what to talk about

How to Keep Conversation Going When You Don’t Know What to Talk About

Whether you’re talking to a cute girl, trying to close a deal, or in the presence of strangers, you must know what to talk about and how to keep the conversation alive.

We’ve all been in the presence of someone that simply lets the conversation die. Awkward? Absolutely. That feeling of panic you may experience when you have nothing to say may not be unique, but it still isn’t fun.

Maybe you’re shy or introverted. Maybe you just have nothing left to talk about.

The truth is, there are easy solutions (and even a few hacks) to ensure that your conversation doesn’t peter out because you have nothing else to say.

Here are some tips to avoid the awkward silence:

Dive Deeper Into Their Reply

It may seem strange, but the best way to never let a conversation die is to become a better listener.

You read that right. It’s more about how you process their reply than it is about how you respond.

People love to talk about themselves. Even the non-egotistical crowd enjoys this topic because it’s safe, feels natural, and is rich in content.

You show the other person that you are genuinely interested in their lives and what they have to say by listening, and following up with good questions.

Some “deep dive” sentence stems you may use include:

  • Tell me more about…
  • What’s the best part of…
  • What led you to…
  • How has ____ changed since…

All of these sentence stems will generate more conversation and allow you to keep listening closely to what the other person is saying.

Know What To Talk About Next

Being a good listener is the key to never being caught in the awkwardness of neither party having anything to say. But it’s also helpful to have an idea of what you’ll talk about next.

These two things may seem contradictory of one another, but they don’t have to be.

As you listen to the person talk, make a habit out of “banking” questions from minor details of their story or reply. This should take less than a second to do. As she talks about her career, bank the part where she mentioned her 2010 internship, and follow back up with an insightful question on that topic once she’s done.

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But honestly, there will be times when it’s necessary to change the subject altogether. If they don’t give you much (or you’re truly stumped on what to talk about), here are 33 Conversation “Continuers” that you may use in a pinch.

Tell A Story

It’s innate to human nature that we love a good story. The more interesting or strange a story is, the more likely it is that the person you’re talking to will remember it.

Good stories tend to draw emotions out of the listener, use analogies (making it easy to understand), and connect experiences.

So given the circumstance, what type of story could you tell?

It doesn’t even have to be a story about your life. Share stories from family members, friends, or even famous TV people.

Never One Up Or Be A “Know It All”

No one likes a “know-it-all” or someone that “one-ups” their story. Being one of these people is a fool-proof way to lose someone’s interest in speaking with you.

If you feel like you lose conversations frequently, you may be guilty of doing this. Don’t let not knowing what to talk about be an excuse to talk about yourself excessively.

Know-it-alls tend to dominate the conversation, which leads people to shut down and stop listening.

You can still be interesting or knowledgeable without one-upping someone else’s experience or answering every question. Wait for opportunities that make sense to speak on your experiences instead of jamming a square peg into a round conversational hole.

Use Universal Topics To Find Common Ground

Universal topics are things we can all relate to. It makes finding what to talk about easy.

Here’s a good one: food. While not everyone is as up to date as you might be on technology, you can be pretty sure that most people enjoy a good meal. Start with something simple, such as:

  • What types of food do you enjoy most?
  • Are there any foods you really dislike?
  • What was your favorite food as a child?

And because eating and conversation go hand-in-hand, it could lead to you both mutually deciding to extend your chat over a meal.

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Done correctly, you can blend a universal topic into any of the other suggestions in this post. There are plenty of universal topics other than food. It simply means starting with a connection to something all of us do.

A few other examples of universal topics include:

  • School/Education
  • Living Arrangements (“Where do you live?” or “How long have you been here?”)
  • Childhood

Also consider the FORM small trick talk, which is an acronym for “Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Money”.

Ask About Challenges

Talking about challenges is a great way to stir up topics related to business and personal life. While some challenges may be a little too personal when choosing what to talk about, you can learn a lot about someone by finding out their biggest struggles.

For business, ask about:

  • Their competitors
  • How their company is integrating technology
  • How their company recruits good employees

In a personal setting, ask about:

  • Things they dislike or avoid doing
  • Their least favorite subject in school

Bringing up challenges works incredibly well for a conversation for 2 reasons:

  1. Challenges will give you insight into a person’s life, and also
  2. They may give you an opportunity to be helpful.

What if you have a solution to a struggle that they have? They won’t know that until you tease out their biggest challenges. If it makes sense, bring up how you could help them in a non-confrontational way.

Wrapping it Up

Keeping a conversation going comes down to a few key things: being a good listener, asking good questions, and covering topics that make sense for strong two-way conversations.

Some tools to keep in your toolbox include “banking” topics to keep the conversation moving, telling stories, talking about challenges, and using universal topics. It will also help you to commit to never being a one-upping know-it-all.

Knowing what to talk may take a little preparation and a different approach to holding a conversation. But if it prevents you from ever having an awkward conversation again, won’t it be worth it?

The answer is yes. Now, as a good conversationalist might do, let’s finish wrap up with another question:

What has been your biggest challenge with keeping the conversation going?