17 questions for fascinating small talk, from a psychologist

Most of the small talk revolves around the weather: “How did you get here?” or “What’s your job?” You can only talk so much about the first two, and not everyone works. Asking different questions can subvert the expected pungent curiosity and help both parties learn to listen more deeply to each other. This forges a sense of connection and intimacy, without the risk of eroding another person’s boundaries or giving too much information.

Consider your own answers to these questions as an exercise in self-awareness that may earn you a few hearty laughs. And if you’re a Question nerd like me, you might enjoy coming up with questions that fit your style more.

Understandably, it may feel strange to ask these questions at first. Start with the lightest, then use the others in response to a convivial tidbit the other party offers.

Above all, remember that the people who make their craft look effortless have had thousands of hours of practice. So take every opportunity to hone the art of engaging conversation. And reap the benefits of deeper connections.

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