Keep Conversations Flowing With the FORD Method

Whether it's at the salon or on a call to tech support, we've all been faced with the awkwardness of small talk. Even worse, many of us have run out of things to say. Well, there's good news: The FORD method may be a way to never run out of conversation topics again.

How 'Bout This Weather?

It's easy to hate small talk, but for most people, there's no way around it — even if you decide not to exchange pleasantries with baristas and grocery clerks (and, we should remind you, you'll be happier if you talk to them), there are still the moments at networking events and before job interviews when a conversation can make or break your career prospects. But coming up with a good conversation topic can be a challenge, which is where the FORD method comes in handy.

The method is all about asking questions, which is a research-backed way to make people like you better. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that when participants were instructed to ask more questions, their conversation partners found them more likable. That same study also looked at a speed-dating scenario and found that people who asked more follow-up questions were more likely to get a second date. It's a fact: People like talking about themselves. Ask them to do what they like, and they'll probably like you, too.

The Method

Without further ado, here's the FORD method. Those letters stand for four topics that can be used as conversation starters for just about anyone:

  • F: Family ("Do you have any siblings?" "Do you have family in the area?")
  • O: Occupation ("What do you do for a living?" "Do you work downtown?")
  • R: Recreation ("What do you like to do for fun?" "What do you do when you're not at work?")
  • D: Dreams ("Have you ever thought about doing [recreation] professionally?" "What's the number-one thing on your bucket list?")

If you really want to cut through the awkwardness, it's important not only to ask questions but to really listen to the person's answers. Next, comment on them, and ask follow-up questions — was there something you didn't understand? Did a detail make you want to learn more? At this point, you can share details about yourself, but make sure those details are relevant to what your conversation partner has shared about themselves.

Before you know it, you'll be deep in conversation with a new friend!

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For more small-talk tips, check out "Small Talk: How to Talk to People, Improve Your Charisma, Social Skills, Conversation Starters & Lessen Social Anxiety" by Aston Sanderson. The audiobook is free with a trial of Audible. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Ashley Hamer February 8, 2018

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