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How to Lighten Up Your Conversations (Even When the World is Falling Apart)

Yes, the band kept playing even after that whole Titanic iceberg incident. But 2020 was, for many of us, our own personal iceberg. In fact, far too many people are still looking for an open seat on that lifeboat. While there has been a lot of personal and professional upheaval for the past year, the New York Times recently published an article that urges us to keep playing and have lighter conversations, even though you may feel inside like the ship is sinking. It’s a drum we should all play as we continue to march on.

“Lighten up, Matey”

Titanic imagery aside, the New York Times reported on the idea of “conversational fatigue,” as quarantined households simply run out of things to say to each other. It’s hard to have conversations when we’re feeling sad or overwhelmed. Research shows, however, that humor is a great way to cope with negative situations. In fact, there are several ways we can make our conversations a little less ho hum — even if you haven’t left the house in weeks.

Try one of the following ideas:

  • Write down a few topic ideas or questions before the conversation starts to help lower anxiety.
  • Use an icebreaker or segue to kick things off by sharing a factoid about yourself. Note: Try to avoid something about COVID-19 or the weather.
  • Practice active listening and ask as many questions as you answer.
  • Talk about what you’re reading or watching these days.

Having a positive conversation could simply start by having a discussion of something other than the pandemic.

Possibly inane but non-COVID conversation starters

Fun conversations start without a single mention of COVID-19. This is a worthwhile goal that could keep the conversational ball rolling while giving you something fun to talk about. Some conversation starter suggestions include:

  • What was the best thing that happened to you in the last month?
  • What is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever done for a significant other?
  • What is the first thing you’d do if you won the lottery?
  • What is your favorite thing to do that other people think is totally weird?
  • If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  • What is the best gift you’ve ever given?
  • Who was your first crush?
  • What was your nickname in high school?

Any of these conversational gambits should work nicely. The goal, no matter the question, is for you to be able to connect on a human level with the person you’re talking to.

The important thing is to be open and human — even vulnerable. It doesn’t take a high IQ or a comedian’s funny bone; it just takes a willingness to engage. A good conversation starts with a question or a story, and continues with active listening and thoughtful engagement. Don’t try to overcomplicate it. Just go with the flow and have some fun.