There’s nothing quite like breaking the conversational barrier with a friend or co-worker. In order to reach that level of chummy rapport, though, you have to endure a bit of small talk.
Lots of people find it difficult to make small talk, and it’s no surprise why: You’re often going in cold trying to understand someone about whom you know nothing. Small talk can be a great catalyst for real conversation — and get you to your end goal of facilitating a friendly rapport with someone — but you have to know how to do it.
The following are 39 of the best questions you can have up your sleeve when you need to make small talk with someone. Forego the traditional weather-related questions and delve deeper to find your commonalities and their quirks. These little things are what makes the difference between acquaintances and friends, and you can uncover them with even the littlest bit of conversational finesse.
1. What’s the last book you read? Would you recommend it?
2. What charities or social causes do you support?
3. What’s the quirkiest thing about the town where you grew up?
4. What was your first job?
5. What animal do you think is your “spirit animal” — the animal that best represents who you are?
6. What’s your best party trick? Any other hidden talents?
7. How did you get into your field of work? Would you like to try something different?
8. What’s the best restaurant in your area of the city?
9. What’s the most exotic food you’ve ever tried?
10. Which item on your bucket list will be the easiest to tackle? The most difficult?
11. Tell me one out-of-the-ordinary thing about your day today.
12. What’s your favorite accessory to wear? How many do you own?
13. What’s the best thing you’ve ever bought at a thrift shop/flea market/yard sale?
14. Would you rather explore a new city or relax on the beach when you go on vacation?
15. If you could have any superpower, what would you pick?
16. What’s your guilty pleasure TV show/musical artist/movie?
17. What city have you visited that you found most inspiring?
18. How did you choose your major in college?
19. When you were young, what did you want to be as a grown-up?
20. What was your first car? What do you use for transportation now?
21. How do you clear your mind after a long day?
22. What film last made you laugh?
23. What’s the most unbelievable-but-true thing that’s ever happened to you?
24. Where have you traveled that inspired you?
25. What non-work passion project are you working on?
26. Do you follow the zodiac? Do you think your sign represents you?
27. If you had a free round-trip airplane ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
28. What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen?
29. Who in your life would you choose to be your partner on “The Amazing Race?”
30. What’s your go-to meal to cook if you want to impress a dinner guest?
31. Do you collect anything? Why?
32. What’s the best advice anyone has ever given to you?
33. What musical act are you dying to see live?
34. What was your senior quote in your high school yearbook?
35. Have you ever loved a movie that critics hated, or vice-versa?
36. What was your favorite teen movie?
37. What podcast(s) do you listen to to get you through the commute?
38. Do you take any classes or practice a particular hobby? Would you like to?
39. What’s the craziest way you’ve ever traveled? Hot-air balloon, camel, blimp…?
Finish It Off
Once you have memorised the small talk questions you want to use at your next party or networking event, brush up on your delivery. Even if you’re not one to make small talk, with an arsenal full of questions you can ask with confidence, you’ll be chatting it up in no time at all.
It’s also not a bad idea to rehearse how you’ll make your exit from the conversation. You don’t want to leave someone questioning the entire conversation because you didn’t know how to properly bid him or her farewell. So, excuse yourself politely and end things on a high.
Finally, always learn the person’s name and remember it the next time you see him or her, whether it’s later at the same party or at another gathering. There’s a difference between listening and hearing, and relationships are formed only when you’re really hearing what someone has to say. And, even though it’s small talk, you can still learn a lot if you’re paying attention.
Now get out there and socialise without an ounce of dread. You know what you’re doing, and you’ll be very pleased that you practiced.