What Do People Talk About?

Have you ever asked yourself, “what do normal people talk about?” Maybe you’ve overheard someone say they had a fascinating conversation that lasted for hours and only wondered, “but how?”

It’s OK if you feel that you don’t know what to talk about with people. In fact, most people fear awkward silence. Being an introvert who never liked small talk, I’ve learned methods to get my conversations to flow. If you practice these tips on the daily, you’ll hopefully see the same improvements I’ve seen.

Sections

What do people like to talk about?

What do strangers talk about?

With strangers, it’s most common to comment on the situation or surroundings. The conversation then evolves from there:

  • At a friend’s dinner, a question like “Have you tried the Mac and Cheese?” can segway into conversations about favorite foods or cooking.
  • On a road trip, a comment like “That’s a cool building” can lead to topics about architecture and design.
  • At a party, a question like “How do you know people here” can lead to conversations about how people know each other, and stories about how people originally met.

It’s usually a good idea to comment on the situation, like in the examples above, and then explore related topics from there.

Here’s our guide on how to start a conversation.

What do acquaintances talk about?

A good way to make conversation with an acquaintance is to bring up something you talked about last time. Doing so has the added benefit of showing that you listen and care about them.

  • Did you decide to buy that bike you were talking about last time?
  • How was your weekend trip?
  • Is your daughter feeling better now or is she still having her cold?

If you can find mutual interests, good! Focus on those. Talking about them can help you bond and is usually more rewarding than small talk.

See our guide on how to transition from small talk to interesting conversation.

What do friends talk about?

Friends tend to talk about mutual interests or things you have in common. Most friendships are centered around commonalities.

Most people enjoy talking about their hobbies, themselves, their thoughts, or their experiences. While most people like to talk about things that are going on in their lives, this is usually a topic reserved for close friends. Someone you have just met might feel uncomfortable if you ask them personal information.

What we feel comfortable talking about is affected by our personality and personal experience.

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See our list of questions to ask friends.

What do men and women talk about?

Women tend to be more open and relaxed discussing emotions and personal events than men do. Men’s friendships tend to be more focused on a specific interest or activity.[1] With that said, these are generalizations and there are bigger differences between people than between genders.

Topics to talk about

Small talk is considered “safe” topics that you can discuss with anyone. Whether it’s someone you just met or a family member that you have a challenging relationship with, small talk is light and informal conversation that is unlikely to lead to conflict or discomfort.

I’ve provided some questions to transition from small talk to interesting topics. Don’t ask these questions in a row, but share your thoughts on the topic in between.

Weather

Has the weather report promised rain for three days, but it just isn’t coming? Can’t wait for winter to be over? Talking about the weather isn’t going to be a stimulating conversation, but it can be a good ice-breaker.

Questions to transition to interesting topics:

What’s your favorite type of weather?
Why do you think that is?
Where would you rather live?

Traffic

Examples can be “What was the traffic like this morning?” or “I was stuck for 40 minutes on my way here”.

Questions to transition to interesting topics:

Would you prefer working remotely if you could or would it get too lonely?
What do you usually do when you’re stuck in traffic?

Work

Whether you work together or not, work is usually a topic that can get everyone talking. What is their job? How did they get into it? Do they enjoy their work?

Questions to transition to interesting topics:

What do you like the most about your job?

Why do you think that is?

What did you dream about doing when you grew up?

Mutual friends

“How do you know Becky? We used to study together. We bonded after being the only two people in the library the day before a test.” Be careful not to veer into gossip – keep it positive.

Food

Food tends to bring people together; there’s a reason why most holidays worldwide are centered around food. If you’re at an event, talking about the food can usually spark a conversation. For example,

“That cake looks so good – I wish we could skip to it now.”
“No way! I’m not giving up those tacos. They smell amazing.”

You can also ask your conversation partner for restaurant recommendations. They’ll be happy to share their favorite places in the area and will probably tell you which dishes you “have to try.”

Your surroundings

Look around. What do you find interesting right now? Is there anything in your thoughts that could be shared? Do you wonder when the next bus will arrive? Do you enjoy the music they play at the party?

If you paid particular attention to an item of clothing they’re wearing, you can mention that you like it (unless you don’t – don’t say anything negative). “I like your shirt” is a great compliment because it’s something that they picked out. However, commenting on someone’s body can make them feel uncomfortable, even if it’s a compliment. If someone has dyed hair or is wearing a unique bracelet or hairstyle, you can complement that.

Overall, it’s usually best to refrain from commenting on someone’s looks when you don’t know them well.

Topics to talk about with someone you know

Once you’ve gotten your conversation started with small talk, you can move on to other topics. Here are some topics that you can try:

  • Travel. People love talking about places they’ve traveled to and things that they’ve seen. A good question to ask is, “which countries which you visit if you could go anywhere?” or “what’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited?”
  • Movies, TV, books. What have you been consuming recently that you enjoy?
  • Hobbies. Asking people about their hobbies is an excellent way to get to know them and get a conversation going. If they mention hiking, you can ask them if they can recommend any good trail. If they’re into board games, ask what they recommend for a beginner. If they play an instrument, you might ask what type of music they like. You might find some common ground.
  • Pets. People usually like talking about their pets. If they don’t have any, you can ask if they would like one.

Try to follow up their answers with follow-up questions, but don’t just interview them – share some things about yourself, too.

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What should you never talk about?

Topics to avoid as small talk include politics and other topics that might be controversial or up for debate. For example, issues such as religion or ideologies can be divisive. Therefore, it’s better not to bring them up with people who aren’t close friends.

Other topics that might make the person you’re talking to uncomfortable are finances, offensive jokes, sex, or medical issues. Wait until you know the person better to bring these topics up.

You should also avoid gossiping about other people or being overly negative.

As you get to know someone, pay attention to their body language and cues when discussing various topics. Good signs that they’re uncomfortable discussing specific issues include getting physically tense, fidgeting, or starting to give very short answers. If someone tells you directly or indirectly that they are uncomfortable discussing a particular topic, refrain from bringing it up again.

Remember that the type of relationship you have influences which topics you should avoid. With a close friend, there won’t be many topics that you should avoid. However, with a boss or teacher, there will always be some topics that should remain off-topic.

What do people talk about while dating?

What should you talk about on Tinder?

On Tinder, your goal is to get to know someone on a fundamental level and get them to want to get to know you. Your conversation should start light to see how well you click. Try to be creative when starting a conversation – don’t just type “hey.” That doesn’t leave your conversation partner much to go on. Instead, look at their profile and reference something there.

What if they don’t have anything written in their profile? In this case, you have to come up with something yourself. You can ask a fun question that many people have opinions about, like “what do you think about pineapples on pizza?”

Ice-breaker questions should get a conversation going. Then, you can ask general questions to get to know them better. For example, you might ask what they study or where they work, and what their hobbies are.

See our list of small talk questions for more ideas.

What should you talk about over text?

If you’ve moved off the Tinder app to texting, this is the phase where you should start to get to know each other on a deeper level, but not too deep yet. You don’t need to share your whole life story just yet, but this is an excellent opportunity to see if you have shared values or let them know of any potential dealbreakers.

You can text about things that happened during your day and ask them about theirs. In between, continue with getting-to-know-you questions. Suggest meeting up. This phase is highly personal – some people prefer to meet up early, while others aren’t comfortable unless they’re texted for a while or spoken on the phone first. Pay attention to their comfort levels, and don’t push.

What should you talk about on dates?

Your date is an opportunity to get to know each other, but also relax and have fun. People differ in how serious they prefer their conversation on the first date.

Some people want to get all the “dealbreakers” out of the way. Dealbreakers may include topics like thoughts on marriage and children, religious views, drinking habits, and more.

If someone knows that they don’t want kids, they might not want to get into a relationship with someone who knows they want them, so neither party feels like they wasted their time.

Similarly, someone who grew up with an alcoholic parent might feel uncomfortable with someone who has two beers every evening.

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A recommendation

If you want to improve your social skills, self-confidence, and ability to connect with someone, you can take our 1-minute quiz.

You’ll get a 100% free custom report with the areas you need to improve. 

Start the quiz

What should you talk about when socializing?

What to talk about in a group conversation

If you’re socializing with a group of people, it’s generally best to keep the conversation on light topics and not get too personal. It’s also OK to let other people take the lead – see what they want to talk about, and go with the flow.

Here are more tips on how to join a group conversation.

Avoid talking about in groups what was said in confidence

If you’re socializing with others, make sure you don’t bring up anything said in confidence.

For example, say you’re meeting your date’s friend, Emma. Perhaps they shared some information about them: she’s a law student who is in a messy relationship with someone your date doesn’t like.

When you meet Emma, it’s probably safe to ask her about school (“I hear you’re a law student”) – however, do not mention the fact that your date doesn’t like Emma’s boyfriend.

That is something that was shared in confidence with you.

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David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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