September 16, 2019
One time, I was playing at a gig, and backstage I saw this girl that I met once at an internship and she was part of a band that was about to play, so I went up to her to say hi and I said we met before, and she was like, “oh cool.”
Then I had no idea where to take the convo from there, so it just died. I don’t remember what I did but I just remember it was a really awkward exit.
Some conversations just die like that and you wish they never happened. You wish you can just delete them from history, #MarieConvo. But you can’t. What you can do though is to get better at having go-to conversation questions. Also, have an “exit strategy” when you realize a conversation is dying, like whipping out your phone and saying, “Oh sorry, I gotta take care of this,”—this meaning your dignity and your ability to still face people.
Since these untimely conversation deaths happen more during first meetings, we put together a list of conversation starters for people you have just met.
Starting with names is always a good move. (I mean, hello?!) Whether it’s the first day of class, an org orientation, or some event at school, asking for a person’s name and introducing yourself, all in a light and friendly way, help break the ice immediately. Here are some ways to do it and some ways this question branches out:
Since our context is campus, studies is a huge common ground and it opens up to so many other topics. If they’re in college, you can ask these questions:
From talking about organizations, you can actually branch out into interests.
These questions are more for talking hobbies. When you ask about these stuff, you could be finding common hobbies that you can do together.
You can jumpstart a conversation based on your common experiences, like maybe you’re taking the same class and the prof is really challenging, or your prof hasn’t arrived yet, or maybe you’re attending the same org orientation, or you’re both just stuck in the waiting shed under heavy rains. These are things you can easily bring up and use to begin introductions.
Talking about family can be on the more personal side of conversation topics, but it’s not too personal that you can’t talk about it. You can jump off from asking about school, if their family also went to this school or not.
From any of these topics, you can talk about deeper stuff—hopes, dreams, more personal family stuff, disappointments, frustrations, beliefs, and perspectives on life, and so on. The goal of any conversation is not just to collect information but to find points of connection. To just find out things about a person can feel like an interview or an interrogation, but when our goal is to connect and to form friendships, then conversations will just flow.
So there you have it. You can branch out to so many conversation topics just working with Name, Studies, Interests, Recreation, Experiences, Family, and Deeper topics. If you jumble up the first letters of the categories, you get the word F.R.I.E.N.D.S., which is what you’re going to have when you have good conversations.