Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How interesting are you? 12 Conversation Starters

I just read an article on the More website called
Memoir: Where Did Our Friendship Go Wrong?  I thought about this post because making and keeping friends can be so hard. I hope you enjoy it.

Have you ever been in the middle of a story at dinner when people began to leave the table to go to the bathroom?  I have...a lot of times!  It seems that what I view as "interesting" is (yawn) "I need to see the restroom decor NOW" compelling.  This can be embarrassing but then it is not too late to learn.  I am feeling hopeful I can share the conversation.  (And remember, this post is about what makes YOU interesting and how you can go about doing that.)

So, how interesting are you?  And better yet, what things do you do in your life that makes you more interesting?
Interesting travel conversation?  Maybe.
Nevada Shady Lady Ranch bordello in the middle of no place!

Traveling (yikes!)
I always thought travel would make me more interesting. But, here is the thing we all need to one, absolutely no one...wants to hear about our vacations. If the people you are talking to were not with you on the vacation, they are not interested.  Boring people usually have very long vacation stories and I have learned the hard way that NO ONE CARES!  In fact, I even have a hard time reading a long travel blog post.  So I am the same way.

We may be onto something here but it depends who you are talking to.  My first question of a new acquaintance is "Are you reading a good book right now?"  If the person is a reader they will want to share.  If they aren't they will tell me.  Some close friendships have been formed over the sharing of a new book or magazine article.  I think I am very interested in books so it works for me.  Does that work for you?

Showing an Interest
Do you like to hear about other people's hobbies?  There is always something the other person is passionate about. The ability to talk about a range of topics is not only fundamental to having friends, it is what makes us interesting. That is why being well read and moderate in our opinions is probably a good idea.  When a person says they love to geocache, you need to know what that is. Or would you find that sort of thing worth a yawn? I personally like this type of conversation.

Do you need to be able to make table conversation sometimes and are surrounded by sports nuts?
In the age of televised sports 24/7 it serves us all well to know at least a little about sports.  Just enough to get a conversation started.  If you aren't a big fan you can always listen and learn.  A sports fan wants to talk about the latest ball game.  "How about those Yanks!" always gets things going if you are talking to the right person.

Was it Mark Twain (or Dudley Warner) that said "Everybody talks about the weather but no one does anything about it."  If you are in unknown territory the weather is good for an exchange of a few words.  But does it make us interesting? This is tricky...people want to talk about it but they do not want us to tell them what they already know.  There is a lot of difference between discussing how they feel about the weather and us telling them the rain is not going away.

I always thought that fascinating people were an interesting topic of conversation.  However, I could be wrong.   Example:
  • I once talked to the man that invented the first digital camera image in the 1950s.  His picture was selected as the most important image of the that decade by Life Magazine.  His name is Russell Kirsch and he lives here in Portland.  I had written a blog post about him and he found me in the phone book and gave me a call.  We talked about his work and he related how he came to be doing what he was doing.
  • Norman Leyden, former conductor of the Portland Symphony called me too.  I had left him a note after hearing him play the clarinet with the Pink Martini group on New Years Eve. Norman Leyden actually did arranging for the Glenn Miller band during WWII.  His parting words for that conversation was "I hope I hear from you next New Years Eve!  Blog post...
Here is the thing, a close friends said I was a name dropper!  Holy Moly!  So, even if we have some interesting things happening in our lives we have to be careful not to make people feel threatened with our stories.  Being interesting(?) can, I have learned, be the kiss of death.  Especially if you appear to be bragging which is the way I came across.

I know that people find me more interesting when I simply listen to them. A good question once in a while or a pertinent fact that involves other people and invites them to give their opinion is a good way to go. The listener can be the most fascinating and interesting person in the room.  Conversation starter are great items to have in our backpack:
  1. Did you read_____?____?
  2. What was your favorite book of all time?
  3. What do you think about_______?_____?
  4. If you were doing ____?_____ what would you have done?
  5. Do you remember when______?______?
  6. Gender specific (I'm sorry but this is actually just reality)
    • Men...sports, yard work, work, hobbies/food.
    •, clothes, jewelry, shopping, style/their earrings :)
  7. Who is your favorite author/food/music?
  8. What are you having for dinner tonight?  Both men and women love to be complimented on their cooking and share food ideas or special diets.
  9. Do you know a good place to get Chinese/Thai/Steak/Happy Hour?  Everyone loves food!
  10. What do you know?  Really, give me something new to think about...what do you know?
  11. Could I ask your opinions about something?
  12. Start slow...if you are just getting to know people say "Hi" and work up to a longer conversation.  Overbearing is not good.!
In my world the idea that I might listen and not talk is key to being accepted.  I had a man tell me at dinner one time about a dinner partner that would not let her husband talk.  He didn't like that.  I can see why!  I know my husband does not like it when I do that.
Rule:  Let everyone have their turn to talk...even make it an invisible game in your mind.  By that I mean you are the only one that knows about the game and the conversation is passed around the room by you without anyone being the wiser. This technique will make you more aware of what you are doing.
How interesting are you?
On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the high and 1 the low, how do you rate yourself.  Are you interesting or not.  The balancing act between being too interesting and the perfect listener is a delicate one.  Don't fall over!


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I am currently reading John Adams.  I love it!  Are you interested in that?


  1. I'm not that interesting. I have trouble making small talk and getting a conversation started. Your suggestions are very helpful!

  2. Galen, you are a very educated and wise wonderful woman. You are a very good conversationalist and I consider it an honor to know you. It is people like me that are good at small talk. Still we are both happy in our own skin...that is good.

    Be well.


    Visit Galen Pearl at

  3. This was a good post for me so I thank you. It is often hard for me to make small talk and I tend to get too serious too fast. I lived in South America as an exchange student and one of my dear friends over there told me that I was a lot more fun in Spanish. According to her I am better at making small talk in Spanish than English.

    Thanks again for the lesson on making small talk in English.

  4. I wish I could get my husband to read this. I've tried to tell him that he's a name dropper as well as a travel dropper. (Is that a word?) We went to a dinner last month, and he monopolized the entire table. I don't know how he found time to eat.

  5. Anonymous,

    I understand what you are saying. I just leap in like the female know-it-all "Cliff Claven" of Cheers. It is not good.

    I am horrible at "girl talk". I have had to learn to even care about make-up or jewelry. I buy one pair of shoes a season. Actually I guess I am just boring when it comes to girl-talk.


  6. Shelley...this one made me laugh. I have a really good story about conch stew....! Lucky for you I am not going to tell it!


  7. Granny Goodwill,

    I don't know how to stop the train from going down the husband AND I are so bad about this. We both have to be on the job. It can be as hurtful for the spouse to point out our "blathering" as it can be for a person to get up from the dinner table to go outside to look at the stars in the middle of a story! Sigh!


  8. Since I know people love most to talk about themselves, when I join a new conversation I listen for clues about the people speaking, then ask them a relevant question to keep them talking and bring myself into the "group." Works everytime.

    Currently I'm reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand for one of my book clubs (we're reading it over three months) and I LOVE it! Whether one agrees or disagrees with Ms. Rand's unique economic philosophies, this book is still edge-of-your-seat interesting.

    On a lighter note, I just finished Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and found it wonderfully charming and engrossing. I adored it actually!

  9. I have actually had people start a conversation with someone else while I was still talking. That is how interesting I am. On the other hand, people I have never seen or met before have told me extremely personal things within our first five minutes of meeting each other.

    And another thought, other people don't like pictures. They may go on and on about their kid or pet pictures, but they don't give more than one second to mine.

    Flo from across the river in the 'Couve.


Leave your thoughts...I am interested.

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