We all need to rely on small talk here and there. Even if you hate it, it’s necessary for conversing with people at work, parties and strangers whom you don’t know well enough to talk about more personal and touchy subjects with. Of course, just because you know you need to use small talk here and there doesn’t mean it’s always easy.
Fortunately, for those who need a little help coming up with subjects to discuss with strangers and acquaintances, The Happiness Project has a great list of potential conversation topics you might consider using. Personally, I suggest doing whatever you can to avoid the cliche “weather” opening just because it usually results in a short, frantic conversation about the heat or cold you’re experiencing followed by a dead silence where you both try to think of a new topic or something else to say about the weather, but other than that, the list is pretty dead-on.
1. Comment on a topic common to both of you at the moment: the food, the room, the occasion, the weather.
2. Comment on a topic of general interest.
3. Ask a question that people can answer as they please.
4. Ask open questions that can’t be answered with a single word.
5. If you do ask a question that can be answered in a single word, instead of just supplying your own information in response, ask a follow-up question.
6. Ask getting-to-know-you questions.
7. React to what a person says in the spirit in which that that comment was offered.
8. Be slightly inappropriate.
9. Follow someone’s conversational lead.
10. Along the same lines, counter-intuitively, don’t try to talk about your favorite topic, because you’ll be tempted to talk too much.
A Menu of Options for Making Small Talk | The Happiness Project