“Hey, how are you?”
“I’m good, how are you?”
“Oh, I’m good, too.”
End of story. Awkward silence.
Does that sound familiar? I’ve found myself in this kind of dead-end conversation, so I’m not exactly a fan of “How are you?”
The good news is, there are plenty of way better conversation starters than this standard opening. Let’s check them out!
1) “What’s the vibe today?”
I’ll start with something that I think adds more pep than the usual “How are you?” – it’s all about the vibe.
This question starts a conversation off with a cool and relaxed energy that sounds more inviting for the other person.
The fact that it’s casual and lighthearted is usually enough to disarm anyone who’s feeling anxious or closed-off.
Who knows, they might catch the upbeat mood you’re giving off and share more about their day. Maybe they’ve just had a great morning yoga session, or they’re feeling worried about something at work.
Either way, your exchange can be a fun, quick, and easy way to share their joy or let off some steam!
2) “What’s your day/week been like so far?”
Now, this is a slightly broader question that’s bound to give you varied responses because of its open-endedness.
It’s a wonderful way to get the highlights of someone’s day or week. When you ask this question, they won’t likely tell you every detail, just the ones that stand out for them.
But usually, that’s enough to take the conversation in a longer and more meaningful direction. Maybe they’d mention how they’ve been struggling with learning a new language, and that can trigger other topics, like travel or cultural issues.
That’s certainly a long way away from “How are you? I’m good!”
3) “What are you up to these days?”
The question, “What are you up to these days?” takes a similar approach but with a slightly longer timeline.
I love using this when reaching out to people I haven’t talked to in a while. Especially those whom I’m not particularly close with.
I get to know about all things current – their lifestyle, projects, goals, or any changes they’re undergoing. Which, of course, is rife ground for further conversation.
Thanks to this question, I’ve learned about diverse topics like veganism, gardening, and what it takes to train for a marathon, to name a few.
4) “What puts you in a good mood?”
Actually, this is one I’ve used a few times as a Facebook post during those days when I feel blah. And of course, it works in face-to-face interactions, too.
There’s something about knowing what makes people tick that lifts my spirits up. I enjoy learning about different kinds of mood-boosters and try to apply them in my life as well.
And just being asked is a mood-booster for the other person as well. Because you’re nudging them to think about what brings them joy and happiness. So they’d be thinking about the fun stuff – their pet, their quiet morning coffee ritual, and other happy triggers.
Trust me, you’re bound to have a heartwarming, lively, and cheerful conversation with this!
5) “If you had a day off with no responsibilities, what would you do?”
While we’re on the topic of positive nudges, what could be more dreamy than a day with no responsibilities?
Invite people to engage in a bit of daydreaming with this question. You’re basically asking them, “What do you love so much that you’d spend your free day doing it?”
Whether it’s hiking, painting, playing an instrument, or just lounging in bed all day, the answer can lead to a lively, and potentially funny, convo.
Plus, it’s a great way to discover shared hobbies and interests. I’ve forged deeper connections with those I discovered love the same things I do.
For example, one coworker turned out to be a major fountain pen collector just like me. And I only found out because when I asked this question, he said he’d go fountain pen-hunting!
6) “If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go?”
Let’s go full blast into daydreaming (it’s such a lovely sport, isn’t it?) How about asking people about the travel destinations on their bucket list?
People love to talk about travel – their past trips, dream destinations, even their favorite local spots. Asking this question can ignite an exciting conversation that gets people’s eyes sparkling.
Not only that, it lets you dive deeper. After your initial question, you can then go on to ask them why they chose that place, what they would do there, and who they would take with them.
Those are all fantastic springboards into more elaborate discussions. Who knows, you might even get some travel inspo yourself!
7) “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen this week?”
The finale of “The Last of Us.”
A man on the subway with a pool noodle on his head.
A woman walking on the street wearing a T-rex costume – and smoking.
These are just some of the answers I’ve gotten to the question, “What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen this week?” And they are indeed quite interesting!
I love the wide range of topics this question can spark. It can be something deeper like maybe a news article about new findings on how the Egyptian pyramids were built, or something totally oddball like some of the examples above.
Plus, it can also give you a sneak peek into their interests and hobbies. If they talk about a scientific breakthrough they read about, that tells you they’re into science. If they share a thrilling show they’re watching, you get a sense of their taste in viewing choices.
8) “What’s a skill you’re working on or want to learn?”
Personal development is another area that people love talking about.
Think about it: If someone asks you this question, don’t you feel excited to share?
I’ve always enjoyed hearing about the diverse range of skills people are working on – from cooking to coding, painting to paragliding!
On top of that, this question also offers a chance to offer or exchange tips and advice.
For instance, if they’re learning something you’re already good at, you can share your expertise. That’s bound to create a stronger bond than the boring, “How are you?”
9) “What’s your favorite way to unwind after a busy day?”
If you’ve got a busybody streak in you like me, you’d be happy to know that this question is a socially acceptable way to get a peek into other people’s lives without getting too personal.
I mean, I just love knowing people’s different ways of letting down their hair.
Personally, I go for a glass of white wine, a small bag of chips, and an episode of whatever trashy reality TV I’ve got in my lineup (a guilty pleasure that I am, yes, guiltily admitting).
My husband, on the other hand, takes our dog out for a leisurely walk. (He’s obviously the wiser one of us!)
All that to say that each one of us has our own way of letting the day’s stresses go. And it’s always fun to know how!
10) “What’s a movie or TV show you could watch over and over again?”
Speaking of TV, that’s always a crowd-pleaser. I mean, it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have a favorite movie or TV show, right?
It’s quite universal, so it’s a safe bet to use in place of “How are you?” You’ll definitely go much farther because there’s just so much to discuss, from the complexity of characters, to the brilliant dialogue, to the unique plot twists…
And if you happen to have differing opinions on the same show, it could even spark a lively debate about its pros and cons!
11) “What’s a book that has significantly impacted your life?”
As an avid reader, I can’t end this list without tacking on a book-related question.
I love asking this question, not just to make polite conversation or fill dead air. I ask it because I really am interested in the books that played a huge role in people’s lives.
In fact, hearing their answers gives me a glimpse into their worldview and personality.
For instance, when someone says their pivotal book was “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I know that justice and equality are part of their core values.
When they say it’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” I know they’re a deep thinker who aims to live a purposeful life.
I might sound like I’m judging them by their book cover (literally!), but I don’t mean it that way. I just think that one’s choice of books does reflect their interests, personalities, and principles.
Plus, who doesn’t want book recommendations, right? That’s something you’ll never get from a simple “How are you”!
There are so many more brilliant conversation starters out there, but hopefully this list can help you get started on breaking out of the “How are you – I’m good” box.
If you notice, they’re effective because they’re not meant to just fill the silence. They’re designed to help you actually have a real conversation and make connections with others. So, pick one and get ready for some unique and meaningful answers!
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