If you are someone who loves a good conversation but have no idea where to start, or how some people have an easy time with small talk topics, you are in the right place!
In order to start a discussion, especially with someone you don’t know, you will need to know helpful and unhelpful small talk topics, ones you should definitely try to avoid.
But before we get into these small talk topics, let’s look at some do’s and don’ts when talking to persons you don’t know well:
When talking to people you don’t know well such as clients and customers, here are some things you should do to help clear the air
Smiling before initiating any type of small talk makes you seem friendlier and more approachable. Just don’t fake it, or else you will may turn them off.
When talking to someone, it is important that you maintain eye contact. If they notice that you are scanning the room, you seem uninterested and this may cause offence, but don’t stare either. Be natural!
During a conversation, your body language says a lot. By folding your arms or slouching with crossed legs, you seem closed off and uninterested.
However, by maintaining open body language, you seem openly active, and interested in the conversation.
Here are some things you should avoid when trying to clear dead air:
While you may be excited or passionate about the small talk topics, ranting is very distasteful. You need to converse, not rant.
Texting or responding to emails while having a conversation is perhaps one of the most disrespectful things you can do. If you do get an important phone call, politely excuse yourself.
It is okay to give your opinion on something or disagree but being overly critical can turn someone off completely.
Best Small Talk Topics
These small talk topics are guaranteed to spark a conversation whether it is with a coworker, a client, or someone you met at the grocery store!
Sure, this topic may seem a bit boring and kind of cliché, but it is a neutral topic that anyone can give their input on. A simple starter could be ‘Looks like it is about to rain.’
This small talk topic is a bit situational and can work somewhere like the movies. You could ask ‘So, what movies have you seen lately?’, or ask about one you specifically want to see.
Asking someone about their day is a good small talk topic because it shows interest and chances are, they’ll likely return the question to keep the conversation flowing.
‘Where are you from?’ is among the most popular small talk questions. It isn’t too intrusive and can work in any setting.
Sports is one of the most foolproof small talk topics you can choose. Why? Because even if you don’t like sports, you can talk about why you don’t.
If you are waiting somewhere and there is dead air, make a comment about the décor. It is a simple topic and is something they can easily reply to.
Talking about news is a great way to make small talk because almost everyone has access to what’s going on in the area, whether through newspapers, television news broadcasts, radio, social media, or word of mouth. And if not, they need an update!
Technology is one of the best small talk topics for young adults. Questions could be as simple as ‘Have you seen the new iPhone?’
In a setting such as a gas station, supermarket or store, it is easy to start a conversation by complaining about prices.
Family as a small talk topic works best in informal settings where you have more time to get to know them.
For instance, you can ask, ‘Do you have any children?’ or ‘Are you married?’ because family is something more people are comfortable discussing.
If you are looking for ways to talk with someone who is university age, school is one of the small talk topics you can pick. Ask about courses, whether they like it, or their debt!
Work is one of the most widespread small talk topics. Ask questions like ‘How did you get into that line of work?’ or ‘What do you do for a living?’
Goals as a small talk topic is perfect for a business setting and can even work in more casual settings.
Talking about hobbies is a great way to clear dead air and it can help you to learn a lot more about a person. You might even have a few things in common!
One thing people love to do is vacation, and they love hearing about vacation stories.
You can recommend great travel spots, or a great question to ask is ‘Have you been anywhere interesting lately?’
If you are waiting in line in a food spot, like a restaurant or grocery store, you can always talk about food.
In a restaurant, try ‘Have you tried the special?’ or make simple comments like ‘The fruit sure is fresh here, isn’t it’ (or food item they have).
In a work setting, it is safe to say that everyone looks forward to the weekend, and holidays. Talk about your plans and see if they are willing to share theirs with you.
Worst Small Talk Topics
Now here are some small talk topics you should avoid:
This is without a doubt one of the worst small talk topics. This could spark a very heated debate which could leave you, the other person and everyone else around you, feeling uncomfortable.
Asking someone about their financial situation or criticizing how they spend is one of the most inappropriate and intrusive things you could talk about. Avoid it completely.
Like politics, this is one of the worst small talk topics. It is very sensitive, and things could get uncomfortable very easily.
This isn’t necessarily a bad topic; it is just one that is only appropriate in very informal settings.
Sex as a small talk topic is not only inappropriate, but it could make strangers feel very uncomfortable. It is best to save this for situations where you know the person well.
Using personal gossip as one of your small talk topics does not make a very good first impression. You could end up in a very precarious situation if they know who you are gossiping about.
While this may be funny while talking to friends, it is best to leave them out of conversations with strangers, especially if they are related to race, sex, or sexual orientation.
It has been said that you should never ask a woman her age but making comments about her appearance can be just as bad.
Imagine asking a woman who just has on a few extra pounds if she had just given birth. That can be awkward.
Death is a sensitive topic and should be avoided unless you are expressing condolences. Just remember this is probably the most sensitive of the small talk topics you can choose.
While you may wish to share your personal experience with an illness, using it as one of your small talk topics can make people feel uncomfortable and you may seem desperate for sympathy.
If you are on a first/blind date, asking about or talking about exes and past relationships is a no-no. This information will come up if you make it a few more dates in.
Think about how crazy someone would seem if they came up to you and started bad-mouthing their significant other. See? Then don’t do it.
Small talk topics should involve everyone. If they can’t, avoid them.
The purpose of small talk is to clear dead air, not to make it more awkward or uncomfortable. Read the room and decide which of these small talk topics is best for you, and bear in mind the ones you should avoid!