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5 Conversation Starters for When You Need to Make Small Talk

Can’t think of anything to say? You’re not alone; these five smart conversation tips for small talk are especially helpful for people with introverted personality traits, to whom making conversation may not come naturally.

“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative,” said Mark Twain. You might use that quote if you need to end a conversation. Or you could read 6 Ways to Get Out of a Boring Conversation at a Party.

That said, however, making conversation about the weather works if all else fails! These five smart conversation tips will spark discussions — plus, they’re easy to remember because they’re interesting. For more fascinating facts about everything from Shakespeare to astronomy, read Know It All: The Little Book of Essential Knowledge by Aldridge, Humphrey, and Whitaker.

1. Talk about your oddest job ever

Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), and he was a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi – a river that played a huge role in his The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. To make small talk, ask questions such as “What’s the most unusual job you’ve had, and what did it teach you about life?”

  • Conversation tip: Offer your own answers to your questions — and really listen to your conversational partner’s answers. Follow up with questions who, what, when, where, why, and how.

2. Favorite newspaper or magazine

“The first English-language daily newspaper, The Daily Courant, appeared in London in 1702,” write the authors in Know It All. To make small talk, ask, “If you had to choose three newspapers or magazines to read for the rest of your life, what would they be?”

  • Conversation tip: When you’re making conversation with both strangers and people you know well, you don’t often know in advance what will take off and what will flop. Don’t be afraid to introduce offbeat questions or topics — it will be appreciated!

3. Time races by

“Einstein reasoned that if the speed of light is constant, then the passage of time would depend on your movement,” write the authors in Know It All. “This means the passage of time can differ slightly for different people, and even for clocks.” To make small talk, ask questions such as “What makes time speed by for you – what activities, hobbies, or people? What makes time drag for you?”

  • Conversation tip: Ask questions about your conversation partner’s hobbies and interests. The more interest you show, the more interested and interesting you’ll become!

If you’re an introvert, read How to Make Conversation for Introverts: Tips for Small Talk.

4. Investing money

smart conversation startersAn early example of an equities market existed in the second century BCE in Rome, but it wasn’t until after the medieval era that many European countries established markets. And, the stock markets crashed after 9/11 and the oil crisis in 1973 (and of course right before the Great Depression). To make small talk, ask “What was the first stock you invested in?”

  • Conversation tip: If you’re unwilling to share your answers to a particular question, then don’t ask other people that question! And, remember that different people have different levels of “conversational tolerance.”

5. The most amazing sights

The original 7 Wonders of the World are Egypt’s Great Pyramid at Giza, the Lighthouse at Alexandria in Egypt, Greece’s statue of Zeus on Mount Olympus, the Colossus of Rhodes, Turkey’s Temple at Artemis, Persia’s Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. To make small talk, ask a question such as “Have you seen any wonders of the world? Or, what wonderful sights have you seen, that you think should be a ‘wonder of the world'”?

  • Conversation tip: Talking about travel, vacations, and experiences overseas is a great way to connect with people and keep the conversations lively. Another great conversation starter is asking where the next vacation is…and sharing what you’re planning!

If you have any questions or tips on these smart conversation tips for small talk, please comment below. And, if you need tips for making conversation on a first date, read 10 First Date Conversation Tips.

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5 thoughts on “5 Conversation Starters for When You Need to Make Small Talk”

  1. Hi, very useful tips but I just need help……it has become a major problem of my life, i have ability to talk all this things bt usually on messages i attract people whn they come in frnt i loose my all confidence i strt hesitating……i am all diff person on messages and need conversation tips for making small talk, plz help me or give tips on how to talk to all kinds of people.

  2. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen


    Thanks for this information on different personality types! Fascinating…it makes me want to write another article about personalities 🙂

    .-= Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen´s last blog post …Money Skills – Tips for Teaching Financial Literacy to Kids =-.

  3. Hi Laurie,

    Sounds like your introvert personality is very mild Laurie, but people come across different in writing. I do think however, that introverts need days and days to recharge. I usually need two every week and spend them a lone.

    But rather than learning how I can “fit in,” I’d like to learn ways in which I can feel “good” for who I am…an introvert. People think I am strange because I only have about 3 close friends in my life, and because I don’t attending social gatherings.

    It may be that I can have certain expectations in friends. I like talking to stimulating, patient, kind intelligent people. Otherwise, I don’t make a connection with them, unless it’s work related where I seem to play if off pretty well.

    At work, I seem to be able to communicate well enough to speak during meetings (when I have to), and express my needs and wants. But I only do it because I “need” to.

    What are some of the advantages of my personality type?

    I hope this also helps:
    ISTJ “The Inspector”
    Quiet, serious, earn success by thoroughness and dependability. Practical, matter-of-fact, realistic, and responsible. Decide logically what should be done and work toward it steadily, regardless of distractions. Take pleasure in making everything orderly and organized – their work, their home, their life. Value traditions and loyalty.
    ISFJ “The Protector”
    Quiet, friendly, responsible, and conscientious. Committed and steady in meeting their obligations. Thorough, painstaking, and accurate. Loyal, considerate, notice and remember specifics about people who are important to them, concerned with how others feel. Strive to create an orderly and harmonious environment at work and at home.
    INFJ “The Counselor”
    Seek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material possessions. Want to understand what motivates people and are insightful about others. Conscientious and committed to their firm values. Develop a clear vision about how best to serve the common good. Organized and decisive in implementing their vision.
    INTJ “The Mastermind”
    Have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, organize a job and carry it through. Skeptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.
    ISTP “The Crafter”
    Tolerant and flexible, quiet observers until a problem appears, then act quickly to find workable solutions. Analyze what makes things work and readily get through large amounts of data to isolate the core of practical problems. Interested in cause and effect, organize facts using logical principles, value efficiency.
    ISFP “The Composer”
    Quiet, friendly, sensitive, and kind. Enjoy the present moment, what’s going on around them. Like to have their own space and to work within their own time frame. Loyal and committed to their values and to people who are important to them. Dislike disagreements and conflicts, do not force their opinions or values on others.
    INFP “The Healer”
    Idealistic, loyal to their values and to people who are important to them. Want an external life that is congruent with their values. Curious, quick to see possibilities, can be catalysts for implementing ideas. Seek to understand people and to help them fulfill their potential. Adaptable, flexible, and accepting unless a value is threatened.
    INTP “The Architect”
    Seek to develop logical explanations for everything that interests them. Theoretical and abstract, interested more in ideas than in social interaction. Quiet, contained, flexible, and adaptable. Have unusual ability to focus in depth to solve problems in their area of interest. Skeptical, sometimes critical, always analytical.