Find Topics to Talk About
Sometimes you can just find yourself in a conversation flat lining without a topic to talk about. The conversation might have gone from laughing to dead silence within 60 seconds and now you’re both looking around nervously because you don’t know what to say next.
It’s never fun and even the best of conversations can fall flat on their face for seemingly no reason at all but really finding topics to talk about doesn’t have to be that hard. Because I mostly focus on overcoming shyness I prefer to look at things for the long term and on the guide on keeping a conversation going I said I don’t approve of topic ‘flash cards’ because ideally you want a conversation to just run smoothly and organically.
And I stick by that. If you’re having a trouble keeping a conversation going naturally (especially if it’s due to shyness) I suggest you even take a quick read though that article. I’d much rather people learned how to find topics within a conversation and let it go wherever it leads. That’s how you get a good conversation and it also takes a lot less work as opposed to constantly trying to remember a bunch of topics and conversation points.
But that said sometimes it does help if you have some handy topics to talk about. If you don’t have problems talking to people sometimes you just don’t have the same interests as people and it can be hard to talk to people about interests when neither of you share the same interests so in this situation you have two choices.
How to Find Things to Talk About
- MAKE a similar interest.
- Talk about something generic.
Now personally I’m a fan of the first option. If you’re arranging something whether it’s a date or a day out for a few people then go to something which nobody has done before. Something easy to get into is ideal and you can usually find classes or groups for something going on. Anything at all from pottery to rock climbing – if you both go to something brand new then you’re creating a topic to talk about because you’re both trying to learn something new. It’s also a great ice breaker because you’re both outside of your comfort zone making natural conversation a lot easier.
It can also be a lot of fun and new experiences are good for you but sometimes this kind of thing is not always possible. If you’re in a situation which you can’t change or you’re perhaps too shy to instigate something like this then you’ll want to find some interesting topics to talk about. But before you start picking topic ideas out of a hat I urge you to think about what you want to gain from a conversation.
You see you can get different things from a conversation and this can really affect the type of conversation topics you should use. Do you want to look smart and impress someone? Do you want to get to know someone better? Do you want to just break the ice and get yourself into an organic conversation which you don’t need talking points for?
I’m hoping your answer is the third one but regardless of your reasoning you need to think about what a conversation topic says about you. If you’re using something in the news which involves an ethical debate you might come of as opinionated and argumentative and if you talk about soap stars or TV shows you might seem uneducated. You see the problem is it’s very subjective and as they say you only get one first impression. So ideally you want to make the right first impression on someone by opening with the right topics.
Before I tell you how to do that I want to make one thing very clear with you. I don’t suggest lying about who you are or what you believe in. In my shyness training I do have an exercise which involves talking to strangers with a set story about yourself beforehand but when having a conversation about someone be yourself. No matter how much of a nice person you are you’re not going to please everyone and I don’t personally think there’s any reason to try. Some people are just not going to get along and you’re better to have a few bad encounters with people very different from you because that way you can focus on finding people more your ‘wavelength’. So just be yourself around people and when a conversation flows organically filter what you say as far as being rude but don’t hide who you are.
Breaking the Ice
Finding a topic to break the ice with is easy. Just go with the small talk. Everyone is comfortable with small talk because we all know how to do it and if you dive straight into the middle of a conversation you might leave some people wondering how they found themselves there.
Use the same sort of details you’d fill out your Facebook pages with and I don’t mean what you had for breakfast that morning – I mean what kind of movies you like or work and school etc… easy ‘safe’ topics that everyone knows how to do. It’s even easier if there’s something going on around you because you can talk about that. Try to go for positive topics and branch out the conversation from there.
Listening and Sticking With a Topic
Once you have a conversation rolling don’t start panicking about what you’re going to talk about next or constantly talk about yourself. This is the most common mistake I see people making and it does you no good. Not every conversation is a competition or a game to survive. Take your time and enjoy it and that means listening to people. Really no matter how limited you think your social skills are a conversation is actually very easy. Humans might be different – but in some ways we’re all the time and there’s an easy blueprint to keep a conversation going with anyone:
- Ask a question
- Listen to the answer
- Ask another question
Once you start a topic (and I mean any topic) and they tell you about their opinion or experience then just ask a question. If you keep asking open ended questions and genuinely pay attention to what they’re saying then your conversation will run smoothly. Once you feel more confident with this you can certainly expand upon it and start adding your own opinions and experiences and if they don’t ask a question then after a pause you can just as another question.
It might seem strange but really you don’t need topics to talk about. People talk about themselves. Even people who don’t really talk about themselves will still talk about themselves if you keep it light. You can talk about what’s going on around you.
Using Safe Topics
There’s a bit of a balancing act to talking to people for the first time. You don’t want to keep it purely on small talk because you’re not really having a good conversation there and you also don’t want to go too heavy unless they’re making it pretty clear they want to talk about it. If you do venture away from ‘safe’ topics into something which might get sticky then just keep your escape route in mind.
And I don’t mean know where the closest fire escape is. I mean have a conversation changer ready so if a topic gets a little too heated and awkward you can change it and get it back on track. Don’t panic too much about every tiny small silence though – sometimes people just need a moment to think.
Don’t Avoid Topics
If there’s something they keep bringing up or clearly want to talk about then let them. Don’t shy away a topic you don’t know anything about because if they really want to talk about it then they’ll be more than happy to fill you in. Don’t try to pretend you know what they’re talking about but keep listening and asking questions. Even if it’s something you don’t think you’ll be interested in you never know and it can also take a conversation in a whole new direction you didn’t expect.
Probably the best way to have something to talk about is to actually have something to talk about. I used to find myself bored a lot until I read something somewhere that said boring people are bored. And people are naturally interested by interesting people. So the answer there is easy really – go and do everything you can. Not only will that help your confidence and social skills (it’s hard to do a lot of activities without talking to people) but it’ll naturally give you interesting things to talk about because you do interesting things.
If you do something more generic and popular like jogging you’ll have an easy conversation with a lot of people who jog and if you do something a little less common like rock climbing (I use this as an example because it’s also a lot of fun) you have something interesting to talk about which less people have done. It’s also going to be a great way to practice your conversation skills because you’re probably going to meet people who do the same thing which means you don’t even need to worry about finding a topic to talk about.
When it comes to socially connecting with people I have a few basic rules. Smile, listen and be friendly.
Be yourself by all means but if you’re just genuinely friendly with people you won’t have a hard time finding yourself into a conversation and keeping it going. People like talking to friendly people and it really takes the strain of you trying to keep a conversation going if people just naturally want to talk to you. You don’t have to be the loudest person in a room (and I’ll tell you – it’s normally the extroverts trying to be the life of the party that are hiding the insecurities) for people to want to talk to you.
Let it Ride
You’ll notice that I’m not just giving you a list of conversation topics to talk about. Because reading of a list mentally and waiting for them to stop talking so you can bring up your next talking point is not really a conversation – it’s a speech. In a real conversation it’s not one persons duty to keep it going but it should be free flowing and organic by itself.
Improving your social life isn't that hard but you need to keep at it. Rather than just fill your head with motivational rubbish I want to give you real usefull information you can use to transform your social life.
Not only do I have years of expirence helping others overcome their shyness but I've done it myself. And a lot of the things I cover in the newsletter are things which "outsiders" don't even know exist...
- Always know what to say in a conversation (a real organic conversation not memorised subjects).
- Real life case studies and examples of real people overcoming shyness.
- Learn to grow your own social life around you from scratch.