Now that cycling season in Minnesota has come to an end, my daily workouts have transitioned to indoor training. After riding nearly 4000 miles outside this summer, I am now stuck indoors. In an attempt to make my machine time more enjoyable, I began watching TED Talks. The talks help pass the time and I learn new ideas like the one I’m going to share with you today.
The talk is called Breaking the Habit of Smalltalk by Omid Scheybani. As someone who is wired as an introvert, this was music to my ears. I enjoyed Scheybani’s talk so much that I decided to try this idea the next day.
Jer and I teach life skills classes and before they begin, we share a meal with our guests. That night I decided I was going to avoid small talk. After a brief uncomfortable silence, our table erupted with a lively discussion about our childhoods, memories of terrible snow storms, and funny stories about their children. It was pure joy and zero awkwardness.
In his talk, Scheybani shares the results of a study that proved “more meaningful conversations can actually lead to increased levels of happiness and wellbeing.” Listen to what Mr. Scheybani has to say about small talk below.
I challenge you to try this approach at your holiday celebrations during the coming weeks. Obviously, be polite, introduce yourself and break the ice first. The point of this approach is to have meaningful conversations instead of “predictable superficiality.”
I suggest taking these questions off of the table.
- What do you do?
- Where are you from?
- Do you have kids?
- What do you think of this weather?
- Did you watch the Patriots game last night?
Instead, select 5 of these and practice them as your go-to conversation starters.
- Tell me about the most interesting place you have traveled to. What was special about it?
- If you could move anywhere in the world tomorrow, money not being a factor, where would you move and why?
- What did you love doing most as a child? Do you still do it? Why or why not?
- If you were a chef, what would be your signature dish?
- Tell me about the most interesting person you’ve had a conversation with. What important lesson did you learn from them?
- Which of your hobbies brings you the most joy? What are the top three things you enjoy about it?
- Who do you most admire? What quality do you most appreciate in that person?
- What is your favorite book of all time and why?
- What is your favorite holiday memory?
- What made you happiest during the last week?
Update: I created a printable list of questions for our family Christmas celebration. You can access the list through this link.
Tell us about a time you’ve had a meaningful conversation with a stranger.