Possibly the most common question people have when they seek help for their communication skills is what makes good conversation topics. So many times people worry about what to talk about, even when they are in the middle of a conversation on the abyss of an embarrassing silence.
The important thing is not to panic or worse, run away; pauses are a good thing in conversation. They give people time to think.
But if you feel that there are too many embarrassing silences in your conversation and that they go on too long, then perhaps you need a little guidance on conversation topics that will keep the conversation flowing or getting it going again when things have stalled. The trick is to have something that people will find it easy to talk about, something on which they are bound to have opinions they are comfortable in sharing.
1. The Person you are Talking to
People usually love to talk about themselves; it is also a topic on which they are knowledgeable, so they should find it easy to talk about themselves so long as you do not embarrass the other person with deeply probing questions.
Try to ask about what really interests the person and find out what they like to do. Don’t ask them about work in a social situation. Many people want to forget about work and they may not find it an inspiring conversation topic.
Instead, find out about the things about which they are really enthusiastic and which they choose to do in their free time. Ask open-ended questions so it is not possible to bring the conversation to a sudden halt once more with a simple yes or no answer. Don’t be deterred if you get umms and ahhs and vague answers. Really focus on what the other person in the conversation is saying and you will very often find something to pick up from out of even very short answers.
If you focus the conversation topic on what interests the other person, you will usually find that they reply enthusiastically. Don’t worry that you will be stuck with listening all night. You will usually find that if you have the courtesy to listen properly to people and engage with what they are telling you, rather than seizing the first opportunity to turn the topic of conversation onto yourself, that the person you are talking to will be happy to return the compliment and listen to you in turn.
2. Take Some Cues from your Surroundings
Don’t get stuck on one conversation topic. Look around you for inspiration. If you are at a party or visiting friends, the CD collection or painting or ornament may raise a good conversation topic. You might remark upon something that someone is wearing. All of these things can be really good conversation topics, but remember to keep your comments positive and complimentary. It’s not a good idea to be critical about what you see; as well as potentially causing offence, you may well cause the person to whom you are speaking to feel uncomfortable and they may then want to move swiftly on to speak to someone else.
3. Current Affairs
If you keep up with what is happening in the world you should never be at a loss for conversation topics. If you regularly read the newspaper you will always have something interesting to talk about but unless you know the person you are talking to very well and you know the story will be appreciated, you would be best advised to steer clear of stories of death or other misery.
4.TV and Cinema
Almost everyone watches TV. The latest episode of ‘Prison Break’ or a recent movie may be all you need to get the conversation flowing again. You can discuss which of the most recent Hollywood blockbusters are actually worth all their hype or which were a bit of a disappointment. Taking a look at social book-marking websites like Digg will help you to see what the current trends are and what is popular to talk about at the moment.
Just these few conversation topics should be enough to get the talk flowing and keep it going for quite a while.