introverts, small talk, conversation starters
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People chatting at a party.

A lot of people feel uncomfortable starting up conversations with strangers in social settings. It’s not that they don’t want to meet people, they’re just not sure what to say.

There's an art to small talk and some people are incredibly at ease starting up a conversation and coming up with things to say. They know how to get things moving without being obvious and seem to do this effortlessly.

A Reddit user named Blugged Bunny asked the online forum “What is your go-to 'small talk' topic with strangers?” and although the question may not have intentionally been to help introverts, there were a lot of great suggestions for people who are uncomfortable making small talk.


It seems the best ideas are questions and statements that are about the current setting and situation. The truly great small talk artists know that the best way into a conversation is to allow the other person to talk about themselves.

It’s also helpful to bring up topics that everyone can speak to whether that’s family, pets, weather, sports or articles of clothing. I once knew a guy who was single and whenever he went out he wore a “Livestrong” bracelet that he got from Lance Armstrong’s cancer charity. He told me that it “Gives women an easy conversation-starter if they want to talk to me. They’ll ask, 'Why are you wearing that? Isn’t Lance Armstrong, a cheater?'" That would begin a great debate over whether Armstrong was such a bad guy, after all he’s done for people with cancer.

Here are 14 of the best go-to small talk topics from the Reddit thread.

1. 

"Make an observation. Literally anything. It helps if it’s something about them like an article of clothing that catches your eye, something they’re doing, anything that you can relate to or are interested in but it doesn’t have to be. It can be something in the environment that is drawing both of your attention. People bullshit about the weather all the time. Once you’ve got something to work with, the key is to ask. ... Let them do the talking. People love talking about themselves. You learn some light-hearted things about the stranger, they feel more comfortable, and you can add bits and bobs of your own experiences in response so they get to know you too. It works in literally any situation. From an elevator ride to a first date. It’s so easy to personalize small talk and it makes it so much less uncomfortable." — arrocknroll.

2. 

"Have you ever tried Ayahuasca?" — KarmicBreath

This comment kicked off a funny response from Sinsaraly:

"Love this. My friend once spent a few hours in a car with poet Allen Ginsberg. The very first thing he said to her was “what drugs do you do?”

3. 

"The weather is a good one. everyone shares it. I'm a guy and i do not give one shit about professional sports or cars and it's like a social disability." — Mr_Mojo_Risin

4. 

Hobbies. "Pretty much everyone has something they're either super passionate about or really rather good at, so a conversation about hobbies pretty much always moves from 'small talk' to 'genuine interest' pretty damn fast." — Trashpanda692

5.

"Something in our environment that we can both relate to. You have to make it easy for them to give a response. Mild humour usually works as it is light-hearted and unthreatening." — ScallywagsTV2

6.

"Usually people love to talk about themselves, so a few questions about them and some follow up questions to their answers usually does it." — I_Can_See_The_Music

7.

"I try to think of random things. Like a favorite animal or star, talking about something in the room. Usually is stupid dad jokes." — UncreativeGlory

8. 

"I try to come up with questions regarding the situations we are in. Like, 'Hey you know any good place around here to get a decent meal?"' — Chromerix

9. 

"Food. People typically love food. I mention I’m new/newer to an area. And ask them what they like, where they eat out. Usually works and people have their choices validated and I always know where to find good local snacks." — TheProfWife

10. 

"If it’s a woman, I’d compliment them on something I like (bag/shoes/makeup/a book they’re reading) and then try to find common ground for there. For men, I’d try something neutral so it doesn’t seem like I’m trying to hit on them. Perhaps weekend plans, work etc." — llovejoy1234

11. 


"Biggest animal you think you could take in a fight." — RizziJoy

12. 

​"I usually bring up home renovations. Especially if the small talk confined us to a space for quite some time. Like a wedding, business conference etc. I can always find people who are not only working on different parts of their homes, but enjoy talking about them. Learned a thing or two along the line as well!" — Calm-Ad

13. 

"Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise?" — HowToDoNot

14. 

"F.O.R.D. Family/Occupation/Recreation/Dreams

Family: Do they have kids? If so, people love to talk about their kids. How many, what ages, what grades are they in in school? If they are older (High School/College) what are they studying? Do they play sports/music? If family is not a comfortable subject (you don't feel like asking about spouse and kids and such) then move on to Occupation
Occupation: What do they do for a living? How long? Do they like it? Did they go to school for it? How did they get into it?
Recreation: What do they like to do in their free time? Hobbies? What sports do they like to watch? Do they play any sports? Do they do anything active? Do they do anything artistic or musical?

Dreams: What are they currently looking forward to in life? Is there a big vacation coming up? Are the kids graduating from School? Are they training for a major athletic event (marathon or some other competition)?

This is usually my go-to when making small talk and it's usually enough to get me to some sort of common ground that our conversation can build off organically." — khamylion

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

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