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July 17, 2013 7:19 PM   Subscribe

What are some fun games/safe foolproof topic for awkward silences?

Hey hivemind, I have noticed recently that sometimes I find myself lapsing into awkward silences with someone who is quiet. I like 'this or that' if it is two people, or sometimes we play 'two truths and a lie' if we're in a group. Or I make a flustered comment about whatever I am looking at if the silence is very uncomfortable, but I was wondering if you guys had any fun 'conversation games' or foolproof conversation re-boots that come in handy every so often?

posted by dinosaurprincess to Human Relations (19 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Talk about food or weather or traffic or whatever
posted by oceanjesse at 7:38 PM on July 17, 2013

I usually keep a running list of things that are in the news or movies/tv shows/books I've seen or read and bring them up if there's a lull that isn't comfortable. "Did you see that story about the giraffe that got caught on the water slide? Crazy, huh?"
posted by xingcat at 7:39 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The weather actually works surprisingly well for this, because there are so many segues out: things you do or don't do because the weather is suitable or not, how recently the weather was different and what you did then, foods you like to prepare, eat, or avoid depending on the weather, differences between the preferences of various people you know, etc.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:41 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

xingcat: "I usually keep a running list of things that are in the news or movies/tv shows/books I've seen or read and bring them up if there's a lull that isn't comfortable. "Did you see that story about the giraffe that got caught on the water slide? Crazy, huh?""

Isn't this exactly what Metafilter is for?

I also like talking about our Very Minor Superpowers (mine is sleeping on planes). Although not everyone gets it; on a particularly unsuccessful first date, a guy told me his VMSP was that he was "really good at math" and used to make fun of his classmates in high school for finding it hard.

Sometimes lulls in conversations are preferable to what comes out of people's mouths.
posted by Superplin at 7:43 PM on July 17, 2013 [13 favorites]

"Do you have any summer plans? Weekend plans? Holiday plans?"

Or (and this is more awkward but is sometimes easier if you've already covered the above): talk about yourself but turn it into a question about whether or not the other person has done what you're planning. "I'm going to X this summer. Have you ever been there?"
posted by samthemander at 7:44 PM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

I tend to find myself staring at the sky when a conversation reaches a reflective moment, and there usually is something interesting up there, even if it's just an excuse to bring up the weather. Pubs often have cool ceilings too. So, something up there, or conspiratorially leaning in and pointing out a people watching opportunity, though that can be a bit mean.

That said, as a datapoint: Sometimes it is actually just nice to be with people and not be talking. I have encountered "this or that", "two truths and a lie" and other enforced interactions, and I absolutely loathe them. Personally, I find games like that way more awkward than just sharing some silence.
posted by lucidium at 7:51 PM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

To give a slightly different perspective, if this kind of thing is only happening to you around "people who are quiet", there's a chance that they don't want you to be trying to "reboot" the conversation. This happens to me a lot. Unless surrounded by close friends, I tend to be quiet, and I'm pretty comfortable with silence in casual conversations. Nevertheless, people keep trying to start conversations about food, the weather, weekend plans, etc, and as much as I try to play along with this, I'd prefer it if they didn't. I know that what you want is a "foolproof conversation starter", but I think that there are some people for which no guaranteed mechanism exists because they genuinely don't want to talk much.
posted by mixing at 7:56 PM on July 17, 2013 [11 favorites]

You know, you can never go wrong asking people about themselves. People love to talk about themselves. (Usually.)
posted by overleaf at 8:13 PM on July 17, 2013

I dunno, add me to the list of people who are self-conscious about their lack of weekend plans and who don't talk much about themselves with relative strangers. If someone starts talking to me about the weather, I'll play along, but the stuff I will say in return will be equally phony. To engage me, you either have to say something funny or guess what I find interesting. I realize that this is tough, but that's what makes conversations so difficult.
posted by Nomyte at 8:36 PM on July 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

My friend and I did this when we went out and it was so much fun, but obviously only works in you're a bar or restaurant or other place with lots of people.

So you look around the room and you start making up backstories for other people. Like there's a couple over there. So what are they talking about? Oh they're talking about money because his job just doesn't pay enough but she wants a lavish lifestyle. Do you think she's going to leave him? She totally is! FOR THE POOL BOY OH MY GOD.

Obviously, this works best with natural bullshitters willing to spin a story, but is a lot of fun.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:38 PM on July 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Think about it this way: you have to stretch your "small talk muscle". Other suggestions on this thread are really good, but that has helped me to frame the Awkward Silence Problem.
posted by timpanogos at 8:50 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I ask, "If you had to open a mini-golf course, what theme would your course have? I've only ever seen plain ones and pirate themed ones but think a ___ one would be cool. What about you?" It's such an odd question that it either generates a topic or makes folks chuckle and ask where the heck the question came from. You are welcome to share my origin as yours: I like the movie Overboard and if I stumble upon it on on TV, I can't turn it off. It's on a lot. Who doesn't like the scenes with the putt-putt courses? I can just tell folks the movie was on recently and that scene just popped in my head.
posted by adorap0621 at 8:51 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

"...so, how 'bout them (insert local sports team here)?" 
posted by Jacqueline at 8:54 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Depending on the scenario, it's just as well to say, "Well, jeeze, THIS is awkward!" as to say, "Hey, how about the weather?" because these sentences basically mean the same thing. As a listener, if you say the latter, I automatically know that you mean the former.

I like Ghostride The Whip's idea and adorap0621's idea much more.

Especially if you're in this situation with "someone who is quiet." If a person is introverted/quiet, it might not be your place to make them speak up.
posted by papayaninja at 9:35 PM on July 17, 2013

What is the largest animal you could kill with your bare hands?

Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or fifty duck-sized horses?

Have you ever masturbated and cried at the same time?

There's also a game similar to Fuck, Marry, Kill where you name two completely repugnant people and the other player *must* choose one to have sex with. Assume that you *must* (a) keep your eyes open during sex and (b) talk to them afterwards.
posted by janey47 at 10:03 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Complimenting a person on something you genuinely like about them (some interesting accessory they're wearing, a particular work skill you've noticed, some special talent they've demonstrated) is often a disarmingly good way to open a conversation. Just make sure you're commenting on something that you 1) genuinely like about them, and 2) is something they've made public or is otherwise appropriate.
posted by aspen1984 at 11:38 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I use the FORD method, It's so easy to run it through my head which prompts news that i forgot to talk about. FORD stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams, so when there's a lull in conversation. you base your questions on this:

Family or Family/Friends, Talk about your or their parents/siblings activities, health etc. Share stories and ask about mutual friends lives and mishaps, this can even include stories about pets and neighbours.

Occupation, Ask about what people do at work, how their day was, what's on the horizon, even earnings, locations, future career plans, previous jobs.

Recreation A big one!, You can ask literally a million things about hobbies from playing instruments, games, excursions like concerts or small holidays like camping to world cruises. Things like cooking and dining have endless shared experiences.

Dreams This is a fun one you can ask anything from childhood fantasies, to philosphy to silly things like superpowers that was mentioned above.

Failing that you could look at the top 100 questions list i've compiled below to ask someone and try to memories a few favourites, best tip is just belive that you are a great converstaionalist and you will be!

1. Who do you live with?
2. How close are you to your family?
3. Are you a morning or night person?
4. Do you believe there is life in space or on other planets?
5. How long do you think you’ll stay in your current job?
6. What are your plans for the weekend?
7. Do you have any bad habits?
8. What is your favorite restaurant and why?
9. Do you read/watch a lot of news/current affairs?
10. Do you have any celebrity crushes?
11. Do you have any tattoos or piercings?
12. Do you prefer sweet or salty food?
13. If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
14. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
15. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?
16. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
17. If you had a million dollars, what would you spend it on?
18. What do you think about right before falling asleep?
19. What is one regret you have:
20. What is one thing that no one knows about you?
21. What is one thing you like about being an adult?
22. What is one thing you miss about being a kid?
23. What is one thing you would change about yourself?
24. Who is your favorite band of all time?
25. What is your dream job?
26. Do you prefer pubs or clubs?
27. What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
28. What is your favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon?
29. What is your first thought when you wake up?
30. What top personality traits do you look for in a partner?
31. What was your favorite childhood television program?
32. What is your favorite animal and why?
33. What's your favorite color and why?
34. Would you rather have millions of pounds or true love?
35. How many romantic partners have you had?
36. Have you ever broken someone's heart?
37. Have you ever had your heart broken?
38. What is your favorite film and why?
39. What is your favorite TV show?
40. What is your favorite book and why?
41. Do you prefer black or white?
42. What is your favorite Website/s and why?
43. Do you find it difficult to say sorry?
44. Who was your favorite school teacher, describe why?
45. What’s the worst thing you can think of in a sandwich?
46. When you're sick do you need lots of TLC or prefer to be left alone?
47. What is your favorite flavour of Ice Cream?
48. What do you do for a living?
49. What is your favorite season of the year?
50. If you had to take a bath in food what would it be and why?
51. What is your favorite flavour juice?
52. Would you rather travel back in time or to the future?
53. What is the most precious thingat you own?
54. Would you rather go to the Doctors or the Dentist?
55. Do you have any collections or what do you like to collect?
56. What do you think your parents are good at?
57. Do you like making lots of noise or do you prefer to be quiet?
58. If you could only take one book to a desert island what would it be?
59. At the beach would you rather play in the sand or swim in the sea?
60. How many languages can you speak?
61. Do you prefer games or puzzles?
62. What is the first thing you would do to make the world a better place?
63. If you were asked to draw a picture, what would you draw and why?
64. Where would you prefer to live, a castle, a cottage or a caravan?
65. What do you do around the house that you hate to do?
66. Why do you think trees lose their leaves in autumn
67. If you could choose, how many brothers and sisters would you have?
68. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?
69. Would you rather hug a person or an animal?
70. Describe the funniest thing you have ever seen
71. What makes you sad?
72. If you had £100 what would you buy?
73. Would you rather deep sea dive or a mountain climb?
74. What is the naughtiest thing you have ever done?
75. Do you think it is okay to tell lies?
76. Would you rather pack a lunch or buy a dinner?
77. Describe your favorite piece of clothing?
78. How many teeth have you lost?
79. Do you think you are a good friend?
80. If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, what would you choose and why?
81. What’s the biggest present you have bought someone?
82. What is your favorite fairy tale?
83. What do you do for fun on long journeys?
84. What is the latest you have stayed up/gone without sleeping?
85. What would you like to be famous for?
86. What are you really good at?
87. What colour would you like to paint your bedroom?
88. What is your favorite pizza topping?
89. Do you prefer surprises or arrangements?
90. If you have children what would you name them?
91. What is the best present you have ever had?
92. Do you think you would make a good politician
93. If you could be anybody else for a day who would you be?
94. Would you rather have the ability to fly or swim under water?
95. What is the kindest thin g you have ever done?
96. Would you rather go back to primary or high school?
97. What is the best date you have been on?
98. What has been the best day in your life?
99. How awesome is Meta Filter?!!

Good luck x
posted by krisb1701d at 6:06 AM on July 18, 2013 [20 favorites]

TV and sports. If you know one or the other you have instant small talk with 90% of people; that's why a lot of people get into them.

if you aren't into either, like me, things get harder.
posted by dekathelon at 6:30 PM on July 18, 2013

An example of people talking about the weather. 212 comments and still growing.
posted by d. z. wang at 3:07 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

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