How to Come Up with Good Conversation Topics

Four Parts:Learning About Basic Conversation StartersExtending the ConversationPushing BoundariesConversation Help

Even if you're good with people, there are likely times when you're stuck for something more to say and start wondering what topic to bring up next. To come up with good conversation topics, you should prepare a mental list of ideas beforehand so that you can seamlessly pull up one idea and continue on with your chat. Form conversation around the other person, tailoring the topic based on how well you know him or her, and give the other person equal opportunity to steer the conversation in other directions.

Part 1
Learning About Basic Conversation Starters

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    Talk about the other person. The biggest secret to being a good conversationalist is simply allowing other people to talk about themselves. [1] Why? It's a subject they are familiar with and that they probably feel comfortable discussing. Try these tactics:
    • Ask for his opinion. You could tie it to what's currently happening in the room, current events, or whatever else you may want to discuss.
    • Delve into "life story" topics. Ask where your conversation partner is from, how he grew up, and so on.
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    Have a few different starters for people you know to different degrees. The kinds of questions you will ask someone depend on how well, or whether, you know him. Here are some openers for two other types of people you'll converse with:
    • People you know well: ask him how he is, whether anything interesting has happened this past week, how his project or study is coming along, how his children are and whether he's seen any good TV shows or movies lately.
    • People you know but haven't seen for a while: ask him what has happened in his life since you last saw him, find out if he's still working in the same job and living in the same area, ask about his children and whether he's had more (if relevant); perhaps ask if he's seen a mutual friend lately.
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    Remember what to avoid. You know the old rule: never talk about religion, politics, money, relationships, family problems, health problems, or sex with people you don't know incredibly well. The risk of saying something offensive is too high, so just stay clear; these are often emotional charged issues as well[2].
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    Find out about interests and hobbies. People are complex, with different interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes. There are several different kinds of questions you can ask about interests and hobbies, many of which will themselves will near-automatically lead to further follow-up conversation. Questions you could ask include:
    • Do you play or follow any sports?
    • Do you like to hang out online?
    • What do you like to read?
    • What do you do in your spare time?
    • What kind of music do you like?
    • What kinds of movies do you like to watch?
    • What are your favorite TV shows?
    • What's your favorite board game or card game?
    • Do you like animals? What's your favorite animal?
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    Bring up family. Your safest bet here is siblings and general background information (such as where he grew up). Be sure to respond enthusiastically to encourage him to share more information.[3] Parents can be a touchy subject for people who had troubled upbringings, have estranged parents or whose parents have recently passed away. The topic of children can be uncomfortable for couples who are having fertility issues or disagreements about whether to have children, or for a person who wants to have kids but hasn't found the right person or situation. Some questions you might ask include:
    • Do you have any siblings? How many?
    • (If he has no siblings) What was it like being an only child?
    • (If he has siblings) What are their names?
    • How old are they?
    • What do your siblings do? (Modify the question based on how old they are. Do they go to school/college or have a job?)
    • Do you look alike?
    • Do you all have similar personalities?
    • Where did you grow up?
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    Ask about past travel adventures. Ask your conversation partner where he's been. Even if he has never left his hometown, he will likely be happy to talk about where he would want to go. Specifically, you could ask:
    • If you had a chance to move to any other country, which one would it be and why?
    • Of all the cities in the world you've visited, which one was your favorite?
    • Where did you go on your last vacation? How did you like it?
    • What was the best/worst vacation or trip you've ever been on?
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    Inquire about food and drink. Food is a little better to talk about because there's always the chance of bumping into someone who has had issues with alcohol abuse or doesn't drink. Be careful that the conversation doesn't stray into someone going on about their diet or how they're trying to lose weight. That can take the conversation in a negative direction. You might instead ask:
    • If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
    • Where do you like to go when you eat out?
    • Do you like to cook?
    • What's your favorite kind of candy?
    • What's the worst restaurant experience you've ever had?
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    Ask about work. This one can be a little tricky because the conversation could end up sounding like a job interview. Still, if you can handle it carefully and keep it short and sweet, it can lead to an interesting discussion. And don't forget that the person may be studying, retired or "between jobs". Here are some suggested starters:
    • What do you do for a living? Where do you work (or study)?
    • What was your first job ever?
    • Who was your favorite boss in the past?
    • When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
    • What do you like best about your job?
    • If money was no object, but you still had to work, what would be your dream job?
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    Find out why you are both in the same place. If you've never met him before, there are plenty of unknowns to explore just surrounding why you're both at the same event. Ask such questions as:
    • So, how do you know the host?
    • How did you get involved in this event? (Or, when relevant) In fundraising? In triathlons?
    • How do you find the time to be involved in events like this?
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    Offer a genuine compliment. Try to make it a compliment that involves something he did rather than something he is. This will allow you to carry the conversation forward by asking him about that skill. If you tell your conversation partner that he has beautiful eyes, he will thank you and the conversation will likely end there. Be sure to remain enthusiastic when you give a compliment so that you come across as sincere.[4] Here are some good lines to use:
    • I loved your piano performance. How long have you been playing for?
    • You seemed really confident during your speech. How did you learn to put together such great presentations?
    • Your run was absolutely amazing. How often do you train each week?

Part 2
Extending the Conversation

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    Keep it light. You can't expect miracles to take place in the initial interactions with someone. All you can hope for is an initial rapport to be created. Your best chance at this is to stick to topics that are interesting and entertaining to talk about; it can help to interject some light humor into the conversation as well. [5]
    • Avoid talking about problems in your life or other negative situations. If you've experienced people's eyes glazing over when such topics are raised, it's simply because few people expect to have to deal with heavy situations or problems in a casual, conversational context.
    • Most people are looking for polite, interesting, and lighthearted topics to discuss and a negative insertion can really put a blight on the moment, bringing to a halt any further conversation.
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    Allow for silence. Silence doesn't have to be awkward — it allows you to gather an opinion on the other person or to think up conversation topics he would enjoy. It gives both of you a breather and a moment of refined pause. [6]
    • Silence can become awkward, however, if you get nervous or try to cover up the silence because you're worried about it.
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    Share common interests. If you find that you both like running, for example, spend more time talking about this shared interest. However, do be aware that you will eventually have to move on from the topic at a certain point. A 45-minute conversation about running would be awkward for most people. [7]
    • Discuss others who share your interest and their achievements. For example, you might both know the marathon winner from last season and one of you might be able to expand on what this person has been up to since winning.
    • Talk about new gear, new equipment, new insights, new tactics, etc. to do with your shared interest.
    • Suggest new things that you could both try in your shared interest, perhaps even making a date to catch up and try something new together.

Part 3
Pushing Boundaries

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    Spark a new direction with hypotheticals. This may feel foreign at first, but give it a go and see just how the conversation opens up dramatically. Here are some thought-provoking questions to inspire more conversation:
    • Given all you have accomplished so far, what do you think has been the most important to you/beneficial to your community?
    • If you could be rich, famous, or influential, which would you choose and why?
    • Is this the best time of your life?
    • If you could only own 10 things, what would they be?
    • If you had to to choose only five foods and two drinks for the rest of your life, what would they be?
    • Do you believe people make happiness or stumble across it?
    • What would you do if you could wear an invisibility cloak?
    • Do you believe in free will?
    • What sort of animal do you think you would be if someone could change you into one?
    • Who is your favorite superhero and why?
    • Which five people out of all history would you choose to invite to an intimate dinner party at your house?
    • If you won a few million in the lottery tomorrow, how would you spend it?
    • If you could be famous for a week, what would you be known for? (Or which celebrity would you choose to be?)
    • Do you still believe in Santa?
    • Could you live without the internet?
    • What's your dream vacation?
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    Keep a note of what gets good responses in your conversations. Return to these "winning" conversation tactics time and time again as long as they continue to work for you.
    • Equally, remember the topics that seem to make people feel uncomfortable or bored and avoid these in the future.
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    Read up on current events. Dig around into what's going on in the world and try asking your conversation partner his thoughts about the latest big incident in the news (remember though, in most cases it is best to avoid politics).[8]
    • Keep in mind funny new stories that could get you a laugh as well as remind your conversation partner of funny news stories he has read recently.
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    Practice conciseness. Coming up with good conversation topics is part of what makes for good conversation, but how you convey the topics of conversation that you do come up with matters also.[9] Be sure to get to the point of the topic without meandering about aimlessly.
    • Try to not digress into tangents as you are bringing up a conversation topic or you risk losing your conversation partner's attention!

Conversation Help

Great Conversation Topic Examples

Sample Conversation Starters

Sample Conversation Topics to Avoid


  • Don't just mindlessly work through the list of questions mentioned above. It will make the other person feel interrogated.
  • If it's your first time talking to the person, try to tie the topic to something related to the situation at hand, rather than just jumping into a random topic.
  • Be friendly and don't insult anyone.
  • If you are in a group, make sure you make everyone feel included. If you start talking to only one person in a group and expect others to silently observe your conversation, the situation can get awkward for everyone.
  • Think outside the box.
  • Listening closely to others' answers to your questions might open up other related conversation topics.
  • Think before you speak. You cannot take back things that you have said to people. Also, people remember the conversations that you have had with them, so don't act unfriendly unless you want them to remember you that way.
  • A good way to keep the conversation moving forward while staying balanced is to take it in turns to ask questions. It doesn't need to be like a quiz or a competition to see who can ask the best questions, but it's a gentle way of maintaining a good conversation without having one person dominate it.
  • If it's your first time with the person, try to avoid sarcasm, though if he's the sarcastic type, you might want to tease him with your wit. Still, don't overdo it — no one likes too much sarcasm.
  • Listen carefully, and try to relate. After he has answered your question, relate your own experience to something he mentioned, or answer the question yourself, even if he didn't ask you.
  • Read up on current events. Read the paper and browse social bookmarking sites for interesting stories of the day.
  • Avoid "one word answers" (such as "Yes," "No," and "Fine") as much as possible, as they lead the conversation nowhere.
  • If you are meeting someone new, remember the person's name! It sounds so easy, but it is very easy to forget. Try saying his name in your mind quickly five times in a row right when he introduces himself.

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