How to Start a Conversation

Speechless? These talking points—courtesy of pros ranging from a humorist to a PR executive—guarantee that you’ll have something to fill every awkward silence. Holiday open houses never sounded so good.

By Julia Edelstein
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Bring up the Past

I like to talk about people’s upbringings. I’ll ask, “Where did you grow up?” There’s a reason that it’s a go-to question: A person’s child¬hood is always a great jumping-off point for more. Not only can he talk about his hometown but your chat could also naturally migrate to the high school drama he starred in or his time spent studying abroad in college. But be mindful of the specific details you inquire about. Stay away from asking about people’s parents or about a marriage. Those are subjects that might invite someone to say, “Oh, well, my dad just died” or “Oh, we’re filing for divorce.” Then your conversation will stop in its tracks.

Andy Cohen is the host of the late-night talk show Watch What Happens Live, on Bravo, and the author of Most Talkative: Stories From the Front Lines of Pop Culture ($25, amazon.com). He lives in New York City.

Talk about Downton Abbey

Television is a great conversation topic because you get to see what people are about. I often start chats by asking someone if she watches TV. If she doesn’t, I ask why—which usually leads to a lively discussion. If she does, ask her what types of shows she prefers. People will talk all night about the crazy reality shows they are obsessed with. And even if she only watches the news, you can always go with “Brian Williams or Diane Sawyer?”

Alison Brod is the president and CEO of Alison Brod Public Relations, a New York City–based agency specializing in lifestyle, fashion, beauty, and celebrity PR and marketing.

Read More About:Life Strategies

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