Entertaining

21 Dinner Party Conversation Starters for Awkward Silences

March 17, 2016

Maybe the conversation came to a halt after it got a little too heated (thank you, primaries), or you accepted an invitation only to realize that you don't have anything in common with your neighbors aside from an address. When your tablemate dropped his fork, you said, "Darn it!" just to break the silence.

What not to say: "First I sewed one pom pom onto the table runner, then I sewed a second on, then a third..." Photo by James Ransom

For those moments when the awkward silence is, well awkward, it can be useful to have a fallback (because "How 'bout them Yankees?" will only get you so far). Here are 25 things to say when you don't have anything to say at all:

1. "What's your cat's moon sign?"

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2. "Who's the last person you blocked on Facebook?"

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Top Comment:
“I usually ask what their favorite thing to eat so far was. It usually brings the conversation towards likes/dislikes about food in general, dietary restrictions (which I flesh out further because I'm always fascinated by what people will/won't eat and all the various reasons)... I try to only ask questions that I might actually find the answers interesting so I don't have to feign interest. I won't ask people about their jobs. I tend to avoid talking about sports because I scare people with how passionate I am about baseball and football (and I live in a city with 2+ teams per sport, so it can get very divisive very quickly). ”
— feistyfoodie
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3. "Tell me about your mother."

4. "What do you think of when I say the word Cerulean?"

Photo by Harry Kong

5. "Are you ready for this jelly?"

6. "This one time, in band camp..."

7. "What was your favorite joke from The Book of Mormon?"

8. "What do you see when I splatter the gravy from my potatoes on my plate, like this?"

9. "Which one's your favorite child? No, really."

10. "Who do you think should be next season's Bachelor?"

11. "If you could have dinner with any person, living or temporarily resurrected zombie, who would it be?"

Photo by James Ransom

12. "Can you lick your elbow?"

13. "Is Beyoncé queen?"

14. "Lannisters or Starks?"

15. "What would you say if I told you this dinner isn't actually vegetarian?"

16. "Are bell-bottoms having a moment?"

17. "Are you a cat person or a kitten person?"

18. "Will you still feed me when I'm sixty-four?"

Photo by James Ransom

19. "What's the weirdest thing you've ever bought on Craigslist?"

20. "Seriously though: Do you think Rose could have made room for Jack on the door?"

21. "Is it time for dessert yet?"

How do you break the ice? Help us out in the comments below.

22 Comments

What kind of antisocial monster wrote this? Most of these are awkward and involve a forced sense of humor that most people wouldn't even enjoy.
 
susan H. March 21, 2016
Do you have any pets?<br />
 
feistyfoodie March 21, 2016
I usually ask what their favorite thing to eat so far was. It usually brings the conversation towards likes/dislikes about food in general, dietary restrictions (which I flesh out further because I'm always fascinated by what people will/won't eat and all the various reasons)... I try to only ask questions that I might actually find the answers interesting so I don't have to feign interest. I won't ask people about their jobs. I tend to avoid talking about sports because I scare people with how passionate I am about baseball and football (and I live in a city with 2+ teams per sport, so it can get very divisive very quickly).
 
mary March 20, 2016
When was the first time you used a personal computer? (This is for the immigrants and the natives of technology.)
 
Janice M. March 20, 2016
my favourite question "what inspires you?"
 
Suzanne March 20, 2016
Tell me about the best vacation you've ever had. <br /><br />What was the most meaningful gift you've ever received?<br /><br />Tell me about your best and worst first dates.
 
gwilsonmd1 March 20, 2016
I'd like to have dinner with Suzanne! I think those are all great conversation starters!??
 
Suzanne March 21, 2016
Why, thank you, how very kind. So we will have beef filets with a red wine reduction, twice baked potatoes, roasted asparagus, Hess Cab Sav 2003 and a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. :)
 
Sue March 18, 2016
What about books?<br />
 
Dave D. March 18, 2016
Sounds like a dinner party I wouldn't be caught dead at.
 
Rebecca S. March 17, 2016
Um, Bell-bottoms are TOTALLY having a moment ;).
 
Sauertea March 17, 2016
Gryffindor or Slytherin?
 
Genevieve March 20, 2016
love that one!<br />
 
Sophie H. March 17, 2016
"If you could magically have a super power, what would it be?"....always a good gambit, no matter what age.
 
Sauertea March 17, 2016
Shaken or Stirred?<br />
 
Sauertea March 17, 2016
Never ask about Mothers unless you are charging $350 per hour<br />
 
gwilsonmd1 March 20, 2016
Hahaha!
 
Sarah J. March 17, 2016
I think I need to print this list and keep it in my pocket for day-to-day life.
 
cv March 17, 2016
1. If you know they are parents, ask them about their kids.<br />2. Never ask about spouses or pets.<br />3. Ask them about what they like to do in their free time: hobbies, their next vacation, etc.<br />4. Don't talk about money at the dinner table.
 
cv March 17, 2016
Sports are frequently a good topic. A question I've recently been asking many people is, "Are you ready for baseball?"<br /><br />The arts are also a good topic, like "have you heard anything about that new ____ exhibit that just opened up at the ____?"<br /><br />Since I live in Silicon Valley and the only thing everyone seems to want to talk about is work, I make a concerted effort to not ask about tech or something related to social media.<br /><br />Also, I try to avoid topics that require me to use my cellphone as a prop. As a matter of fact, I normally keep my phone in my pocket, not on the bar or table.
 
tia March 17, 2016
Please, anything but sports! All I can do is nod and smile. It took me two years to figure out that the Giants were a baseball team and I live in the Bay Area (I was all proud of myself for knowing they were a football team and now you go and change it on me?!).<br /><br />My go-to is "So, what do you do for fun?" Good follow-up questions are "how did you get into that?" and "Tell me about the last time you did that." As long as the other person at least pretends to think I'm interested, it'll keep a conversation going for a while.
 
Carole H. March 17, 2016
Whatever topic you choose to discuss, it's a good idea to avoid questions that can easily be answered with a yes or a no. :)<br /><br />