It’s time to try something different.
When meeting someone for the first time, people often ask about what they do for work. It’s an easy go-to option.
Asking someone what they do for a job is often a dud question. A lot of people are at their jobs merely so they can pay the bills. Or even if they are in an area of work they enjoy, they have probably been doing it for the majority of their week over a long period, and would much more heartily discuss something else.
And for a significant amount of people, what they do for money isn’t a great insight into who they are.
So try some of these opening questions instead.
1. What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies? It’s simple, but this is a guarantee for getting the conversation started on a positive note. Does your new friend like karaoke, hiking or cooking? Find out what you have in common. Or even better, find out about an activity you have never heard of. It starts to paint a picture of who they are.
2. What do you know more about than most people? Find out about people’s special interests. You may not just learn about them, but learn something new too.
3. What are you passionate about? Dig into someone’s personality and find out what drives them. This question injects a natural enthusiasm into the conversation. What are they advocates for? What do they love?
4. What is the first thing you want to know about someone when you meet them? Side-step the usual dance and try the direct approach. Not only will this help you cut to the chase in discussing something of interest, the question they ask itself tells you about where your new friend’s focus is.
5. What is your claim to fame? Did your new friend once appear on the news? Did they get pulled on stage to dance with Bono at a U2 concert? Do they hold a special record for something in their area?
6. What was your most recent vacation? Where are you planning to go next? Quite simply, discussing travel is a good way to generate conversation easily.
7. What has been the highlight of your year? Discussing something recent is a handy tactic for energising the conversation.
8. What is something you like that most people would consider uncool? I particularly like this question as it helps lower the façade we can put up when we first meet people. Most want to impress when they first meet to the point that they aren’t relaxed or themselves. Take away that need to impress, and people can be themselves with you.
9. What movies/music/books do you enjoy? This is another easy way to discover what your new friend enjoys and get an insight into who they are. If your new friend finds the question too broad, ask them about the most recent movie they’ve seen, or the book they are currently reading.
10. If you were an actor, what kind of character would you be typecast as? If you are a bit more game and sense that the person you are meeting is open to an unusual opening question, try this one. Give them a chance to pause and think of an answer. When they do, the answer will be rather insightful.
Some people will steer these questions back to talking about their jobs, because that is the tired conversation pattern they are accustomed to. It’s up to you & I to usher in much more vibrant conversation.
That said, a few people will be genuinely passionate & enthusiastic about their work. And if this is the case, the conversation will still have necessary vigour as you will be discussing their passions with them.
Of course, if you are feeling really adventurous, leap straight into some Awkward Silence questions. If your new friend is on board, it will make for a very memorable introduction.
Either way, don’t let your first time with someone be bland, impersonal & forgettable. Make this the start of getting to know them.
Steven Benbow is the chief writer for Awkward Silence. Awkward Silence send subscribers new conversation starters each week for use with family, friends, workmates or your partner. Subscribe now. It will change your life.