How to ignite post day out conversation?
December 9, 2006 6:32 PM   Subscribe

After a long day in the company of others, how do you keep conversation fresh during the evening and nite?

After spending some "intensive" time with companions during the day, which tends to exhaust conversation about what we are seeing and doing as we see and do it, how do you then reignite conversation over dinner and into the night? I know these people and their background inside out so getting to know them is not a problem and I don't have much in common with them. I see them everyday so nobody needs to hear our life story or daily happenings. As the host I feel I should keep the night flowing, but it's hard. Reminiscing over the day is okay for a few minutes but not really condusive to an enjoyable night.

Any ideas? Party games and the like not really appropriate.
posted by oxala to Human Relations (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Never underestimate the power of alchohol.
posted by IvyMike at 6:36 PM on December 9, 2006

I came in here to say almost exactly the same thing as IvyMike.
posted by 999 at 6:41 PM on December 9, 2006

Talk about current events, politics, movies, global warming, water on mars, Iraq, vacations coming up, or anything else.
posted by pwally at 6:58 PM on December 9, 2006

I third the alcohol suggestion...
posted by Octoparrot at 7:12 PM on December 9, 2006

Oh, alcohol is cheating and unnecessary. It's certainly possible. You just have to plan a little. I go to websites that my companions don't go to (news, mefi), and keep a couple of little tidbits to myself, and then bring it up over the dinner table and ask them their opinions.

Or another thing that is really good is a companionable silence.
posted by b33j at 7:25 PM on December 9, 2006

Dinners easily beget memories and stories of other dinners; stories of other dinners can lead to stories of other nights. There is nothing wrong with asking people somewhat artificial questions to introduce fresh conversational fodder.

"The last time I had dinner with eight (or however many people in your party) people, we were finally seated at a big table of the restaurant in the back corner near the kitchen, and it was so noisy, we started miming our conversation, and blah, blah, blah... When was the last time each of you were out to dinner with 8 people?" And look expectantly around the table until someone picks up the ball. They may not stay with the artificial topic, but if they hand off to someone else, they've moved the conversation out of your lap, and into the group.

Sometimes, that's all you can ask, but often, it's enough.
posted by paulsc at 7:37 PM on December 9, 2006

I feel your pain. I have to spend time with distant family members once a year or so and it's hard to keep conversation going. Usually I try to grasp onto something that we share an interest in. If Aunt Sue is interested in gardening I try to chat about that as much as possible. If Uncle Lenny is into Sudoku puzzles, I ask him all about them because I haven't done that sort of puzzle. It's been said a million times before but just listen and ask questions. Maybe gossip a bit, talk about your hometown, music, or the coffee you are drinking, talk about politics, or family. There are never a lack of things to talk about.

It sounds like you are trying to be the nice host. That is respectable, but don't bear too much of the burden to keep the conversation alive. I find when I am nervous and want to make sure everybody is happy and are having a good time it makes everybody else nervous and awkward. Just let it flow as it will.

Don't be afraid to do your own thing, and make people feel at home if they are dining or relaxing in your house. If I am going to be with the same company for a week or two, sometimes we just all chill in the evening in front of the TV and do our own thing. Uncle is doing his puzzles, I am reading or straightening up a bit, Auntie is doing her needlepoint or reading her novel. If we want to say something we can, but there is no pressure to talk if we don't want to.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:41 PM on December 9, 2006

Say you spend the day rollerskating, later on that night you can say "Hey! Do you remember that time we went rollerskating? That was such a long time ago. We should do that again sometime."

I say that only half-jokingly. Reliving shared experiences can often lead to some very interesting and indepth conversations. You'll probably want to go back further than 3 or 4 hours though.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:44 PM on December 9, 2006

Another vote for companionable silence.

Start a fire you can all sit around, encourage people to read books or do jigsaw puzzles --- television if you must, but quiet activities are better.

The reason that there's silence at the end of the day is that nobody much feels like talking any more. Don't try to force it.
posted by tkolar at 8:56 PM on December 9, 2006

I get together with family and friends in these kinds of situations quite a bit, or at least it seems that way. I understand what you're saying.

I've found that evenings usually give way to quiet board games, like chess or a rousing Settlers of Catan. I also think that it's ok to do your own thing, even reading or checking email or the like, provided it's not the last night you're with them.

Also, if the group is large enough, go outside or to a different area and engage that one person. In our group of friends, the smoke break serves as a nice catalyst for this kind of thing.
posted by beelerspace at 10:28 PM on December 9, 2006

Read the New Yorker. Seriously. It always has interesting tidbits that, unlike the regular news, most people won't know about already, and are good springboards for broader conversations.
posted by walla at 12:02 AM on December 10, 2006

I'm more in line with pwally. Find 2 or 3 controversial issues like the OJ saga, the Clinton impeachment, gay marriage, etc., that will get people talking in spite of themselves. There's nothing wrong with alcohol but if you're going to use it to provoke conversation, be prepared for it to cause some people to says things they'll probably regret the next day. A good host--as you are obviously trying to be--wouldn't want to have their guests leave wishing they hadn't been there (or that they never want to see those people again).
posted by fuse theorem at 4:35 AM on December 10, 2006

If you have a family who require you listen more than you would want to then do what I did, separate, it brings so much quitet conteplation time you get to join sites like this!

I note that quite board games are not for every family or circle of friends.

posted by SwissTommy at 8:06 AM on December 10, 2006

I would NOT talk about politics or issues that will get people passionate. You want people to laugh, smile and take interest. This may make your friends or yourself uncomfortable. And I quadruple? , the alcohol point. Talk about sports, hobbies, work, the weather, worst job you have ever had, investments, crazy things you’ve heard about, dirty jokes, clean jokes, old roommates, fashion, places you want to travel to, types of alcohol you like, the college years, animals, talk badly about your neighbors, or good… , something you want to buy, or wish you didn’t. Best thing to do is not to talk politics and/or religion and please don’t be the first to brag. You could always play a game of some sort.
posted by thetenthstory at 8:11 AM on December 10, 2006

If you want a real read on the subject, have a look at the Roman answer to your question. It's kind of a chunk; but, at least it's been translated.
posted by Netzapper at 10:38 AM on December 10, 2006

Seconding the New Yorker, but also read more right leaning publications too (lest your companions think you a stinking commie, or something).

I like the Brown Journal of Foreign Affairs because it covers a lot of aspects of a topic. It mightbe good for you because it's just not something that most people in my demographic are picking up, so it's certainly fresh to them. And when I stumble across someone who has even heard of it, they are really impressed.
posted by bilabial at 8:54 AM on December 11, 2006

Another vote for companionable silence.

And in my experience the best conversations overall grow out of situations where people aren't working hard to fill every available silence. A few moments with one's own thoughts does wonders for making the mind wander, and often onto subjects or memories that make good conversation starters.

Stop feeling pressure to ignite the conversation; just be a part of it.
posted by phearlez at 11:49 AM on December 11, 2006

aaaaand I completely forgot to make the point I meant to make - I think you'll find that by relaxing and letting the conversation happen with moments of quiet interspersed you'll actually have a lot more conversation than you think and most of it will be better as well.
posted by phearlez at 11:50 AM on December 11, 2006

« Older Craig Armstrong song. What is it?   |   VZW CDMA in China? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.