1. Comment on a topic common to both of you at the moment.
2. Comment on a topic of general interest.
3. Ask a question that people can answer as they please.
4. Ask open questions that can’t be answered with a single word.
5. If you do ask a question that can be answered in a single word, instead of just supplying your own information in response, ask a follow-up question.
6. Ask getting-to-know-you questions.
7. React to what a person says in the spirit in which that that comment was offered.
8. Be slightly inappropriate.
9. Watch out for the Oppositional Conversational Style.
10. Follow someone’s conversational lead.
Rubin elaborates on each point, with examples, here: "Do You Struggle to Make Conversation? A Menu of Options for Small Talk".
- ON A RELATED NOTE, legendary Paris Review editor George Plimpton shares his secrets of combating the fear of public speaking: "How to Overcome Stage Fright".
- ADDITIONAL READING: "I wonder if the lack of a reading habit also affects one's verbal skills".