Small Talk Topics to Keep Conversation Going
Do you know which are the best small talk topics? The most dreaded situation for many people is often needing to make small talk with someone you’ve just met. Have you ever felt that way?
You might feel a bit like you are groping around in the dark, trying to find something on which you can both talk for more than a couple of sentences.
One thing to note is that it will be easier for you to make small talk with some people than others.
There are so many factors that come into play, such as how much you have in common and how much the other person actually wants to talk. So, you should never take it personally if small talk doesn’t go well.
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That being said, having an awareness of what topics are good for small talk and which ones are best to avoid will give you more confidence when you do find yourself in that situation.
Also, make sure to ask lots of follow up questions during small talk. But remember it’s a conversation, not an interrogation.
When someone asks you a question, make sure to give a detailed answer and answer any follow-up questions they ask you. Every conversation should be a give and take of talking and listening.
Below under each topic are a few sample questions to get you started and to help you think of other questions.
But remember that these are just the beginning of the questions you can ask.
There are many more possible questions for each topic. Come up with your own questions based on their answers or from your own creativity.
These are your run of the mill, first meeting someone, topics to talk about. You’ll find that most people will have at least some things to say about each of these topics.
Once you stumble upon something interesting or something they are interested in, keep talking about that for a while.
Branch off from your initial topic and ask follow up questions about whatever they seem interested in. Usually, people like talking about themselves, so it’s good to focus on them and be a good listener with occasional prompting follow up questions.
Okay, enough with the introduction and tips. Here we go, topics to talk about. Enjoy!
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First though, don’t talk about…
- Sex or past relationships
- Age or appearance
Whatever is going on in your life, or regardless of what you want to know about the other person, don’t bring up these topics: they are inappropriate for small talk and will make a lot of people uncomfortable.
Situational topics are anything that has to do with the situation that you find yourself in. These are usually the very first thing that you will say to a complete stranger that you’ve never met before. Some examples are below.
- How long have you been waiting?
- Have you seen this speaker before?
- Where are you headed (on an airplane)?
- What do you think of the food here?
- What do you think of the music here?
This seems so cliche, but it truly is the easiest starting point if you don’t know someone at all. Weather is the banalest of all situational topics. You’ll probably find that a lot of the small talk you make with people who cross your path randomly will center around the weather.
As an example, the cashiers at Walmart tend to ask me what the weather is like outside. So do the lab technicians when I get blood taken.
It’s not so much that they are interested in the weather (they probably just asked the person before me), but that they are just trying to make conversation. It’s a common ground for everyone.
Below are some weather-related statements or questions you could ask during small talk.
- What do you think of this weather?
- What’s your favorite kind of weather?
- What’s your favorite season?
What TV shows or movies are popular? What books are bestsellers? Who’s topping the music charts?
- What’s your favorite band/singer?
- What’s the last movie you saw?
- What’s your favorite song?
- What’s your favorite movie?
- What’s your favorite TV show now and when you were a kid?
- What concerts have you been to?
- What kind of music do you like?
Sports & Fitness
What team is about to win big? When the Toronto Raptors won here in Canada every Canadian felt proud of our team. It was a topic anyone could bring up at the time. Tiger Woods making a comeback in golf was huge. These are events that bring people together to talk.
- Do you like sports?
- What teams do you follow?
- Do you go to games?
- Who do you think will win (sports event)?
- Do you go to the gym?
What’s the big news in your city, country, and the world? When I was in 7th and 8th grade, once a week out teacher would give us a quiz about the news. He’d ask 10 questions about what was going on in the news, and we’d write down our answers.
Looking back, it was an amazing way to keep us on top of current events. I read the news every night so I would do well on the quiz. Being aware of things like this will also help to build your confidence that you can talk to anyone about anything and not feel out of the loop.
- What do you think about (current event)?
- Did you hear about (news story)?
Remember when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married? That’s all anyone could talk about. And then they had their son Archie? Again, it’s big news. Yes, the Royal family counts as celebrities, and people find them interesting. This is the type of small talk you should consider.
- Who’s your favorite celebrity?
- Do you have a celebrity crush?
Asking outright about someone’s family can be tricky, but it will often come up during small talk. One way to start talking about family is to simply mention something about yourself. For example, “my husband said…” “my kids did X,” “my mother told me that Y.”
A perceptive listener will pick up on what you said and ask more questions, possibly learning more about your family. And if you hear little tidbits dropped by someone, it probably means they want to talk about their family too.
- Do you have siblings?
- Do you see your family a lot?
- Are you close to your family?
- What did you like to do as a kid?
Work & School
Most everyone does something in the way of work or is going to school, so this is a good topic for many people. Be sure to keep it interesting though, by asking questions that get more to the emotions behind what they do, rather than just the job itself.
Be sure to share things about yourself and your own line of work too, so that it feels more reciprocal and back and forth, rather than an interrogation. Below are some questions to get the ball rolling.
- What do you do?
- How long have you worked there?
- How do you get along with your coworkers?
- Do you like your job?
- What’s the best thing about your job?
- What’s the hardest thing about your job?
- What’s your dream job?
- When do you want to retire?
- What do you want to do when you retire?
- Did you go to college?
- What kind of jobs have you had?
- What’s your favorite subject in school?
Travel & Culture
If I know someone has gone away on a trip, you better believe I will ask them how it went. If it’s someone you’ve just met, a better approach would be to talk about a trip you just did yourself. Then you could ask if they’ve ever been there, and if not where their favorite spots are.
- Where’s your favorite vacation spot?
- Do you like the beach?
- What countries have you visited?
- Have you ever experienced culture shock?
- Do you speak any other languages?
- If you could move anywhere in the world, where would you go?
- Do you like to go camping?
- Where’s the most interesting place you have been?
Hobbies are good for small talk because they give you a chance to connect on common ground. The problem, however, is that it might be hard to find someone with the same hobbies as you. And you can’t go down a checklist trying to find what you both like.
So it’s best to talk about hobbies that most people can relate to or be fascinated with whatever hobby the other person is really into.
- Do you have any hobbies?
- Do you play any musical instruments?
- Do you have any creative hobbies?
- Do you like dancing?
- Do you listen to any podcasts?
- Do you play video games?
- Are you into gardening?
- Do you do any volunteering?
- Do you like hiking?
- Are you into fashion trends?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- Are you into social media?
Food & Dining
Everyone has to eat, so food can be a good topic to talk about. What type of food does the person enjoy eating? What restaurants do they like? Do they have a preference for a certain type of cuisine or are they following a particular diet? The questions are endless, as are the follow-up questions.
- Do you like food from a certain culture?
- What’s your favorite restaurant?
- What’s your favorite food?
- Do you like to cook?
- Do you like coffee or tea?
- What’s your favorite drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic)?
Everyone used to live somewhere and lives somewhere now. So, it’s natural to ask someone where they grew up and also what city/town they live in now. Below are some questions to get you started.
Strangers might not be comfortable telling you exactly where they live, so try to keep your questions more general.
- What area do you live in?
- Do you like your neighborhood?
- How long have you lived there?
- What do you like most about living there?
- Where did you grow up?
- Did you like where you grew up?
What do you think? Do you find small talk or making conversation hard or easy? Let me know in the comments below.
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