It’s one of the most dreaded moments in a conversation – the awkward silence. Neither of you know what to say, and the longer it goes on, the more the pressure mounts to say something. Fortunately, there are a few topics you can focus on to keep the conversation going and build a bond with whom you’re speaking. So, let’s expand on the previous article about increasing personal magnetism with four topics to work into conversations, and how you can do so naturally.
Everyone has a family, and our families are often the people who have had the most significant impact on our lives. When we talk about our families with other people, we feel closer to them, especially if they were strangers to us beforehand. But this only works if we incorporate family into the conversation smoothly, without forcing it.
“When we talk about our families with other people,
we feel closer to them”
One of the easiest ways to do this is by finding a way to bring your own family into the conversation. If you’re speaking to a woman who went to the same university as your brother, you could mention that, and then ask her if she has any siblings. Another option is trying a non-sequitur, where you make an assumption about your conversation partner that relates to her family. For example, you could mention that she seems like the type of person who grew up in a large family. If you’re correct, she’ll be curious about why you thought that, and if you’re not, she may open up about her family while correcting you.
Our occupations, whether that consists of work, studies, or both, takes up almost half of our lives, so it makes sense that this would be a good conversational topic. Because it’s so common to talk about occupation, starting conversations with occupational questions works well, but you need to avoid surface-level conversations.
A surface-level conversation is one that sounds like one person interviewing another, and most of us know what that is like. You ask them what they do and they tell you they’re a barista. Then you ask them where they work, and they tell you Coffee Bean. After another one or two questions and answers, you’ve gotten nowhere, because you’re out of questions and they just feel uncomfortable with this one-sided conversation.
“while you need to start with what and where questions,
move on towards why and how”
You can avoid this issue by adding comments in between questions and asking more open questions. In the aforementioned example, after she says she’s a barista, you could mention how much you love macchiato and which coffees she recommends. Both of these require a bit more thought to answer and encourages her to tell you more, instead of sticking with short, to-the-point answers; while you need to start with what and where questions, move on towards why and how ones.
Everyone has something that they’re passionate about and enjoy doing in their spare time, and when someone loves doing something, they also likely enjoy talking about it. Discussing our passions is a chance for us to share our knowledge and excitement, which is what makes it such a great choice for a conversation.
This topic often comes up naturally in a conversation, but you can always ask about it yourself by saying “what do you like to do?” If you’re thinking that this sounds a bit generic, it is, but remember that not everything you say needs to be unique. What matters is that once they tell you a hobby of theirs, you ask about it more to build a rapport.
If you two share an interest, you shouldn’t have much trouble talking about it. This can be a bit more difficult if you know absolutely nothing about their recreational activity, but instead of looking at it as a challenge, look at it as an opportunity to learn about something new. Clearly, this activity is exciting for your conversation partner, so find out why. Ask why they enjoy doing it so much and what it’s like. Let’s say they enjoy writing. How did they get into it? How do they get their ideas? Take an interest in their hobbies, and it will be easy to talk about.
We’ve saved the best for last, as dreams are the most powerful conversational topic. Everyone has some dream that they’re either in the process of pursuing or would like to go after, but one of the things that prevents us from going after dreams is a lack of support. Most of us are encouraged to play it safe, get a 9-5 job, save for retirement, and live life just like everyone else. When you support someone’s dreams, they’ll have a fonder impression of you.
“Most of us are encouraged to play it safe, get a 9-5 job,
save for retirement, and live life just like everyone else.”
Of course, since this is such a powerful topic, you need to approach it the right way. If you don’t have a rapport with them yet, you probably won’t get meaningful responses, and they won’t be as appreciative of any support you provide because you’re still just a stranger to them. There are a couple ways that you can steer your conversation towards dreams.
The first is branching out from recreation to dreams, by using their recreational activity of choice to make an educated guess about what they dream of doing. If a woman tells you that she likes to paint, ask if she’d like to have her own art gallery and shows. Even if you’re wrong, she could take this opportunity to start telling you about her life dreams.
The second is to talk about the bigger picture. Get into the meaning of life, what we’re here to do, and how we can make an impact on the world. Make sure you find a good starting point for this, otherwise it will look cliché. Maybe you mention a classic book you’re reading. From there, you can talk about how even though the author has been dead for decades, his work is still here impacting future generations. That naturally leads you into that bigger picture topic, where you can ask them what they want to do with their life.
These four topics work well for conversations because they’re universal topics that anyone can talk about, and they bring you and your conversation partner closer. As you use these topics more often, you’ll get better at working them into conversations and getting into those deeper conversations, instead of the standard, boring surface-level chats people have. The person you’re speaking with will end up with a more positive impression of you, and you both will enjoy the conversation much more.