NOT all of us are blessed with the chit chat stylings of Oprah Winfrey.
And while a smile goes a long way, having a few cracking conversation starters up your sleeve will come in handy next time you schmooze with a new business client or meet someone for a first date.
Website thingsbybean.com has compiled a list of conversational do’s and don’ts to ensure your banter doesn’t fall flat.
“How about that rain? It’s wet right?”
“Seriously though, I’ve been sweating so much today I’m practically a puddle.”
Unless it’s a weather apocalypse or you run in meteorologist circles, no one really wants to talk about your new rain gauge or superior sweat glands.
Whether you’re dreaming of a jaunt around Europe or have just arrived home from sunny Mexico, the key is to ask open-ended questions. Give these a whirl:
– Any travel plans on the cards?
– Thinking about a serious edit of my travel bucket list – what’s on yours?
Some folk out there love their job. Kudos to them. For the majority of us though, the office isn’t the most exciting place to be (unless you work at Disneyland), so why would we want to talk about our job?
Also, not everyone is going to find your job fascinating. While you may love to bang on about what you do and why it fills you with joy, the person you’re talking to probably won’t be interested in the latest data entry trends… if they are, marry them.
Do: Dream job
If you must talk shop – at least make it interesting. Take it back to what you dreamed of doing when you were a kid, what was your first real job and how did that lead to where you are now? Questions like this open up a whole new world of conversation and give your new buddy a chance to reminisce about the good old days.
Don’t: Home sweet home
So, where are you from?
Sorry, your social status is sinking fast with that one. We’ve heard it so many times before I actually nodded off mid-sentence. And just to be clear this question covers where you grew up, where you live now, and your actual current residential address – don’t go there, it’s creepy.
Do: Ask questions
Sure, ‘where are you from?’ is a question – just don’t ask that one. That goes for ‘how was your day?’ too. Be more specific:
-What’s something fun you did today?
-Ever tried skydiving?
-What about abseiling?
Of course, these examples are based on the assumption the person you’re talking to looks physically fit and able to take part in such activities. But you get the point – these questions force someone to think about fun things they’ve done lately.
Whether you’re seriously loved up or recently dumped – don’t go there. One way you’re gushing, the other way you’re sobbing, it ain’t a good first impression and the conversation will be going nowhere, fast.
This doesn’t include discussing your ex’s favourite restaurant. Or that noodle place where you had your first blind date that was an epic fail. I’m talking about food, Mexican or Thai, breakfast or dinner, sweet or savoury? Everyone’s got to eat so your chances of finding at least some common ground are strong. But if food isn’t your strong suit, turn to drinks. Red or white? Coffee so strong you can stand a spoon up in it, or a nice cup of Earl Grey? From there you could roll it out to favourite restaurants and cafes, chefs and baristas! Food brings people together like nothing else.
So, my cat died. Then Uncle Fred finally kicked the bucket.
Yes, death is part of life. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be injected into every conversation, particularly when talking to someone you just met. I’m so sorry that your cat died. I’m sorry you lost your uncle. But unless I’m your BFF getting geared up for an ugly cry session with buckets of ice cream, death will kill a conversation in its tracks. See what we did there?
Do: Make jokes, give compliments, ask advice
How about having a go at being the life of the party instead? The odd joke, a genuine compliment or asking for some advice are all sure fire ways to stop a conversation from stalling… of course it pays to know your audience on the joke front, so tread with caution on that one. Love someone’s dress? Tell them. Just met someone and find yourself lost in their eyes? Don’t tell them, again, the creepy factor. Need advice? Ask for it – people tend to become pretty passionate when sharing their opinion. So if you need help, ask away and let the conversation flow.