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Beat the Banter! A Comprehensive List of Conversation-Starting Questions

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

“So, what should we talk about next…?” 


“Tell me about your ex.”

“What do you do?”

“You remind me of my mother.”

“What are your post-grad plans?”

The silence. The uncomfortable, awkward, never-ending silence that fills conversations devoid of passion or substance. We’ve all been there whether you were in the car with your friend’s parents, on a coffee date with a “school friend” or grabbing a drink with a group you don’t know well. 

Small talk is tough. Filling the void of silence in a conversation is tricky. Learning to keep a dying conversation going is exhausting and requires a particular kind of skill. I am no expert in the banter of small talk. I have sat through silence that I hopelessly prayed would end. I have awkwardly chuckled at a childhood story told in an unfollowable way. Been there, done that.

In order to spare you the grief of staring into space and avoiding eye contact with the person you are unable to banter with, I have created a master list of questions and conversation starters. Yes, they may be a little different and could merit a chuckle, but most of them have at least momentarily gotten me through awkward conversation lulls. Unique questions in boring conversations can turn the focus away from the ever-present silence and toward an engaging topic.

Here are conversation-starting questions ordered by intensity and comfortability level.

Level 1: Surface-level, casual small-talk

What three foods would you pick if they were all you could eat for a month?

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?

Do you have a favorite TV commercial?

What is your preferred form of transportation?

Who is an artist (of any kind) that you pull inspiration from?

Do you have any potential names for future pets that you are thinking about?

Where is your favorite place to eat in your hometown?

Does your car have a name? What was the inspiration behind that name?

What is your coffee shop go-to order? For hot days? Cold? During the holidays? 

Is there one thing you use your Notes App most for?

What is one movie that you think should only be watched in a movie theater?

Level 2: Getting to know you

Who are your go-to people for a good time? For a chill time?

Which family member of yours do you think you are most like?

Do you have future aspirations that don’t involve your career? What are they?

What are some of your daily/yearly/occasional rituals?

Tell me something crazy that happened to you in the last month.

Do you have any “hot takes” related to music/film/television?

What was your inspiration for the outfit you are wearing today?

Is there any kind of music you refuse to listen to?

What do you think about poetry?

If you were able to make your pet live forever, would you take the opportunity?

What is one skill that you wish you had but do not have?

Do you have any really irrational fears?

Level 3: Let’s exchange souls

Have you ever been in love?

What are you proudest of in your life?

Who is your go-to person and why?

Did you have any preconceived notions about me before you met me?

What has been the hardest adversity you have ever faced? How did you overcome it?

Is there anything about yourself that you are currently working to change?

What in your life do you wish you could go back in time and change?

When was the last time you witnessed suffering?

How has your family impacted who you are today?

What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Before your next meet-up with someone you’re not 100% comfortable around, add some of these questions to your memory bank to keep the conversation rolling. Also, remember that it’s not your responsibility to do all the question asking! Whether you are with a mutual friend, crush, colleague or family member, give them room to ask some questions too. This makes sure that you are not doing all the work–that’s exhausting!

Whether you’re a social butterfly or wallflower, I hope these questions can add some spice and substance to your next conversation.

Lucy is a senior at Saint Louis University studying occupational therapy. In her free time—if she has any—you may find her curating music for her DJ gig with KSLU radio, shooting hoops at the Rec Center, or drinking a fun little beverage. Her writing is like her life: sporadic, passionate, full of energy, and a bit all over the place.