“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
– Oscar Wilde
I’ve had several people ask me what they should talk about when conversing with strangers. To answer this question as best I can, I’ve devised a little cheat sheet based on my own experiences. Read on and enjoy.
Openers & Topics:
- Do you know if [insert object]… ? – “Do you know if they sell kiwi? I’ve recently started drinking homemade juice and wanted to make this one fruit drink, but no one seems to have the ingredients in stock.”
- You look like your having a hell of a time. – “You look like your having a hell of a time. Until I saw you, I had thought I was having the most fun.”
- Is [insert book/phone/food] any good? – “Is The Great Gatsby any good? I’m really excited for the the movie, Leonardo Dicaprio does an awesome job in everything.”
All of these examples utilize minimal functionality. There’s no reason to create intricate routines in attempt to instigate conversation. Instead, stick to a simple opening statement and follow it up with some brief dialogue that will engage your listener. This formula has worked for me almost every time.
I also want to briefly address what not to do. These are all common mistakes that are easily repeatable. Messing up and doing one of the following won’t have catastrophic repercussions, but it will make your interaction a lot more difficult.
Openers & Topics to avoid:
- Where is [insert place or object]? – “Where is the fruit isle?” This is a bad opener because it can be answered in a linear fashion and lacks any kind of follow up. Once you get a response the conversation is pretty much over.
- Any complaint. – “This place sucks,” “I feel stupid,” and “I don’t like that,” all make the conversation really awkward. No one likes a whiner, and your negative mood will dampen the interaction.
- Inappropriate subject matter – Talk about things that are congruent to your environment and the person who your talking with. If you’re at a club, don’t try and tell a story about work. Likewise, don’t tell your coworkers about how awesome “Thirsty Thursday” was. Also avoid saying anything offensive. This doesn’t mean you have to be boring, it just means that telling people a story fit for 4Chan probably won’t win you any friends.
If you think I missed out on anything or would like to share your own tips, feel free to leave a comment.