Do You Struggle to Make Conversation?

Adapted from the article by Gretchen Rubin, January 28, 2014

Conversation, or small talk, can be a big problem. I want to be friendly and polite, but can’t think of a thing to say.  Here are some strategies that I try:


1. Comment on a topic that is common to both of you at the moment,

including the venue, the food, the occasion, or the weather. “How do you know our host?” “What brings you to this event?” Keep it positive and do not complain.


2. Comment on a topic of general interest.

Scan Google News right before going anywhere when you need to make small talk, in order to bring up an interesting news item.


3. Ask a question that people can answer as they please.

My favorite question is: “What’s keeping you busy these days?” It’s useful because it allows people to choose their focus (work, volunteering, their family or a hobby). Also, it’s helpful if you ought to remember what the person does for a living, but can’t remember.


4. Ask open questions that can’t be answered with a single word.

If you ask a question that can be answered in a single word, then ask a follow-up question.


5. Ask getting-to-know-you questions. “What internet sites do you visit regularly?” “What vacation spot would you recommend?” These questions often reveal a hidden passion, which can make for great conversation. I ask people about their good and bad habits, and their answers are always fascinating. People enjoy talking about their habits.


6. React to what a person says in the spirit in which that that comment was offered. If he makes a joke, even if it’s not very funny, try to laugh. If she offers some surprising information, react with surprise.


8. Watch out for the Oppositional Conversational Style.

A person with oppositional conversational style is a person who disagrees with and corrects whatever others say.  Other people find this style very annoying.


9. Follow someone’s conversational lead.

If someone obviously mentions a reference to a subject, then pick up on that conversational thread.


10. Don’t try to talk about your favorite topic, because you’ll be tempted to talk too much.



Public Speaking Skills