Awkward Silence: No Stress Conversation Starters!

By Madeleine Kates

In these stressful times, with everyone distanced from friends and family, keeping in touch is more important than ever. However, this also means that our conversational skills may be a little rusty. Staying inside is the norm for those like me with immune challenges, but the pandemic has caused us all to be in a similar situation. Here are some ideas and tips I find helpful to keep awkward silences at bay while staying in touch with loved ones.

Reminisce. Everyone enjoys a good laugh, and silly things happen to everyone at one time or another. Whether it was the time you put something embarrassing in the wrong cart at the grocery store, or when your luggage got lost and you spent the first half of your vacation in the same pair of plaid pants you wore on the plane, there’s nothing better than hearing about someone’s most memorable day.

Think about your audience. Think about who you’re speaking with, and tailor your questions or conversation starters to them. Ask parents or grandparents about the town they grew up in, and what it looked like, especially if it’s a place you can visit. Ask about the kind of music or entertainment they like, and share your favorites. You may learn something new about a family member, or discover a common interest.

Hobbies. We all have a hobby, past or present, so learn about what those around you enjoy in their spare time. Maybe there’s a box of old coins or stamps in a loved one’s attic that they have long forgotten about, and it might reignite their passion for collecting. Ask how and when their hobbies started!

Looking ahead. While the world seems difficult right now, it won’t be like this forever. What is something you look forward to? Maybe there’s a part of the world you’ve always wanted to visit, or a language or instrument you’ve thought about learning. Get excited about all of the possibilities, goals, and items on your wish list. It’s much more interesting than discussing what’s in the day’s news.

Choose a random topic or play a virtual game. When in doubt, choose a random topic to explore, such as favorite desserts, or games. Play free virtual games on Zoom including Monopoly, Pictionary, or Scattergories. It’s a great way to get to know one another and have a blast. See for some great ideas.

A conversation goes both ways, so share things about yourself for an interactive dialogue. Find common ground with others and connect on a deeper level by getting to know them better. With a few tips up your sleeve, there is always something to talk about, so get creative and have fun learning about the ones you love.
Madeleine Kates is a Senior at Niagara University studying Life Sciences, Psychology, and Environmental Science.