No I am not talking about the car, I am talking about the perfect technique to make small talk: FORD. Each letter stands for a topic of conversation you can have with a new person.
F: Stands for family. It is recommended to ask people about their family, however, I might be unusual in this regard, but I would be uncomfortable if a brand new stranger asked about my family life. I think family can definitely be brought into small talk but in a general way by referencing your own family. This will encourage others to talk about their family if they so wish. For example I could be engaging someone in conversation, and we both see an Audi, and I could say something like ‘Oh I love Audis, my brother has one and since then I am obsessed’. This allows people to feel comfortable bringing up their own family members, rather than a question of ‘where do your parents live?’ which given the person might be awkward, as perhaps their parents are divorced, perhaps they don’t get on with their parents or perhaps their parents are dead. Therefore, I would put caution on this topic and use family as small talk fodder by introducing the topic of your own family and see how the other person reacts.
2. O: Stands for occupation. This is particularly useful in a work setting. You can talk to anyone about their job when you are at work. What do you do? Any advice for this? What area do you like? How did you get into that area? etc. I would generally stay away from this strand of conversation however when I am out at night as I feel it’s a rather boring start to a conversation in a club/pub as it’s the wrong setting. However in the right setting, being a workplace, it is a perfect way to develop small talk.
3. R: Stands for recreation: This is perhaps my favourite thing to talk to people about. I love to know about peoples’ passions and what lights them up – this all falls under recreation. I like to ask questions like ‘if you wake up anywhere in the world where would it be’, ‘what are your hobbies’; whats an ideal Sunday for you etc. This conversation works very well in clubs and pubs where people are very open to discussion.
4. D stands for dreams: I feel this links in very well to the above topic. Asking people what their dreams are in life. What they want from it. What are their priorities in life? Where do they see themselves in ten years time?
There are four categories of discussion to start a conversation going. So in order to keep it going (a) ask follow-up questions and (b) relate your own experiences. Remember this is a conversation not an interrogation. So for example, perhaps the person mentions that they were on holiday recently in Greece. You could follow-up by saying one of the following:
(a) Greece, wow I was there a few years ago. I stayed on this tiny little island where there was barely any English speakers. It was amazing. Where were you staying? You see here not only do you relate your own experience but you also have a follow-up question to provoke further conversation.
(b) Greece, oh I have been dreaming of going there for years ever since I saw Mama Mia. Where would you recommend is the best place to visit there? This allows the person to follow-up with telling you their own experience and also opens the opportunity to converse about movies.
(c) Greece, that seems such an amazing place. There is a little greek restaurant on x street that I used to love going to. I love mezzo platters. This again allows the person to follow-up talking about their food experience in Greece or about food in general – etc ‘Oh I like Greek food, but I got to say, Italians know good food. I love a good pasta.
So now you see how you can develop a conversation. And if all else fails and these topics do not spark a conversation, there is always the weather. No one can resist commenting on the weather especially in Ireland.
Let me know in the comment section below if you have any suggestions of how to make small talk.