Advice about how to start conversations is everywhere. Google reports 49.5 million results on the term “conversation starters” and there’s an entire subset of the greeting card and stationary industries dedicated to “convo cards,” those cute little playing decks with leading questions and provocative themes that adults use when trying to avoid the three verbotens of friendly conversations. Since we’re not allowed to talk about things we care about like politics, religion or when the DC football team will get a clue and change its name, we talk about inanities suggested by strangers.
These strangers optimistically compile lists of “225 Quality Conversation Starters,” apparently based on the assumption that if you need these suggestions, you have no friends and plenty of spare time. Surely these fine questions will lead to long and interesting conversations and perhaps even greater understanding and world peace.
Much overlooked by etiquette experts and conversation specialists is the need to end a conversation before it even begins. The following scenarios will ensure that everyone within hearing finds something else to do and someone else to do it with:
- I’m writing a really interesting white paper at work and just finished the outline which I would like to share with you now.
- You know, I think people are way too hard on meteorologists. Weather stations have only existed here since the 1850s so I believe the science will harden into a precision prediction machine sometime later this century.
- Please don’t share this with anyone, but I got a hot stock tip today via email and I know you will want to buy in with me.
- Just between you, me, and the ceiling, there’s something wrong with the cheese and I’m horrified.
- I need a new manicurist but I’m afraid to break up with my current manicurist first because of a very complicated situation.
- There’s vomit on my shoe from either one of my children or my mother’s cat and I just do not have the time for this.
- Quality of life and time of day are totally interrelated for me.
Even easier than remembering these seven topics are the three themes of the list. You cannot fail to repel thoughtful, empathetic people by talking about outlines and theories, illegal insider trading, or making blanket statements that reveal your total inability to cope with life.
Since the key to starting a good conversation is to show genuine interest in people and demonstrate active listening, then your tactic to escape human contact must involve the strategic deployment of words that invoke horror or narcolepsy. Good luck.