The holidays are coming and that means dinners and parties and socializing. For some of you, the holidays mean having to force yourself to make endless small talk with people you may not even care about. My gift to you this holiday season is this list of the best small talk topics to use to get to January 2.
Your goal is to ask a question that gets someone else talking, so all you have to do is listen and nod your head.
Bad small talk topics
Avoid these topics always, but particularly after this year’s election: politics, religion, politics, politics, etc. Only if your host or hostess encourages conversations on those topics should you venture in that direction. Leave your Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton buttons at home.
Small talk topics for family dinner
Here are the best small talk topics for a family gathering.The weather and sports always work. Avoid starting a conversation between fans of opposing teams.
- Where did you go on vacation this year? What was the most exciting thing you saw? How was the food there? Would you go back again or recommend that trip to someone else?
- I know you like to read (only say this if it’s true). What’s one of the best books you’ve read this year? What made it better than the others? Who are your favorite authors? What type of books do you gravitate toward?
- I really liked the way you fixed these vegetables. Where did you get the idea for doing them this way? Is it simple enough for me to do?
- Have you been watching that new program on Netflix (name of the show)? I found it very intriguing and am enjoying the character development. What’s your opinion of the show?
- Now that Downton Abbey is over, what are you watching?
- What music concerts did you get a chance to go to this year? What ones are you looking forward to next year?
- Are you planning any exciting trips for next year? (If they are not) Where would you go if you won the lottery and money was no object?
Best small talk topics for office parties
These questions work at holiday parties, such as your office holiday party where spouses are present. Remember that you don’t have to–or want to–talk to the same person all evening. When you’re ready to move on, be gracious and say something like, “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you. I see someone I need to talk to/I need another drink/I have to go to the bathroom. I hope you have happy holidays.”
- When a coworker introduces his/her partner, spouse, or date, ask them how they met. Continue to ask them questions about that initial encounter, without getting too personal.
- I’ve noticed you keep of photo of your dog on your desk. What’s his name? What’s he like? Where did you get him? And you can continue to ask lots of questions after that about any pets they’ve ever had.
- What was the highlight of this year for you?
- What are you most looking forward to in 2017?
- Do you have any special plans for the holidays?
- Did you travel anywhere interesting this year? (If they say yes, continue.) What did you find most interesting about that trip/location?
- Where are you from originally?
- Tell me about your family.
- What’s your favorite memory of the holidays growing up?
- What’s your family’s funniest/strangest holiday tradition?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- If you could go anywhere, without any financial constraints, where would you go and why?
- Where did you go to school? What did you study? Do you wish you had chosen a different profession?
- What do you like best about living in the city?
- (If you know the person likes cars) I’m looking at new cars right now because I need to replace my old one. What models would you recommend? Do you have a favorite dealership you’ve dealt with? Do you have a mechanic and you can recommend?
- What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given? (or the worst)
- What’s the most important life event you’ve experienced so far?
Cheers to all you friends of MentorLoft. Enjoy making small talk.
Pug photo by George Reyes. Photo of Versailles by Pam Scott.
© Pamela A. Scott, MentorLoft.com 2016