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What’s New? How to Deal with Small Talk

I dread making small talk whenever I’m forced to socialize with people other than my closest friends. And while it’s annoying to have to explain to your uncle what you do for a living (one of mine doesn’t exactly get blogging as a career), the worst question to be asked is, “What’s new with you?”

Where do you even begin with a conversation starter such as this? If you don’t see the asker on a regular basis, they probably don’t care about the day-to-day activities that you’ve been up to, just the big, major, life-changing stuff. Only how many of us actually have big, major life-changing stuff to relay every six months or so?

I don’t want you to be stuck the way I did an acquaintance’s gathering a couple weeks ago. When someone asked me the dreaded question, I said, “Hmm ... I can’t really think of anything” and felt like the most boring person on earth. After the jump, tips for preparing your answer.

Since the question “What’s new?” is ridiculously broad, you get to pick whatever you want to say about it. If you’d like to talk about work, do. If you’re embarrassed that you graduated from college eight years ago and you’re still living with your parents, don’t bring it up. Take the conversation wherever you want it to go, and hopefully the discussion will come naturally. At a loss for where to begin? Here are a few topics.

  • Travel: Where have you been since you last say them? Where are you going? Or where are you planning to go? Anyone who works lives for vacation days, so this is a universal topic.
  • Pop Culture: Been to any wonderful or terrible movies or concerts recently? Maybe you’ve seen something amazingly funny online? Warning: This topic does not really work with cross-generational conversations. Grandma probably isn’t interested in hearing about the Warpaint show you caught last week.
  • Food and Drink: Did you try a new recipe that you’re absolutely obsessed with? Or sip a cocktail made with Fernet-Branca for the first time and vomit immediately afterward? These topics work especially well with foodies, wannabe chefs, and those over twenty-one years of age.
  • Home: You finally bought an area rug for your living room? Awesome. Recount how you went to ten stores before you found THE ONE. This might sound boring, but they asked you the stupid, broad question and you can torture them with the mundane if you so choose.

Share your tips for making small talk in the comments!

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By Catherine Strawn for