If you hate small talk, there’s an alternative (that’s not awkward)

I hate making small talk. It’s always the same questions, over and over again. Surface-level and just to waste some time, small talk reminds me of sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s office, trying not to be too bored. 

I consider small talk to be optional, and whenever possible, I don’t choose that option. 

Instead, I like to spice up the conversation a bit with questions that the other person probably does not expect. The idea is not to “stump” your conversation partner.

Rather, it’s to lighten the mood a bit with questions that might spur a deeper discussion, or maybe even spark some laughter. Nothing lightens the atmosphere like humor. 

The alternative to small talk

The next time that you’re in a situation that would otherwise require a mindless conversation about occupations and how they’ve been, here are 15 questions that make small talk easier, and maybe even a little more interesting. 

  1. What gets you excited? 
  2. What’s the weirdest compliment you’ve ever received?
  3. Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
  4. What’s the most exciting place that you’ve ever been to?
  5. So, how badly do you hate small talk?
  6. What’s the most memorable book you’ve ever read?
  7. How many books do you read every year?
  8. Quick: Would you rather live by the ocean, the mountains, or the desert?
  9. How do you like to spend your free time?
  10. Did you see how long the line was at Starbucks this morning?
  11. Is there a “hidden gem” around here that I should check out?
  12. What are the cheapest restaurants around here?
  13. Are there any apps on your phone that you just can’t live without?
  14. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
  15. What is your #1 ideal superpower?

Here’s a pro tip if you don’t like to be the one talking. Keep your questions open-ended. Instead of asking questions that can easily be answered with a yes or a no, instead, ask narrative-type questions that might take the other person some time to answer. 

For instance, instead of asking “Have you seen the new Star Trek movie?”, ask “What do you think about the new Star Trek movie?” 

Here are a couple of other clever techniques for your next small talk. 

Ask for advice instead of a pointed question

Asking for advice is a great way to get the conversation going in a healthy direction, and implies a certain trust for the other person that will help lighten the mood and encourage a good discussion.

Avoid your favorite topic

We tend to blabber more when we talk about something we love, and our blabbering could bore the other person. Unless they purposely ask about your favorite topic, avoid it whenever you can.

Also, try making comments that relate to the immediate situation.

For example, if you’re at a career networking event, comment about how many people there are, or about how many people seem to be over-dressed for the event. 

To make small talk easier, the idea is to get both parties smiling, laughing, or thinking beyond the simple, “So, how are you?”, or “What do you do?” questions. Spice things up with something interesting. Ask open-ended questions if you don’t like to talk. 

Use these tips and your next small talk won’t be so painful.