Small talk can be excruciating especially if you have anxiety or if you often find yourself struggling to hold a conversation with people you meet. The pandemic isn’t much help either as it stifles and dulls our in-person social skills. Since lockdowns and WFH protocols have changed the way we socially interact, we all need a little help (or reminder) on the art of tête-à-tête. Wish to start a conversation with anyone, anytime? Here are 12 topics and conversation starters you can store in your memory bank which will definitely keep the exchange flowing. Be sure to try them out on the next person you meet!

1. Ask for help or advice

Helping someone with something lowers your defences while getting help from someone builds bonds. For example, if you’re in a restaurant, you can ask them for recommendations on the unique appetisers or desserts to try.

2. Pay genuine compliments

Steer clear of generic things like their looks. Instead point something out which showcases the person’s personality e.g. jewellery, clothing, bag, book, food choices, etc. They’ll be more likely to elaborate on the item you mentioned.

3. Find a common interest

This is a great open-ended question as the answers are endless. Whether it’s sports, travel, culture, food, movies, music, bands, or games, there’s bound to be something you’ll have in common. It’s also an easy topic to talk about. You can even talk about the things you wish to try and encourage your date to join you!

4. Get them to share something about themselves

The classic “Tell me about you” question is pretty fool-proof. This invites people to tell you something about their lives. It also doesn’t limit what they want to share and they can choose what they want to divulge as well.

5. Dream job growing up

Some of the most interesting anecdotes about us come from childhood. We’d often have the most interesting job choices as kids. This question also helps you talk about how your current job differs or is similar to your original dream.

6. Name a family member you’re most like

This conversation topic will give you an insight into their family dynamics and setup. Do they like kids, do they respect their elders, do they have good relationships? The way they treat the key people in their lives will also tell you how they’d likely treat you relationship-wise.

7. Show your goofy side

Try injecting a bit of humour into your conversation with a joke. Who doesn’t enjoy a good joke right? Not only are jokes disarming, but laughter also releases oxytocin (the empathy hormone and bonding chemical) which creates feelings of relatedness.

8. Future plans

Asking someone where they see themselves in five years will tell you what their goals are and if a relationship is something they see on the horizon. You’ll also be able to see if your goal in life somewhat aligns with theirs and whether you could potentially move forward with your plans together. It may still be early days or hypothetical but it’s better to know a person’s future plans from the get-go rather than later.

9. Favourite shows

Pretty much everyone is streaming shows these days. So why not ask what they’ve been binge-watching during a lockdown? Is there something on Netflix / Binge / Stan / Disney+/ Amazon Prime they’ve been watching right now?

10. Best travel story

Did they have a memorable trip somewhere? Which country took them by surprise? Everyone has a travel story to share. Who knows? You might share a common love or dislike for a certain place you have visited.

11. Regret or contentment

This conversation topic is a little deep and may release a floodgate of emotions depending on the personality type. But it will get the person reflective and communicative.

12. Pets or hobbies

Find out if they are a dog or cat person (or if they’re into exotic animals!). No pets? Generally, hobbies or anything related to what someone does in their spare time will get the person gabbing. It’s a great way to get to know this person and what they do when they are relaxed.

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