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08th Aug 2019

Five questions that will always get people talking

Kyle Picknell

McVitie’s and Mind are encouraging the nation to get together over a biscuit and a cuppa and get talking. To find out more click here

People will often complain that the art of conversation is dying. You’ll have no doubt heard it yourself – someone from an older generation telling you that young people simply don’t know how to hold one anymore.

This isn’t necessarily true but the way we converse and talk to each other has definitely changed over the years.

It isn’t always easy to have the energy to chat to someone, particularly after a long day at work or a tough week, and conversations can be difficult to initiate.

But it’s better to talk it out over a biscuit and a cuppa than through messages on a phone. Here are five questions to ask that will naturally and effortlessly create an entry point into a conversation.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

This first question will almost always lead to you learning something surprising about whoever you are talking to. Some answers are surprisingly funny – one friend of mine told me they wanted to be a postman simply so they could “wear shorts to work every day” – whilst others are more sincere. You’ll learn about a passion they might not always tell people about, maybe a hidden talent on the bassoon or a knack for gymnastics on the trampoline in the garden, or something remarkably ambitious you can smile about now. I wanted to be an astronaut, and I like to pretend that getting too tall to be one was the only thing that stopped me.

Oh, and if they say ‘footballer’ ask them again. Everyone wanted to be a footballer. There was always something else more interesting beneath it though.

What should there be more of in the world?

The beauty of this question is that it can be answered in one word, but it never actually is. Usually, a list will form as both of you chime in with whatever springs into your mind. There will be obvious answers – dogs, sunshine, hugs, ice cream – but every so often an answer will come a unique answer will come. Macaroons. 40-yard wondergoal volleys. Trustworthy politicians. Frank Ocean albums.

Try it out. See what weird and wonderful combinations of things you can both come up with.

When was the last time you cried from laughing?

This question will invariably lead to the retelling of a moment that someone holds dear to them purely because it made them turn beetroot-red in the face and get all teary-eyed to as they hysterically wheeze-laughed their lungs up.

It will be great for two reasons. Reason one is that the following anecdote has the potential to be completely hilarious to you too, and therefore cause a similar reaction.

Reason two is that you could just not find it funny. At all. Leading the other person to tell you this five-minute long nonsensical tale that they’re expecting a big reaction, laugh-filled reaction to… that just never comes. Which is really, really funny in itself.

Either way, this one is a winner. Give it a go.

Who would play you in a film of your life?

This is a personal favourite question to ask people as it will really tell you how someone views themselves in their own mind. I have a friend who thinks he looks the spitting image of Hugh Grant (and he does, in fairness. He gets asked for selfies all the time). Obviously, he said Hugh. I have another friend who is obsessed with Nicole Kidman. Obviously, she said Nicole. But very occasionally you will get a suggestion completely out of left field that, initially, won’t make any sense at all. Until you think about it some more and, yeah, you can kinda see it.

Jeff Goldblum. Zooey Deschanel. Lakeith Stanfield. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Whoever they pick, it’s going to lead to more questions than answers, and therein lies the beauty.

Bonus points if you get onto talking about specific scenes in this imaginary biopic that will never, ever get made.

What’s your happiest memory? 

This is the big one. Happiest memory. This is probably not the question to open with, but by this point, the conversation will be flowing and you will both be eager to reminisce. Give them a moment to think about it or maybe even share your own to get the ball rolling, but this is definitely a question for you to sit and quietly listen to whatever they have to say for a few minutes.

Whether it’s a memory from childhood or a recent holiday or even just an evening spent in the pub with friends. And sometimes they might not even have a reason for it beyond the obvious – that it was a fun moment in their life – but that can be really heartfelt and touching too.