After Small Talk

At “After Small Talk,” we discussed what we would like more of in our conversations, what may be holding us back, things that we would like to work on or experiment with, and the importance of reflection and self-awareness.

In the spirit of practicing self-awareness and being experimental, here are some journaling exercises based on the ideas from the group!

Part 1 is a practical worksheet you could adapt and use before you go to an event.

Part 2 is a collection of questions to deepen understanding and figure out what else to try.

Here’s 2 related how-to docs on ‘having more interesting conversations’ and ‘facilitating group discussions.’



Part 1: Questions for before you go to an event or gathering


Use these questions to find conversation starters and questions/topics to bring up in a moment of silence or transition!


Come up with your own questions to help you bring what interests you to the front of your mind.


  1. What have you read or watched lately that really interested you? Why? What ideas, concepts, events, or experiences are on your mind?


  1. What’s something that’s made you laugh, or something that’s made you really smile?


  1. What have you been noticing about yourself or other people recently?


  1. What’s something you’ve been debating or uncertain about?


  1. How are you feeling these days?


Come up with 10+ ways to answer the common ‘small talk’ questions!

Use this exercise to find potential answers that invite your partner to move toward things you might both be interested in.


“What do you do?”

  • What’s exciting for you recently?
  • WHY do you do what you do? What was your journey to this current role/project?
  • What do you want people to remember about you?
  • What do you enjoy (or want to do) outside of work?
  • What could people join you in doing?
  • What information could be useful for others?
  • Are you looking for specific help, support, advice, opinions, perspectives, connections?
  • What ideas would you like to test out? What are neutral questions you can ask to gauge their interest in the problem or solution?

“Where are you from?”

  • What are some interesting facts about where you were born, raised, or lived for a while?
  • What location-related topics interest you? (journey through life, small-city versus big-city psychology, sustaining friendships formed in childhood home, nomadic lifestyle, etc)
  • Do you have a strong tie to a school, group, institution, etc?
  • How is your family?


Last question:

  • What do you want to remember (or remind yourself of) while you are at the event?




Part 2: Questions for self-reflection – for more useful, interesting, intimate conversations


Small Talk

  • What do you consider “small talk”? What topics or ways of talking?
  • When have you found small talk really enjoyable? What made it so?
  • What has small talk been useful for?
  • When have you felt connected to someone you’re meeting to the first time?


What conversations do you want more of?

  • What hopes, desires, expectations, assumptions, etc do you have when starting a conversation with someone new? Consider some of the people you’ve met lately.
  • What kinds of conversations, topics, angles, styles, people, etc do you want more of?
  • What do you want to know about your friends, strangers, people who have a specific interest?
  • What makes you interested in the things that you are interested in?


Looking for what’s interesting

  • How are you doing with ‘offering people bridges’ and ‘crossing people’s bridges’ (giving people opportunities to connect and go deeper, and asking questions or following up on areas where they indicate interest)?
  • What if you were a book editor, helping the person you’re talking to write an engaging biography or article about that topic? What would you look for? What might you ask?
  • Consider popular culture and find the angles that make it interesting to you – for example, could you love sports for the statistics, Game of Thrones for discussions on the taboo around sex or power, pop music for mental relaxation, etc?



  • When has someone disagreed with you? What happened?
  • When have you disagreed with someone? What happened?
  • How does it feel when you are misunderstood? Interrupted? When someone cites their facts or research?
  • What kinds of questions might you ask when you have a different perspective from someone else?


Listening & being understood

  • When do you feel like you can predict what someone is going to say, in the middle of their sentence? (With whom, on what topics, in what moods, etc?)
  • What ‘speed’ of conversation do you enjoy? What happens when it is a different speed?
  • When have you found it difficult to listen? What makes it so?
  • How do you feel when there is silence during a conversation?
  • Would you like to slow down in conversation – to take more pauses, be more patient, be more deliberate, etc? If so, when would you like to do that? How will you start doing it?


Self-discovery & human experience

  • What have you been learning about yourself?
  • What have you been experimenting with?
  • What are you afraid of or nervous about at the moment, if anything?
  • What has felt embarrassing or shameful recently, if anything?
  • Are there experiences/thoughts/feelings that you have that you think noone (or very few people) have? What is that like?


Being vulnerable

  • What kinds of traditional avoided, vulnerable, taboo, etc discussions would you like to have with other people?
  • Who would you like to open up to, know more about, and be connected with?
  • When have you hesitated to share something personal or vulnerable with someone?
  • When have you been vulnerable or authentic with someone? What supported that?
  • How might you invite that kind of connection more – what can you personally do?


Angela OgnevAfter Small Talk
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