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Mental Health

Stop struggling with small talk by using the simple 'FORD method'

This'll make your next party a lot easier.

small talk, conversation tips, psychology

Using the FORD method to make small talk.

There are many reasons why people are nervous about entering social situations where they have to make small talk, such as a work event, a party where they don’t know many people, or at school.

Some people don’t enjoy small talk because they get frustrated talking about seemingly unimportant topics. At the same time, others are shy and afraid they’ll say the wrong thing or run out of topics of conversation.

Psychologists suggest those who are uncomfortable knowing what to say should use the FORD method. It’s an acronym that’s an easy way to remember four different topics of conversation that work with just about anyone.


According to Nicole Arzt, M.S., L.M.F.T at Social Self, FORD stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Dreams.

Family

Just about everyone has a family, so it’s a great way to ask someone to share some information about their personal lives without being too forward. Arzt suggests the following questions when making small talk:

Do you have any siblings?

How did you two meet? (if you are meeting a couple for the first time)

How old is your child?

How is your____ (sister, brother, mother, etc.) doing since ____ (event that happened?)

Occupation

Just like a family, almost everyone has a job. Or, if they do not, that can be an interesting topic as well. Here are some starter questions you can ask someone about their job.

What do you do for a living?

How do you like working at _____?

What’s your favorite part of your job?

What made you interested in becoming a _____?

Recreation

You can learn a lot about a person after knowing how they spend their free time. It’s also an excellent way to determine if someone is like-minded and shares the same interests. Here are some questions to get the ball rolling:

What do you like to do for fun?

Have you watched (or read) ______(popular show/book)?

What are you up to this weekend?

Dreams

Learning someone’s hope for the future can tell you much about who they are on a deeper level. They may have just told you about their current job or how they spend their time. But, ultimately, what do they wish to do with their lives? Here’s how to ask someone about their dreams.

Where do you hope to be working in the next few years?

Where would you like to travel?

What’s something you’d like to try in the future?

Would you ever consider trying _____ (particular hobby or activity)?

Arzt also notes that you shouldn’t just be an interviewer. You have to talk about yourself, too. In other words, you need a mutual take-and-give. “Pay attention to someone else's answers and think about how you can draw from your own experience to connect," she wrote.

Not sure how much to say during a conversation? Follow the 43:57 rule. A numbers guy at Gong.io analyzed over 25,000 sales calls with AI and found the perfect speaking-to-listening ratio. Sales soared when the salesperson talked 43% of the time and listened for 57%.

Even though this insight is from business calls, it applies to everyday social interactions. It's really about listening and making the other person feel special. After all, who doesn't love feeling heard and appreciated?


This article originally appeared on 10.20.23

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