Editor’s Note: This is an update to our previously popular blog post with tips on great conversation starters that you can use on a first date, second date, or to help introduce yourself to anyone new.
It’s not always easy to get to know new people. Even if you are on the extroverted end of the personality spectrum, a first date can still be intimidating, especially if your companion is on the quieter side.
Even before your first date, it’s important to know how to meet people online. One of the most common online dating mistakes is to open a conversation with a bad conversation starter.
So here’s part one of a list of tried and true go-tos that will help get the conversation flowing and help you both to figure out if there’s a future of compatibility between the two of you.
It is quite possibly one of my very worst nightmares to meet a new person and then promptly run out of things to talk about. I know for some people, making conversation comes easily and quite naturally. But for the rest of us, it can be a challenge.
Add in the pressure of hoping to make a romantic connection with this someone new, and it can be even harder. So, here’s a set of good conversation starters that will both loosen things up and help you and the person you are interested in get to know one another.
Try a Unique Angle on the Basics
Most of the background info questions are no-brainers to start things off with, but you can only chat about the type of information you’d put down on a census report for so long. Your goal is to get to talking and engaging in an interesting conversation, not to take a poll.
Spice up the initial intro information exchange with a more unusual question like, “What’s your favorite animal?” Or you could start even more specific with something like, “Cats or dogs?”—which works, unless the person is like me and hates both. But you might find that he or she is actually a huge fan of spider monkeys, which can spin into quite a fun conversation.
The trick is to ask open-ended questions that don’t have a defined set of answers. When you get a response, this is a great way to get a conversation started.
Another good take on the basics would be to ask something like, “What do you love (or hate) most about your job?”
Except in the case of unemployment or some weird independently wealthy situation, a person’s job is a huge aspect of his or her life, something they deal with every day. And typically, if you love or you hate your job, there are a lot of specifics you can talk about when it comes to reasons why—all of which makes this an especially good question for learning more about this person in an easy, casual way.
Let’s Talk Social Media
For better or worse, social media is a large component in our everyday lives for most of us. So there will probably be plenty to talk about if you ask, “What’s your favorite (or least favorite) social media platform?” It might be good to find out upfront if this person is someone who will be posting pictures of any future dates on Instagram every few minutes, if this is an issue for you one way or another.
Are they obsessed with social media in a level you might come to find annoying? Or, alternatively, you might find they have very similar social media usage and likes (pun intended) to your own.
The other funny thing that might happen with a question like this that is you realize you’ve found one of those strange creatures who has a huge dislike of all social media. I say strange because I think my husband might legitimately be the only person I know under 70 without a Facebook. But heck, even my grandma has one!
So if you do discover this person happens to be one of the few who isn’t a fan of social media, it really can give you insight into their personality, especially if you ask why.
Try Something Super Random
Sometimes, the most fun conversations come from the topics that are least expected. Avoid the boring questions and ask something that she or he doesn’t expect. I would suggest something along the lines of, “What is the strangest word or phrase you know in a foreign language?”
If the person is fluent in another language, you’ll probably end up with some real gems. Otherwise, I think most of us probably know at least a couple doozies in one language or another, whether from childhood friends or perhaps immigrant grandparents.
(In case you’re wondering, in my arsenal the prize would have to go to the Swiss word “käsfusse.” Roughly translated, it means “cheese feet.”)
Asking a question about movies might be an obvious conversation starter, but make it a bit different. Rather than asking “what’s your favorite Christmas movie?”, put a spin on this and ask “if you were to be a character in any Christmas movie, what would it be and why?”
Catholicism Can Always Lend Plenty of Material
If it’s a Catholic you’re getting to know, your faith can be a great conversation opener. If you’ve already covered the obvious material like where you both currently attend Mass, it might be time for some fun, more personal questions about the faith.
If you want to make this harder and get more insight into the less obvious aspects of the person’s faith life, you can add, “What’s your favorite feast day?”—excluding Easter and Christmas because, come on, those two of are pretty obvious. Once they’re out of the equation, you might find that they’re a huge All Saints Day fan, or that maybe they look forward all year to that special genuflection in the Mass during the creed on the feast of the Annunciation.
Or, if a favorite feast day is too hard for them to narrow down or think of on the spot, you could amend to, “What’s your favorite of all the liturgical seasons?” You might learn that they love a good 40-day Easter celebration, or that they actually really enjoy the spiritual renewal of a solid Lent.
If the air feels ripe for the possibility of a little Catholic debate with this person, you might venture into a topic like, “What do you think about girls being altar servers?” Plenty of Catholics see absolutely no problem with it and can argue strongly about the need for girls to take part in the liturgy just as much as boys. Others will hold that keeping it only to boys helps emphasize and encourage the importance of vocations to the priesthood. A topic like this can definitely get the conversation going, as long as you’re open to some friendly disagreement.
So try a variety of topics at the start and see where things go. Even if it seems that the two of you aren’t exactly hitting it off, you never know where an interesting question on a personal, random, or Catholicism-related topic might lead.
Conversation Starters: You Probably Can’t Go Wrong with Background Info
How many siblings do you have? Even after you’ve exhausted the obvious entry point background info topics like hometowns and college majors, you can definitely try the topic of family life growing up.
This can be a great question to give you insight into the other person’s psyche. The youngest of six probably has a bit of a different personality than an only child. This question also works because it can lead to interesting follow-up questions and info, like, “Did you like growing up in a big/small family?” Or, “What was it like growing up with that many brothers?”
Of course, as Catholics, family sizes can get quite large. So if you came from a smaller family and meet someone who is from a larger family (or vice versa), you’ll have plenty to discuss.
If you are starting to get comfortable with someone, try asking “What was the most embarrassing moment you’ve experienced?” Of course, you have to be ready answer this question as well.
You can also try asking about specifics of their life thus far, such as, “What has been the best vacation you’ve ever taken?” Here you could get more childhood background or insight into what this person has enjoyed as an adult. Or you might find out that this person has never had a great vacation but does have a dream vacation they’d like to take someday.
Give Music a Try
One of my particular favorite things to learn about other people’s musical preference is, “Country music: love it or hate it?” Because in my experience, it tends to be one or the other. I haven’t ran into many people who are totally indifferent to the genre. I’m probably biased because I love it myself, but it seems to me that most people who hate it haven’t listened to anything from the last decade! So it’s probably safe to assume this could be a topic to get conversation going.
But if you yourself happen to be one of those rare people who has no feelings either way on country music, substitute your own favorite or least favorite genre, or try a broader question like, “What’s your favorite radio station/Pandora mix?”
If the person still listens to standard radio, this could also spin into how much they hate their favorite station’s morning talk show hosts, or maybe how much they love calling in to their favorite radio station if they’re one of those people who do that.
Let’s Talk About Catholicism
Assuming that it’s a fellow Catholic you’re getting to know, you can always steer the conversation in the direction of your shared faith by asking about their Catholic background with a question like, “What was your hometown parish?”
Beyond learning who their home parish’s patron saint was, you can learn more in follow up questions about things like whether they have any particular devotion to that saint, if they liked or disliked that parish and why, and if their family members are still practicing Catholics.
On the same note, you could also ask, “What’s your favorite weekend Mass time?” And you might discover you’ve got a devoted Saturday-night-er on your hands, or maybe that the person loves an early Sunday Mass followed by a family brunch when possible —or not. If the two of you have a potential for a Catholic future together, it might come in handy to get a feel for how the person likes to spend their Sabbath.
Another fun Catholic question to try is, “What would be your preferred method of martyrdom?” If you can get over any aversion to the morbidness of this question, it can be kind of fun. What way would be quickest? Who would be doing the killing? Lots of interesting spin-offs to this topic.
And, if you want to impress them with your knowledge and sense of humor, you can work in St. Thomas More’s joke to his beheader—he moved his beard out of the way so it wouldn’t get chopped, commenting that his beard certainly hadn’t committed treason!
Try a Controversial Topic if You’re Brave
There are several areas of seeming moral controversy that a lot of good Catholics disagree on somewhat. Though these are typically political areas, it can lead to a good brouhaha.
So if you’re up for a good debate, you can try a question like, “How do you feel about gun control?” I know several Catholics who love firearms as a recreational hobby interest (obviously not for killing people), and several who range (pun intended!) from undecided on what the laws should be to a strong opinion of, “Ban them all!”
Beware that while a question along these lines can definitely start some spirited conversation, it can also be a bit divisive, so definitely read the other person and use with caution.
Some Light and Breezy Starters
When I started college, my experience was probably like a lot of people’s: getting to know new classmates and fellow dorm inhabitants with the same type of standard questions over and over again. But I would venture to say that the reason conversation starters like these are used so often is because they work!
Where are you from originally?
Very standard—almost to the point of cliché—but I’m including it because it’s a very unintimidating and relaxing opener. In most cases, talking about where you grew up is one of the easiest, tongue-loosening topics you can pick. And you may just find that you have some geographical background in common.
How old are you?
I will grant that the success or failure of this topic might depend upon the person’s actual age, but I think it’s a legitimate question to ask if you’re dating someone. You might want to make sure you haven’t completely under- or over-estimated, after all.
And, as long as the person isn’t actually way old and therefore offended, it can spiral out into topics of years since graduation, years in current city or job, and maybe even past or upcoming birthday plans.
What is your most hated food?
Because who can actually pick a favorite food? But I think most people do have some solid things to talk about when it comes to foods they absolutely will not eat (for me it’s pineapple—ew!).
This one is another topic that’s not exactly deep or insightful but is useful because it’s a relaxing, light topic that can help pave the way for deeper conversation.
Besides, if the conversation goes well, you’ll eventually want to have dinner with this person, and you’ll already know what you should avoid.
Try a Pop Culture Topic
Watched anything amazing on Netflix lately?
In the olden days, it might have been “Read any good books lately?” But I’ve found that, even among those of us who do still read avidly in this day and age, two people having very similar taste in books can be kind of rare.
Netflix and other streaming TV I think is a different story. They have a “Trending Now” list specifically because a lot of people are watching the same things. And occasionally, they put out a show that’s so popular it almost seems like everyone has something to say about it (“Stranger Things”, anyone?).
And I would venture to say that, for most people who do have the streaming service, they have at one time or another stayed up past their intended bed-time watching something that was just too good to stop. So this is probably a decent topic to get the conversation flowing.
The Catholic-Specific Angle
Who’s your confirmation saint?
If you’ve been lucky enough to find a fellow Catholic as a potential boyfriend or girlfriend, you might as well hop into some fruitful Catholic discussion topics.
This particular question works on a couple levels. First, confirmed Catholics have what is, in a way, like an extra middle name from our Confirmation saint. Sharing yours with each other can feel kind of the same as it might be to share your middle name with someone—an extra little piece of you that’s not terribly intimate but yet is not something everyone in the world knows.
More importantly, though, they probably picked that saint for a reason, so the natural follow-up question of “And why?” will give you more insight into their personality and faith life.
Want to dig a little deeper into Catholic matters with this person? Try asking something like, “Do you prefer guitars or Latin chant at Mass?” Liturgy can be an especially good question if you like a little friendly Catholic debate, and it definitely gives you an insight into this person’s personality and what their faith life might look like in a concrete way.
If You Dare, Delve into Politics
How do you feel about our current president?
I’d only recommend a question like this if you’re either really hitting it off and want to take a risk that could spin into deep and fruitful discussion, or it’s going so terribly that you have nothing to lose on a risky question.
I have to think that never before in the history of our country have some good Catholics disagreed more on what they think about our nation’s leader. I have Catholic relatives who think he’s the greatest thing since sliced cheese, and I’ve got plenty of Catholic Facebook friends who seem to think he’s about on par with Satan. And of course there are plenty of us in between those extremes.
If you try this topic and it doesn’t turn into a fight, it could probably spark a lot of interesting follow-up discussion as well—where our nation is headed, who will run for president next, will the world be annihilated by nuclear war—fun stuff like that.
So you can always start with the light and casual–there’s a reason people reuse those standard get-to-know you questions. But once the tongues start loosening, maybe try touching on deeper matters, and you might just end up with some fruitful discussion on our faith, society, or the world.