Some Basic Questions to Start a Conversation

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Have you ever met someone new and had that awkward feeling of not know how to begin an intelligent conversation?  You're definitely not alone.  Many of us haven't been taught or seen someone model how to start a basic conversation with someone they just met.  And with our busy schedules and living in the information age, basic social skills can easily be lost in the busy lives.  Here are a few pointers that will be helpful.  

Some Basic Questions to Start a Conversation

Using the "FORM Method"

I've used the "FORM Method" now for many years just getting to know people I just met in various settings.  It's just a suggested method and it can be revised depending on the setting, context, culture, or how large or small the group is you are in at the moment.  FORM stands for family, occupation, recreation, and either messages or money.  

  • Family- These are basic questions in regard to family.  Here are some questions in regard to family:  Do you have any siblings?  Do you have family in the area?  Are your siblings younger, older, or both?
  • Occupation- These questions involve career or work.  In some countries people may take offense at asking about their career.  As always you can revise your questions to the culture or context.  Here are some occupation questions:  What do you do for a living?  Where do your work?  Who do you work for?  What is your occupation?  Who is your employer?  What is your field of work?  
  • Recreation-  These are questions that involve what people like to do in their free time or what people like to do for fun.  Here are some recreation questions:  What do you do when you are not (work or occupation).  What do you do for fun?  What do you enjoy doing in your free time?  What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?  What are some of your hobbies?
  • Messages or Money- If your conversation is in a business or financial context, questions on money may make sense. You may be wanting to know if people could use a service, product, or idea you could provide or you may be looking for new business partners.  In this case the following questions could be used:  Are you happy with your work?  What do you like or dislike about your job?  Do they pay you well?  How does the economy affect your income?  If your just having a general conversation to get to know someone the "M" in form can mean "messages."  Messages are simply conversation starters to get people talking.  Here are a few conversation starters:  What are you looking forward to this spring/summer/fall/winter?  Any plans for the spring/summer/fall/winter?  What do you think about (latest movie)?  What dish/drink do you like in this restaurant?  What is the best vacation place in your opinion?  Where do you like to Christmas shop?  

A Couple Other Tips

  • As I've mentioned in other articles being open to meeting new people is key and showing this both verbally and nonverbally is important.  To have friends you must show yourself friendly.

Some Basic Questions to Start a Conversation

  • Learn to listen twice as much as you talk.  The Greek philosopher Epictetus illustrated this point by reminding us that this is why we have two ears and one mouth.  
  • Learn peoples' names.  People feel important when you learn, remember, and use their name.
  • Be genuinely interested in the person you are talking to.  People usually quickly pick up if someone has an agenda to push on them.  

Bringing It All Together

Using the FORM method (family, occupation, recreation, messages or money) you can start a conversation.  Keep in mind a couple of tips like being friendly and open, listen twice as much as you talk, learn people's names, and be genuinely interested in the person you are talking to.

Your Turn Now

 Do you use the FORM method or are you going to use it?  Are you open and friendly?  Do you listen twice as much as you talk?  Do you learn people's names?  Are you genuinely interested in what people are saying to you and can they tell?

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