If I were to ask you for good conversation starters, would you be able to give me some? (I'm asking for a friend.) No? You're not alone.

When you're standing by the punch bowl at an office party or staring at your cutlery on a first date, thinking of something to talk about is difficult. It's even worse when the other person is just as awkward with small talk as you are. But one of you needs to step up to the plate, and that VIP can be you. We're here to help you nail conversation topics so you'll never be part of another boring interaction.

How To Start A Conversation At The Office

five people fist-bumping over laptops

Introduce Yourself

If you're new at work, be the first person to break the ice, and introduce yourself to the people you see frequently. You'll come across as a friendly person who is invested in your workplace, and your coworkers will quickly open up to you.

Ask For Advice

If you find yourself struggling with a big presentation or a report at work, ask a coworker for some advice. You can even ask someone higher up on the corporate ladder to help you out. They'll be happy to give you some helpful pointers, and you'll be able to kill two birds with one stone.

Discover Their Weekend Plans

This might seem like a boring conversation topic, but it doesn't have to be. Dig a little deeper into what your coworker is doing. A great time to use this conversation starter is when a long weekend is coming up. People will probably be going away or spending time with their families, which will give you a lot to talk about. And, when Monday comes around you can always follow-up and ask how their plans went!

Discuss Work Events

Christmas parties, work functions, and meet-and-greets are all ways for employees to mingle. If you have one coming up, bring it up to someone you'd like to get to know better at work. You can joke about the last event you attended, ask them if they're coming to the next one, and ask if they're looking forward to it.

two people in an office chatting across a desk

Ask About Vacations

You see your coworkers day in and day out. If someone you know is planning a vacation, ask them about it. Chances are they'll talk your ear off about their plans. Find out:

  • Where they're going
  • If they've been there before. If they have, ask why they're going back.
  • How long they'll be there

If you know that someone just got back from vacation, ask them:

  • How their vacation was
  • What their favorite part was
  • Why they chose that specific destination

How To Start A Conversation On A First Date

a woman sitting at a table and smiling up at a man

Talk About Food

Presumably, you'll be sitting in a restaurant, so this is the perfect time to bring food into the conversation. You can:

  • Discuss the things you see on the menu
  • Ask your date what they're looking to order
  • Ask if your date has ever been to the restaurant before

You can also talk about your favorite restaurants in the area and recommend places for your date to visit.

Inquire About Projects

If you really want to stand out, ask your date what passion project they're working on. This doesn't need to be related to work; it can be something they're working on on the side. If they're really interested in what they're doing, they'll more than likely go off on a tangent about the project.

Asking about passion projects is much better than asking the boring "What are your hobbies?" question. Your date has more than likely been asked that a lot and will probably give you an automated response.

Delve Into Their Interests

A key to good conversation is to ask open-ended questions. Find out what books they like and why, which movies they can watch over and over, or what the latest concert was that they attended. You can also tell them about your interests and ask if they enjoy something that you do. If they haven't heard of one of your favorite things, you can be the star of the show and let them know all about it.

two people on a date in a coffee shop

Talk About Their Career

This might not seem like an interesting conversation topic. But your date's career is a big part of their life, and there's no harm in finding out more about it. Ask your date:

  • If they like where they're working
  • How long they've been at their current workplace
  • If they're happy where they are

Don't get too into their long-term plans, though, because you don't want them to feel like they're in another job interview. However, by showing an interest, you're letting them know you care about what they do.

Find Out About Their Hometown

Asking your date about where they grew up will surely stir up some good memories they have of their hometown. Poke around and see if they lived in another city before this one and if so, ask why they made the move.

If you are from the same city as your date, that's even better, because you can share your experiences and perspectives. You can break the ice by talking about hot spots in the area or significant events that took place in your city.

How To Start A Conversation At A Party

girls sitting around a table at home with wine

Compliment Someone

When you're surrounded by people you don't know, it's obviously taxing to think of something clever to say. You don't want to cling to your friend all night, so you need to think of something fast. An easy way to introduce yourself to someone is to compliment them. You can say something nice about:

  • Their clothing
  • Their hairstyle, especially if their hair is dyed or they have cool accessories

You can also ask them where they got an article of clothing or where they get their hair done. Even if you tell a little white lie and say you're in desperate need of a new button-up shirt or a new hairstylist, you put the ball in their court. The other person will probably be more at ease when you compliment them, too.

Joke With Another Awkward Guest

I know this sounds like a nightmare for the socially awkward, but turning your awkwardness into a joke can be liberating and open the other person up a bit. I'm not saying to tell a knock-knock joke, but you can joke with someone who's also at the party alone. Make light of the fact that you were abandoned by your friend and ask the guest how they ended up at the party.

party guests chatting at a table over food

Ask How They Know The Host

If you're left to mingle with strangers, you can ask them how they know the host. If, on the other hand, you don't know the host, feel free to let the other guests know. You can lightheartedly tell them that you came with your friend and this is the first time you're meeting these new people. Guests are usually quick to include newcomers.

Make Note Of Your Surroundings

Random, crazy things usually happen at parties. Even low-key get-togethers will include fun conversation and occasional party games. This means you have an entire collection of things to talk about with someone. Mention:

  • Things that are happening in the room
  • The food
  • The selection of drinks
  • The decor

Figure Out Their Favorites

When you're standing next to someone at the food or drink table, ask them what their poison is. Have they brought any food to the party? What do they recommend? Who knows -- you two may have more in common than you think.

How Body Language Can Help Keep A Conversation Going

two people sitting across from one another having coffee

There are things you can do with your posture and facial expression to keep a conversation going. One of the best methods you can use is something called the SOFTEN technique.

Smile

It's one of the easiest things you can do to not only make yourself more approachable, but to show others you're interested in what they're saying.

Open Posture

When you're talking to someone, you don't want to come off as bored or standoffish. Don't cross your arms or tilt yourself away from someone when the two of you are chatting. Be open when engaging with others.

Forward Lean

I don't mean to lean in until you bump noses. Simply lean in subtly and keep your head in their direction.

Touch

This isn't something you should do unless you're comfortable doing so. But when you're with friends or on a first date, you can lightly touch someone on the arm or shoulder when chatting to let them know you're interested in them and their words. It doesn't need to be romantic, either. Shaking someone's hand as you say goodbye or even giving them a hug will boost your relationship.

Eye Contact

Keep your eyes on your conversation partner when they're talking to you. Don't pull out your phone or scan the room for something more interesting. But be sure not to hold so much eye contact that things get awkward. Look away occasionally, but keep your focus on your conversation partner.

Nod

When someone tells you a story or talks about their favorite movie, nod at them. It's a great way to let someone know you're listening.

What To Do When The Conversation Dies

a woman looking at a man across the table in a cafe

Try as you may, sometimes a conversation lulls or straight-up flatlines. When this happens, you can:

  • Ask follow-up questions to what the two of you were talking about
  • Observe things happening around you
  • Subtly transition to a new topic

An important thing to remember is that if a conversation dies, you shouldn't take it personally. Sometimes people are busy, nervous, or uncomfortable meeting new people. Don't let how one conversation wound up determine how the next one will go.

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