while you’re just living your (best) life — here are 16 things you can discuss, so that you appear totally cool (and not at all awkward). And don’t worry — once you master these techniques, you won’t have to think about it when this happens at a get-together or a party — you’ll just be prepared (and smooth as butter).
1. Ask Their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Score
“As an introvert, my absolute favorite thing is to ask people what their MBTI score is or give them the quiz myself,” life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. “It forces people to talk about themselves and you learn about the other person.” And talking about someone’s personality type will give you something to work with. “People have a much better shot at liking you if you ask them questions about them.” Truth!
2. Ask Follow-Up Questions
“When working with clients who have social anxiety, I always suggest taking a ‘curious’ perspective and suggest asking people about themselves,” Boston-based clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner tells Bustle. “You can start with the basics like ‘How do you know the host?’ and literally follow the conversation lead with a ‘curious’ question.” Once they give you something to work with, run with it. If they mention college, ask more — Wegner suggests saying something like “You said from college — how was that college?”
“Always ask open-ended questions and ask a ‘curious’ question based on their answer,” she says. “Imagine a question arrow pointing down, and with every question you dig a little deeper.” Just keep going — and the conversation will keep flowing.
3. Ask A Genuine Question
“The sage advice to open doors by encouraging others to talk about themselves holds true, but the key to its success is for your questions to arise from genuine interest and curiosity,” personal and professional coach Karen Garvey tells Bustle. “A question that genuinely interests you about someone will resonate as being authentic and lend itself to a conversation.” So find something you really want to know about this person you just met, and ask that question.
4. Find Out Why They Are There
“Another strategy is the time-tested advice to find common ground,” Garvey adds. “Finding something in common can be as easy as figuring out how you both came to be at the same event at the same time.” Whatever you ask them about, be sure that you actually want to know the answer. “As your confidence increases, you realize that you have nothing to lose by trying, but a lot to lose by not,” Garvey says. So — at least try!
5. Ask How They Know The Host
“Ask the other guest how they know the host,” New York–based relationship expert and author April Masini tells Bustle. “It’s a surefire way to get the conversation started and it’s something the two of you already have in common — you’re both at the party already, so somehow or other, you both know the host.” From there, you can ask more questions about the host and this new person, or perhaps they’ll give you new information that you can ask about.
“Always remember, when meeting someone new, to ask questions,” she says. “It’s a polite and effective way to show interest in the person and the conversation and to learn more about commonalities.” And you’ll get to know more about this potential date.
6. Try A Random Question
“You don’t want to ask them the common questions that end conversations as quickly as they started,” psychologist Nicole Martinez, who is the author of eight books, including The Reality of Relationships , tells Bustle.” the weather, how they know the host, and have they been here before are all good questions, but lack the creativity that might really get someone’s attention, and make them interested and think.” So try something new.
“For example, I might ask, ‘If you found $100 lying on the floor right now, what would be your first thought of what to spend it on?’ Out of the ordinary, quirky — but memorable and engaging,” Martinez says. Go in a new direction and see what happens.
7. Ask Them To Describe Their Last Meal
“I always like to ask them to describe the best thing they ate to me,” sex and relationship expert Megan Stubbs tells Bustle. “If someone uses great descriptive words, that gives me a little insight to their personality, and actually want to carry on a meaningful conversation.” And who doesn’t like talking about food?
8. Ask What They Like On Their Pizza
“I think obscure questions are the best for this situation,” Rob Alex, who created Sexy Challenges and Mission Date Night with his wife, tells Bustle. “My favorite is, ‘What toppings do you like on your pizza?'” Random, yes — but fun. “You need easy questions that everyone or anyone can answer,” he adds.
And by asking about pizza, “you will be rememberable at the event,” he says. “Plus, these questions are not too personal. I don’t know anyone that would shy away from telling people what they like on their pizza, or that they have to lie and say they like different things.” LOL — one would hope not! “It just starts the conversations off on an open and honest food.” Nothing wrong with that.
9. Compliment Their Style
“Say, ‘I noticed your watch, or ring, or shirt — it’s beautiful, or interesting, or something I’ve been wanting to find” Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. “If you get a polite ‘thank you’ and the person looks away, he or she isn’t interested in talking.” Smart — no need to waste your time on someone who’d rather not talk.
“If your approach works, and you begin a conversation, just keep it going,” she says. “Every time you make a statement, invite a response by saying, ‘Don’t you think so?’ or, ‘How do you feel about it?'” By asking these questions, the convo doesn’t die. “Don’t let your nervousness turn your half of the conversation into an endless monologue.” Whatever you do, let it be a give and take.
10. Go Off The Beaten Path
“Ask questions a little less ordinary than ‘What do you do?'” Carlyle Jansen, author of Sex Yourself , tells Bustle. “Questions such as ‘What is the craziest thing you have ever done?’ or ‘If you could fly anywhere tomorrow, where would you go and why?’ or ‘What is your latest favorite book, play, movie or TV show and why?'” will get the ball rolling. “These types of questions can lead to discussions revealing more about their interests, values and priorities,” Jansen says. In the meantime, you get to have fun finding out more about someone new.
11. Talk About What’s Happening In Front Of You
“Start up a conversation about whatever is going on right in front of you,” dating coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Pella Weisman tells Bustle. “You can always find something to comment on about the room, the food, or the other people at the event or party.” It’s true: At any given gathering, there’s always something going on directly in front of you that can be discussed.
Just don’t go deep. “Stay positive and avoid topics that are too controversial or personal,” Weisman says. “Don’t worry about being unique or interesting right away, your task is just to get the conversation started.” You can always weave that other stuff later. “If the other person is interested in talking to you, they will help you with the hard work of finding common ground,” she says.
12. Go Story-Fishing
“I always recommend asking questions that will elicit a response and not a one-word answer,” relationship counselor Crystal Bradshaw tells Bustle. “Seek out other people’s stories, or create a conversation platform where you can exchange stories together.” In other words, go story-fishing. Try asking, “What’s been keeping you busy these days?” It’ll start a longer conversation.
“You want to utilize open-ended questions which will invite whomever you are speaking with to share more,” she says. “Other questions I recommend: ‘How did you get into your line of work?’; ‘What was the best part of your day?’; ‘What’s the best thing you get to do in your job?’; ‘What are you looking forward to this week?’; and ‘What was the most awkward moment of your day?'” That last one is particularly fun!
13. Talk About Something You Noticed
“If you are about to initiate a conversation with someone, then the chances are pretty good that you have been watching them for a bit,” dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. “In that time, you should have been able to pick up certain things about them.” Smart — use a little psychology to your advantage. Maybe you’ve noticed “an emblem from a favorite sports team, or piece of jewelry that gives you some insight into something about that person,” he says. “I have even seen a conversation start by discussing a scar on a person’s knee that let the other individual know they had a similar operation.” Whatever you notice, talk about it.
“These types of icebreakers work very well, but should only be used as follow-ups to the best ice breaker ever invented: Eye contact and a smile,” Van Hochman says. It’s true: Eye contact and a smile never hurts.
14. Find Common Ground
“When meeting someone for the first time, take the opportunity to talk about common interests,” online dating expert Anita Covic tells Bustle. “If you love to ski and the other person hates the cold weather, it’s going to be difficult to find a common ground.” But there’s always something you can find in common. “If you love running and the other person has some new trails to share, you could be the perfect match,” she says. “A party is the great time to have that relaxed conversation about travel, business, hobbies,” and that kind of thing.
As other experts have shared, it’s best to stay shallow at first. “Don’t disclose private information,” she says. “Stay with general topics as the icebreaker to get to know the other person.” If you like them, you can always tell them your social security number later.
“It doesn’t matter what your passion is — surfing, writing, dancing, whatever — but when you talk about something you love, you reveal your heart and soul,” relationship coach and psychic medium Cindi Sansone-Braff, author of Why Good People Can’t Leave Bad Relationships , tells Bustle. “Your enthusiasm will be contagious and, before long, you’ll find the person you’ve shared your life’s passion with feeling comfortable enough to reveal their heart’s passion to you.” Passion sharing: The fastest way to love.
16. Ask Them Their Favorite Drink
” their favorite alcoholic beverage or snack food,” author and relationship expert Alexis Nicole White tells Bustle. “Typically, there are drinks present so that wouldn’t be such an awkward way to start a conversation.” And, as other experts have mentioned, everyone likes to talk about food. You have nothing to lose — and, who knows, maybe you can go make them their favorite drink.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy (16)
How to Be Social at a Party (With People You Don’t Know)
You walk in the front door of an acquaintance’s house party, and 15 people you’ve never met turn to see who you are.
Wow. What to say? What to do?
Hey, I’ve been there too and it’s not fun. I often felt uncomfortable at social gatherings and it held me back from developing a social circle.
I mean, I’d do fine with friends I was already comfortable around, but if I was at a party where I didn’t know people well or at all, I clammed up. I’d stick to my group of friends and that’s it.
Sometimes I’d do OK and talk to “strangers,” but for the most part it never lead to deeper or “normal” type of conversations.
And the worst part was when someone louder or more assertive would join the group. I’d suddenly feel invisible and not interesting enough. That made me sink even further into my shell.
Eventually, I found myself avoiding those types of social gatherings altogether. My excuse was I just didn’t enjoy them. That they weren’t my cup of tea. But if I were really honest with myself, I wanted to do well at house parties and such. I was just too afraid.
Any of this sound familiar?
So how can you be social at a party and other gatherings? How can you be more outgoing and engaging with the people there?
First, Get Over the Fact You Don’t Enjoy Going Out
There’s no doubt you could meet more people, network, make friends, and more if you could be more social at parties. But the first obstacle is getting yourself to go, right?
If you don’t enjoy going to social events like parties, then how can you ever expect to do well there? Well, unfortunately, I believe this is a case of the chicken or the egg.
Because the way you begin to enjoy social events more is by being more effective in them.
Think about it…
What if next time you go to a house party you had the ability, the skills, to talk to most everyone there with ease and little to no anxiety? The people you talked with engaged you back and enjoyed chatting with you. People liked you and deeper connections were made.
Now tell me, if that were the case, would you enjoy going to these events more, or less?
My bet is it’s obvious you would enjoy it more. Because even if you are an introvert and you enjoy your alone time, we all crave social connection. So really, a big part of not enjoying social gatherings is the fear, shyness and negative feelings we experience related to them.
Take all that bad crap away and replace it with the “rewards” of social success and you’d be much more inclined to say yes to these types of events.
So part of the process here is fighting through the crappy times right now so you build your social skills. That way you’ll develop the abilities to help you get the most out of parties and such later.
How to Be Social at a Party and Confident with Strangers
But how can you become more confident at social gatherings and parties where you don’t know anyone? How can you be more open and engaging to the people there?
Well, there are a few scenarios that seem to bother reserved people over and over again at social gatherings. I’ve suffered from all of them too. So here are some of the issues you might encounter and suggestions to help you through them.
Research Shows Feeling Uninteresting is Often Just Your Imagination
If you find yourself constantly thinking, “I’m not interesting. This person doesn’t like talking to me.” Just know, you’re not the only one who feels that way. NO, I don’t mean that in a mean way!
Researchers have found that socially reserved and anxious people often imagine others don’t like them, even when it isn’t true. In his book Shyness, researcher Philip Zimbardo describes a study where actors were videoed saying “Hello. How are you?” First in a warm, friendly way; then in a neutral way and finally in a “I don’t like you” type of way.
The researchers then had a group of people view the videos. Half of them were confident, the other half were self-proclaimed shy or socially uncomfortable. While watching, they were told to imagine they were meeting the video actors in person for the first time.
The result? The socially anxious people felt the neutral actors and even some of the “warm” actors were rejecting them. On the other hand, the confident people felt everyone was warm and friendly or at worst neutral, even the “I don’t like you” actors.
So just remember next time you think someone doesn’t like you, you’re probably imagining it. Be sure to remind yourself of the interesting things in your life often. Remind yourself that some people DO find you interesting and that others are likely to also.
What About When Someone “More Assertive” Enters the Scene?
I totally understand the feeling of “not being good enough” when someone louder or “more charming” comes around. Many times, I could do well socially until a more outgoing guy showed up. Then I’d feel out-shined and like I couldn’t compare.
But think about it, just because that person is good socially and charming and all…does that mean you suddenly can’t talk to people, befriend them, get to know them and them you?
No it doesn’t mean that. All it means is that, for the time being anyway, you aren’t quite as outgoing and socially savvy as that assertive person. But in your own way, you can still engage people.
Maybe you do this one on one instead of holding the attention of the group. But hey, that still works! Start there and build on that. Eventually, you’ll get better.
Remember People Go to Parties to “Get Away” From Normal Life
Think about it… Most people lead mostly boring lives. They…
- go to work or school
- come home
- watch TV
- do it all over
So when they go out on the weekend, they’re looking to get away from that day to day drudgery.
A party is a place people go to do that. In these types of social events, people are in the mindset of “let’s have fun.” They want something else to think about besides work, school, and every-day life.
They want to talk about “fun” things. Maybe that’s a funny story of something that happened to you recently, or their dreams/goals, or vacation, etc. So if you find you’re in a conversation about something “every-day” like work, try changing the subject to something a little more emotionally engaging.
Just remember that normal “mundane” conversation often leads to more interesting conversation. So don’t feel you have to start out talking about “super interesting” things.
Finally, Here’s a Great Tactic for Starting a Party Right
When you first arrive, walk throughout the party and quickly introduce yourself to people. I KNOW, you’re thinking I’m crazy here, but hear me out.
It can work like this…
You walk up to someone with a smile, hold out your hand to shake theirs and say “Hey, how’s it going? I’m John.”
At this point they’ll probably say their name and that they’re doing fine.
Then you say, “Cool, yeah I just got here and only know the host, so wanted to mingle around and meet people. I’m going to keep walking, but maybe we’ll talk later, ok?”
That’s it. There’s no pressure on you to keep the conversation going or anything. You’re just being friendly and mingling. Basically you’re just saying hello. Trust me, most people will be totally OK with this and will in fact welcome it (because they are probably uncertain of how to mingle too).
But what’s great is that later in the party, you’ve basically already “met” everyone, so it’s much easier to just start talking with people. It’s not such a “cold approach” anymore. Does this take some balls? Yes. But it’s really not as hard as you might think.
And the “take some balls” part of this equation is of course all about confidence. So if you’d like a few suggestions, videos and more on being more socially confident, be sure to check out my free Conversation Tips Newsletter.
(photo courtesy of Moyan_Brenn via Flickr)
You were invited to a dinner party. The problem is, you barely know anyone there. “This is going to be a disaster,” you say to yourself.
But how do you socialize at a dinner party and stop worrying? Most of us have experienced some sort of social anxiety before going to a party. By lowering your expectations and using a few social tricks like using props, complimenting others, and being proactive rather than waiting for others to socialize with you, you’ll turn the party into a success. And who knows, you may make a friend or two.
So relax and take a deep breath. There are a few tricks you can use that will make all the difference.
Have No Expectations
Go into the party with no expectations whatever.
Think rationally –
What do you really have to lose?
If a friendship fails because of one party, then 1) it was never a real friendship to begin with, and 2) as of right now, there are still 7 billion people on this planet to choose from to become your friends.
Go into the party with no expectations whatsoever. If you walk away indifferent at the end of the evening, you have neither gained nor lost anything. If you come out with a hearty laugh or two, then count it as a success. Tell yourself, “If someone causes me to have a laugh or giggle tonight, then the party was a worthy success.”
This takes pressure off and alleviates any social anxiety you may have going into the party. So set a very small goal and lower your expectations. Seldom was a friendship made or broken in a 1- to 2-hour period.
Bring Props or Seek Them Out
Many shy people struggle with their body language when they go into a party. They stand awkwardly, or aren’t even aware that they kept their hands in their jeans pocket for the entire 2-hour period of a party.
If this is a concern, bring along a prop that will help you look more natural and relaxed. Maybe it’s a silk scarf that you can grasp every once in a while. Even better, pick a favorite piece of clothing that you absolutely love. This will give subconsciously give you a sense of comfort and security throughout the evening.
Or, once you arrive, pick up a tall stem glass. Sip slowly on your drink to make the “prop” last.
You obviously want something that will help you, not make you look even more awkward. That favorite winter coat isn’t going to help you in the middle of summer.
Look the Part First, Then Act It
It doesn’t matter if you’re the friendliest or most interesting person if you don’t look like it first. You have to look approachable first before you can befriend someone. Read up a bit on the body language of likable and approachable people, then replicate this. If you struggle socially, practice a few times in front of the mirror.
Here are some expert body language tips that will most definitely help:
- Make eye contact. Don’t stare at people and don’t let your eye contact linger, but don’t keep looking down, either.
- Most people still consider looking at a smart phone while at a dinner party as rude, so keep it at a minimum.
- Don’t cross your arms or take on a closed-off body stance. This has a connotation that you’re guarded, or in defense mode.
- On the other side of the body language spectrum, don’t point fingers, either. This comes off as aggressive and oftentimes rude.
- Another biologically rooted body language tip is to appear unarmed. So let your palms face up and expose your wrists when gesturing.
- Pace your body movements. Don’t smile too soon, and don’t wave your hands around uncontrollably when you speak. Even if you are nervous, you still can control those things if you consciously focus on them.
- Repeat the other person’s gestures, but don’t let them notice it. This is the physical equivalent of being a good listener. By repeating the other person’s gesture, they will see you as familiar and likable.
You won’t be able to make any friends this way.
Introduce Yourself, Don’t Wait On Others
Everyone has their own perception of their own social environment. Just because you perceive something one way doesn’t mean that everyone else at the party perceives it the same way. Don’t adopt imaginary slights and assume that others don’t like you or aren’t friendly.
The truth is that the people at the party are there for the same reason as you – to socialize.
Nobody goes to a party thinking, “I’m going so that I can sit in a corner and hate on people.”
Everyone else there is trying to make friends just as much as you are. By being the first one to introduce yourself, you automatically take the lead of the conversation.
And deep inside, you’ll immediately have a boost of confidence since you had to courage to walk up to someone rather than waiting around for others to approach you.
Be the First Person of Contact
You have a greater chance of striking up a conversation with a newly arriving person than one who’s already there.
Someone who is just a vague acquaintance of the host is actively looking to strike up a conversation. Most of us secretly have this fear whenever we walk into a party where we know very few people. So take advantage of this and “scoop up” those new guests who are still trying to settle in and find their conversation partner.
Because later on when guests form into groups or cliques, it will be a lot harder to find a conversation partner.
Talk About Others, Not Yourself
On the other side of the spectrum of socializing, you have the loud, obnoxious people who can’t stop talking about themselves.
Don’t be one of those people.
The fact remains that people like talking about themselves. Look up into any research about what makes someone likable. It was always listening, not talking. It wasn’t that the person wasn’t an interesting person per se, but rather, they were an interested listener.
So, your goal for the evening is to focus on becoming an interested listener first, and an interesting person second.
To achieve this, imagine any conversation you will have as a funnel. At first, you want to be as broad as possible to find what the person is about. Think about what 90% of the general population is about, then seek to discuss those topics. Talk about work, hobbies, sports, fashion,
Once you notice that the other person lingers just a bit more on a certain topic or that his or her eyes light up a bit more in excitement, then go into more depth on that topic and ask follow-up questions.
You will have talked very little, yet the other person will feel like they’ve known you forever. In fact, they will have done most of the talking with themselves, which is why most people come out of conversations with a great listener feeling like they’ve known the other person for a long time.
Compliment Others and Find Commonalities
Now that you know that people like hearing their own voice and that you should become a great listener, another thing to do is to compliment others and to find commonalities with them.
These two ideas rest on the same idea of flattery. Complimenting another is a form of flattery anyway, but by finding commonalities, you’re also complimenting them at the same time.
When you mention that you also play tennis or own the same designer handbag, you’re not only finding things in common, but you’re also complimenting the other person through his or her life choices.
Never Force Yourself on Anyone, Especially Groups
As a party commences, people naturally find themselves in groups. You’ll have to be careful not to force yourself on a group of people who are already chatting. Don’t be the person who awkwardly shouts a comment from the other side of the room.
It will appear more awkward if you force yourself on groups of people than trying to strike up a conversation with individuals. So go slowly if you plan on making it into the circle.
You’re better off looking for other individuals like yourself who aren’t talking to anyone, or waiting for the group to break up. If you find most people from the group stepping out for a short break, figure out where they were standing, and then just “accidentally” find yourself in their position when they come back.
People are creatures of habit, so don’t be surprised if the group tries to form in the spot again. They’ll have no choice but to strike up a conversation with you since you’re in their spot now.
Position Yourself Strategically and Move About
The above example is a way of positioning your body physically to be able to socialize with others.
But it’s even more important to not find yourself in that position to start with. You want to pick the most opportune area of the room to socialize as soon as you arrive.
This is why it’s good to not be the last person arriving to a party. You’ll have more choices when it comes to where you’ll be seated (unless the host has a specific seating arrangement to follow).
Position yourself to be facing newly arriving guests so that you can make as much eye contact as possible. Don’t face the wall and don’t push yourself into a corner.
Take a look at the layout of the space, then envision how people will naturally move about. If the party starts with appetizers and cocktails, scan the room to see where those may be served. About half an hour after those, most parties will move on to the main course. Get ahead of that and position yourself closer to that area. If there is an activity planned after dinner, get ahead of that too and position yourself where that is planned.
Find a Balance Between Being Creative and Respectful
Your host has planned out the evening in great detail. As such, you must respect his or her planned activities and guidance. It probably isn’t a good idea to all of a sudden snag a microphone that happens to be sitting on a table and to start goofing around prematurely.
But at the same time, if you notice that guests are getting bored or that there’s a delay between the dinner courses or activities, there’s nothing wrong with doing something a bit out of the ordinary. It’s probably a good idea not to mess with anything that belongs to the host, or anything that looks like it took a great deal of effort to put together.
Be creative on your own, without touching anything that belongs to the host. If you do it tastefully and don’t go overboard, your host will probably thank you for it.
Ask Open-Ended Questions That Inspire Creativity
Don’t ask yes or no questions, or you may find yourself the only person to be talking. Even if the other person was interested in you at some point in the conversation, you’ll soon notice that the power is shifting to their court and they’ll quickly become disinterested.
Ask open-ended questions that will give the other person the opportunity to be a creative thinker. Don’t be judgmental or provocative, but feel free to ask questions that make the other questions. Instead of asking trite questions that everyone expects, ask deeper questions.
Instead of asking “Did you like your new job after you switched from the old one,” ask “What made you decide to accept the second job since you told me you already liked the first one?”
Hopefully, these 11 tips will help you better socialize at the next dinner party. And remember, you already are special to the host. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have invited you at all.
So go on, walk into that party feeling that way!
How to Make Small Talk Like a Pro
When attending a party with mixed friend groups, you’re inevitably going to meet new people. And that means that, whether or not you like it, you’re going to have to make small talk.
25 Secrets to Being the Best Party Guest Ever
For shy people or those with social anxiety, small talk can seem like a mountain that is way too intimidating to climb. However, small talk doesn’t have to be stiff conversations about the weather and what you’re eating. In fact, these introductory conversations can be truly rewarding and lead to new friendships, business connections or . Want to learn how to make dinner party small talk like a pro? Use these five tips and you’ll be the hit of the party in no time.
Have Topics in Mind
Nobody wants to be stuck talking about the weather or your surroundings all night, so think of a few conversation topics before you embark on your evening, like fun facts about food or the state you live in. This is particularly important if you’re an anxious person who is intimidated by meeting new people. While you don’t want to seem like a rolodex of topics, try to study up a little on current events and pop culture so you can engage with your fellow party guests.
Pretend Like Everyone Is Already Your Friend
The old phrase “fake it till you make it” applies here. If you enter into each new conversation with confidence, a smile and enthusiasm, people will react in kind. Automatically assume that everybody in the room is kind and that they think you’re a nice, interesting person, too. You’ll feel better about yourself, and other people will be able to sense that.
Ask Questions (and Follow-Up Questions)
People love to talk about themselves, so don’t be afraid to load the bulk of the conversation on them. Even a simple question such as “What do you do for a living?” can turn into something more meaningful if you ask more about their job or how they got interested in that career. Be genuinely interested in what the other person has to say and the rest of your exchange should flow seamlessly.
The easiest way to be a good conversationalist is to be a great listener. While it may seem obvious, try not to space out while your conversation partner is talking, even if they may be a little dull. Listen to what the other person is saying and try and make a connection to your own life. Chances are you have some sort of shared interest or experience that you can build upon.
If the Conversation Lulls, Don’t Be Afraid to Excuse Yourself
Listen, you’re not going to hit it off with every single person that you meet. And that’s OK! Don’t sweat it. If the conversation really has come to a dead end, just make a small excuse and say goodbye to the person you were talking to. Something as simple as, “I’m going to go try one of those mushroom caps,” or, “It was so nice to meet you! I’m going to go catch up with Katie!” are perfectly acceptable exit phrases that won’t offend.
And if you’re really, truly stuck on what to say to someone; try a compliment. Start here, with these 15 nice things you should say more often.
Be Social: 7 English Small Talk Topics for Starting Friendly Conversations
You’re at a party or a lunch, and everyone is off talking to someone else.
You’re left standing next to one person who you don’t know.
Sure, you want to talk to them, but you have no idea what to say.
We’ve all been there.
The silence (time when there’s no sound) you get when two people don’t have anything to say is called an awkward silence. Awkward means uncomfortable and embarrassing.
To avoid these awkward silences, you need to know how to make small talk in English.
Small talk is the kind of conversation you make when you want to talk to someone but neither of you wants to get into a very deep or complicated conversation. It’s “small” because you talk about unimportant things, in a way that fills up silences and makes you both feel more comfortable and friendly with each other.
The more you practice small talk, the easier it will become.
Until you’re comfortable making your own small talk, you can start out by learning a few excellent topics for making small talk that will leave you sounding and feeling comfortable and confident.
Why Making Small Talk Is a Big Deal
There’s nothing “small” about small talk.
Being able to hold a conversation about something simple like the weather might seem like it’s not important, but it’s a key skill to have if you’re learning a language. Think about how many times you make small talk in your native language during the day.
Making small talk can help you:
- Avoid awkward silences
- Easily get to know someone new
- Seem friendlier
- Become closer with acquaintances and coworkers
- Sound more like a native speaker
You can make small talk pretty much any time you and one (or a few) other people are gathered in one location, aren’t busy and aren’t already talking about something. You can make small talk at a party, before a work meeting or while waiting for your food to microwave in the office.
You can ask someone how his morning was while you’re together on the elevator, or comment on the weather as you’re waiting for the bus.
Body Language Is Also a Language
Did you think you were only learning to speak English here? Your body says almost as much as your mouth when you speak English—and so do the bodies of other people.
For example, if you’re waiting in line to pay for something at the store, and the person in front of you is turned away from you, tapping their foot impatiently and glancing at their phone all the time, they probably don’t want to talk to you. If, on the other hand, the person in front of you turns around, catches your eye and smiles, you can try starting a small conversation.
You can make yourself more approachable by doing small things that will make a big difference. If you’re trying to make small talk, or want to show that you’re interested in a conversation, don’t cross your arms or your legs. Instead, make eye contact and smile!
Small Talk for Every Occasion
Some topics are universal, meaning you can use them anywhere and with anyone. Others are better suited for specific situations. For example, work-related topics might be better used with coworkers at the office, and hobby-related topics might be better with friends.
Small talk topics are small—that is, they’re not significant or important. Keep it positive, and avoid “heavy” topics, including anything negative or controversial (a topic many people disagree on).
Don’t be too random, and surprise the other person with a strange new topic. Let the conversation happen naturally instead of trying to ask questions like a list. The best small talk is the situational kind, something you observe about your environment and work into a conversation.
For example, you can tell the person you’re on the elevator with that the weather is terrible or ask if he’s looking forward to the weekend (if it’s a Friday), but you probably shouldn’t ask him what his hobbies are—that’s just strange!
To get more comfortable with making small talk, see how it happens in real life with FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like news, music videos, skits, interviews and more—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
7 English Small Talk Topics for Starting Friendly Conversations
Before you can get to know someone, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself.
You can introduce yourself to anyone you don’t know, or to remind someone you’ve met before who might have forgotten you. When you’re introducing yourself, you can add a little bit of information like where you first met, or what you do. You can even use your English learning as a conversation starter.
“Good morning! We always have coffee at the same time but we’ve never spoken before. My name is .”
“Hello, how are you today? My name is . I’m still learning English so please let me know if I make any mistakes.”
“Hi Angela. You might not remember me but we met at Tom’s Christmas party last year. I’m .”
2. Universal Topics
Topics that are universal can be shared by almost anyone.
Things like the weather, current news, sports and entertainment are usually safe conversation starters, especially when you’re speaking to a group—even if one person doesn’t really watch sports, someone else in the group might.
Although these topics are talked about by many, some people might not be fans of sports, or might not follow entertainment news, so if you can, try to match people’s interests to the topic you choose. For example, if you’ve heard them talking about big news stories in the past, you could try to talk about a news story from today.
“Did you watch the Oscars last week? I can’t believe Leonardo DiCaprio finally won one!”
“This weather is crazy! It was cold yesterday and today I came in with an open jacket. I hope it stays warm, don’t you?”
“That basketball game yesterday had me glued to my seat. Wasn’t that a great save at the very end?”
3. The Day
If you’re not sure what topic to talk about, or don’t have anything interesting to say, you can just ask someone about their day, or you can talk about yours.
For example, you could ask them:
- How was your day? / How has your day been so far?
- How have you been feeling today?
- What have you been doing today?
- Has anything exciting happened today?
- What are you planning for after work?
- Are you doing anything fun after work?
You can also share information about your day and how you’re doing, but try to keep a balance of talking and listening, so you both get to speak the same amount (and you’re not just talking about yourself the entire time).
Even if the person looks like they’ve been having a bad day, you can make it brighter just by making small talk! Make sure not to ask questions that are too personal, and instead offer some nice words of encouragement.
“Hey there. You look like you’re having a rough day. I hope it gets better for you.”
“Good morning! I went camping on Saturday, and of course it rained all day. Was your weekend any better?”
“The day is almost over! Do you have any interesting plans for the evening?”
4. The Workplace
Some conversations are only appropriate in a work environment.
Stay even less personal at work than in more casual places, and avoid gossiping (talking about other people who are not present)! Instead, you can talk about the day, an upcoming party or meeting, or ask about the person’s job.
“Hi Tom. How are things going over at the IT department today?”
“Good morning. I’m really looking forward to the party after work today. I hear Pam brought her famous carrot cake!”
“What a busy day. This is the first time I’ve gotten up from my seat all day! Are you busy too?”
Some of the best small talk is about where you and your conversation partner are located.
It’s something you both share, so there’s no worry that they won’t know what you’re talking about. Look around and find something to comment on, or look at your partner and find something nice to compliment them on. Nothing makes people feel better than a genuine compliment!
“I love your shoes today, they really pull your outfit together.”
“Did you see? They finally fixed the light in the break room. It’s been broken for almost a month!”
“Hey Pam, your cookies last night were delicious! Thank you for making them for the party.”
6. Common Interests
When you have something similar with your speaking partner, that means you have something to talk about. Find a mutual friend (a friend you both know) or a common interest or hobby, and you’ll have something to talk about.
Keep in mind that English speakers rarely actually say the word “hobby,” so asking “What are your hobbies?” sounds strange and unnatural. Try asking questions instead, based on observations.
“My cousin mentioned you last night. I didn’t know you knew her! Where did you meet?”
“I noticed your hat has a Yankees logo. Are you a fan of baseball too?”
“I tried baking cookies like yours last night and they came out terrible. How do you make them so good?”
You might have noticed by now that most of these small talk examples have something in common: They ask questions. A good way to start a conversation is to make a comment, then ask a question. This keeps the conversation from ending on your comment (and making things even more awkward!).
When asking questions, listen as much as you talk, and don’t get too personal with your questions. And remember to keep things positive!
“Hey, I heard you were thinking of adopting a new dog. Did you find one?”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while: how long have you been working here?”
“Your hair always looks great. What hair products do you use?”
The next time you’re standing with someone and no one is speaking, you know what to do!
And One Last Tip About Learning English Small Talk
What’s the key to learning conversational English?
Using the right content and tools.
After all, a regular textbook isn’t going to teach you the casual English you need to know.
You need to learn from real English like it’s spoken on TV.
Well, there is a site designed to help you with just that: FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos like music videos, commercials, news, and inspiring talks and turns them into English learning experiences. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a lot of fun videos—topics like popular talk shows, music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. Don’t understand a word? Just tap on it to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, tap on the word “brought,” and you see this:
And FluentU is not just for watching videos. FluentU is a complete system for learning English. Learn all the vocabulary in any video with useful questions. Multiple examples are always available for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU remembers your vocabulary. Using those words, FluentU recommends new examples and videos to you. Your experience is truly personalized.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, or from the Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you’ll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.
Experience English immersion online!
4 Conversation Starters To Get You Through This Holiday Party Season
Depending on your past experiences, company parties can either spark excitement or dread.
No matter what your initial outlook may be, the time is here again for company parties. And you may have even more than your own to attend: you’ve probably gotten an invite to your spouse’s or friend’s company party, too.
But this year, you’ve decided to be prepared.
If you’re seeking conversation starters that are both professional and engaging for your next company party, we’ve got your back this holiday season.
Take a peek at these 4 perfect conversation starters to make you a networking pro at the next company holiday party — plus bonus conversation tips sure to make you a hit!
“Isn’t this decor beautiful?”
It’s tough to tell what you and someone else may have in common by simply looking at them. And it can be awkward to dive into personal questions right off the bat.
The one thing you’re guaranteed to have in common? Location.
Referring to the decor surrounding you opens a platform for input, whether it be on the decor itself or other happenings you’re both experiencing at the party.
Addressing your shared location by complimenting your surroundings not only points out this commonality and makes both parties a bit more present, but shows you’re a positive person who enjoys pointing out the lovely things in life.
“How did you meet?”
The key to starting a conversation that will continue to flow is asking open-ended questions that are bound to lead to stories.
That’s why “how did you two meet?” is a perfect conversation starter if you or you and a partner are meeting or getting to know a new couple.
This question opens up a way for you to follow up with stories of your own, putting you on the fast track to a good chat.
Pay close attention to their story, gather clues of what drives them as people, and search for a commonality.
If you and your spouse are looking for friends, this conversation could also be a great way to plan a double date!
“Have you been to any great new restaurants lately?”
This one comes as a recommendation from Debi Lilly, event designer and author of A Perfect Event: Inspired, Easy Elegance for Every Occasion.
Lilly states, “I find everyone likes to eat and talk about eating and share what and where they’ve been eating.”
And she’s right! According to a Waitrose survey, over 1/2 of people aged 18-34 post pictures of food on their social media.
Asking about great restaurants helps add some specificity to the conversation, which reduces the likelihood of the conversation stalling due to indecision. It also keeps the conversation on a positive track, and tells you a bit more about the preferences and personality of the other person
“I noticed you ___ .”
Fill in the blank to make this statement a genuine compliment. For example, you could say, “I noticed you got a haircut recently. It looks great!” or “I noticed your sales have skyrocketed this month. Good for you!”
This is a great opener for people in the office you don’t know very well, and also for coworkers with whom you may have butted heads in the past and want to get a fresh start.
A genuine compliment shows that you respect your coworker’s presence in the workplace, even if you tend to disagree on certain topics.
Just be sure to keep the tone friendly and genuine. Tone is everything, and if you’re still stewing over how long it took them to email you back last week, your tone is bound to turn sour.
3 More Ways to Be a Hit at Your Next Office Party
1. Honor Your Introversion or Extroversion
One of the main keys to maintaining the energy to converse is to know how you work in a social setting.
If you’re an introvert, be sure to take small breaks to recharge. Excuse yourself for a bathroom break and snack refresher, or to step outside for fresh air and get a few moments of quiet to reassemble your thoughts.
If you’re an extrovert, remember to pause and listen before moving on to the next topics. It can be easy to do all the talking and dominate conversations if you’re naturally talkative, but the best conversations are an equal give-and-take!
Remember to ask specific, open-ended questions that allow for conversational flow. “Yes” or “no” questions tend to have boring answers, and no one enjoys boring conversations!
2. Avoid These Topics
Since you’re getting to know people in a professional environment, it’s best to avoid topics like religions, politics, and office gossip.
These can lead to a conflict that reaches beyond healthy debate, and tend to build protective walls that prevent getting to know someone better.
3. Mind Your Body Language
Another key to quality workplace party conversation is body language, both paying attention to your own and the body language of the person you’re chatting up.
Maintain eye contact, keep your arms in an open position (uncrossed), and be sure to nod and make appropriate facial expressions in response.
Looking for more ways to relax and fully enjoy the many parties and gatherings this holiday season? Gain some tips on taking care of your mind, body and soul so you can enjoy a stress-free holiday this year >
It’s that time of year again—holiday party season.
Whether it’s the office party or a more intimate gathering of friends and family, it’s best to be ready with a bevy of conversation icebreakers to avoid blank stares and awkward interactions.
Some of your coworkers, neighbors, or cousins may really open up if you just give them the chance. Try these 15 ideas for keeping the conversation flowing.
- Start with compliments. Do you like a certain guest’s style? Be sure to make sure they know it; everyone loves a genuine compliment. And, bonus, you’ll get to find out where they got their cool boots or fabulous hat.
- How do you know the host? An oldie, but goodie.
- Where did you grow up? Find out more details about guests without asking overly personal questions.
- Ask about upcoming holiday plans. Asking guests to share their holiday plans allows them to talk about their upcoming trip to Paris or how they feel about going back home after a 10-year absence. Either way, you’ll have plenty to talk about.
- Talk about current events. If you’ve read an interesting article lately, bring it up in conversation.
- How’s the weather? Asking about the weather may seem cliché. But with unusual weather happening all over the country this past year, talking about the weather is anything but boring.
- Did you travel anywhere exciting this year? Get some extra mileage out of that trip to Spain you took this summer. Talking about where you visited and asking about guests’ vacations will give you plenty to chitchat about.
- Ask guests to identify their favorite book or movie of all time. Who doesn’t like talking about their favorite media?
- What’s the worst movie you’ve seen lately? Who doesn’t like talking about media they don’t like?
- Share your opinion on the buffet. What’s the spread at the party like? Are you trying to figure out the ingredients in that tasty dip? Enlist a fellow partygoer to help you investigate.
- What’s your sign? Do you believe in astrology? Millennials are bringing astrology back, so knowing your sign is an easy way to stimulate conversation around the topic. Bonus: Saturn returns are a great topic for guests in their late 20s and early 30s.
- How was your year? This is particularly effective at end-of-year holiday and New Year’s parties. It gives guests a chance to get to know each other as well as offer personal details about themselves.
- Ask about family. If you run into people you know, ask about how Aunt Tina is doing. It shows you care.
- Recall shared memories. Remember that time Pete did drunken karaoke at the last office party? Reminiscing about memories in common can lighten up the mood and give guests the opportunity to laugh together.
- Talk about politics. Most lists like this will tell you to avoid talking about politics like the plague. However, if you know the crowd a bit and the scene is more intimate, bringing up politics can definitely stimulate conversation. If you don’t know who you’re talking to or you’re at the office party though, it’s best to leave politics and religion out of it.