As an introvert, small talk is my kryptonite. I can literally feel the life draining out of me as I’m hit with, “What do you do for a living?” or “Did you see that Mariner’s game last night?” or “How you doing, Bro?” What usually follows are some quick answers, awkward pauses, and a drummed-up reason why I gotta leave now.
I should probably take a class on social graces.
Even among my own tribe—pastors—I fail miserably with small talk. After every conference, I think about how annoying and predictable the conversations were (How you doing, Bro? How’s the church? You guys growing?)… and then I tell myself I need to come prepared with 2 or 3 interesting things to say.
The truth is, I would love to circumvent small talk altogether and move right into some real, true, deep stuff (How has your theology changed in the past few years? What’s one thing you’re too scared to change at your church but you really wish you could? What hurts in your life right now?).
Of course, I have a weird and goofy side too. Sometimes I want to ask out of left field questions or maybe even some wildly inappropriate ones (I won’t include any examples here, but if you would like some, I’m happy to ask you a few of my doozies).
The other day I happened to read this headline: 15 Questions That Are Way Better Than “What Do You Do?” Yup, I clicked. And it didn’t disappoint. It was an article by Jessica Stillman for Inc.com – and in it she says…
Research proves that small talk—as painful and pointless as it can sometimes feel—is actually an essential kind of communication that helps us identify common bonds, reassure others, and sort out social roles. But just because you really need to get over your hatred of small talk, it doesn’t mean you need to continually torture yourself with bland, content-free conversations (This is where I started yelling HALLELUJAH and had a little praise break). It’s possible to accomplish the many, important social functions of introductory conversations while at the same time not boring yourself silly.
All you need is better questions.
Dang. Boom. I feel this in my bones. Lord, help me!
Stillman then shares 15 questions which she pulled from another article, 49 Questions to Ask—Instead of “What Do You Do?” by Chelsea Rustrum. Below, are a few of my favorites from Rustrum’s big list:
What’s been on your mind lately?
What are your two biggest insecurities?
What makes you feel appreciated and loved? Do you know your love languages?
Tell me an embarrassing childhood story…
What are you most afraid of?
What do you think makes a good friend?
Do you like to cook? What’s the last thing you cooked?
If you didn’t live here, where else would you choose?
What’s your favorite emoji? When do you use it?
What would you be most likely to volunteer for?
What are you looking forward to in the next few weeks?
What does money represent to you? Power, freedom, possession, possibility, guilt, success?
Who do you turn to for sage advice on your personal life? How about your professional life?
What’s your plan for the zombie apocalypse? Apocalyptic skills?
How do you center yourself when you’re stressed out?
What’s your fav guilty pleasure junk food?
What moment from recently keeps playing in your head… why?
What kind of music do you listen to when you need to amp yourself up to get things done? How about when you want to mellow out?
Is your preference one-on-one time or do you love and feed off social groups and diverse types of people?
How do you handle feedback? Love or hate people giving you their unsolicited advice?
What’s one thing you don’t know for sure?
What excites you these days?
If you got to keep 50 objects including clothes and disposed of everything else, what non-clothing items would you keep?
When was the last time you laughed really hard? What were you laughing at—or who were you laughing with?
If you were to give a TED talk this year, what would the title be?
When was the last time you amazed yourself?
How do you experience empathy? Where do you feel it in your body?
What are three words your friends would use to describe you?
MAN-O-MAN, I feel ready for that next pastor conference! Got these questions saved in my phone. Bring on the conversation, Bro!