Imagine this: You’re in the elevator with your upstairs neighbor, and you have ten slow floors to climb until you can get out. What do you talk about? The weather? It can be mind-numbing. If you’d like, here’s a trick for avoiding small talk…

Joy of Three Chairs had this tip:

What you do is: ask for advice. It can be something small like, “What should I get my brother-in-law for his birthday?” or something bigger (“Should I take this job in Oregon?”). The point isn’t so much to get sage advice (although that can, unexpectedly, happen), but to jolt some mindfulness into the conversation. Wait until there’s a tiny gap of silence, and then perk up and just go for it. You end up learning something about each other, and the conversation almost always takes a really great turn.

Clever, right?

When the conversational well is running dry, I’ve found these two conversation starters to be helpful:

“Are you planning any fun trips?” (Even if they’re not, they’ll end up talking about past trips, dream vacations, where they grew up, etc.)

“Have you seen any good movies lately?”

I’ve used them a million times at parties, during dinner with my in-laws, after running into a neighbor. And I’ve even asked them on first dates. They work every time.

Also: Surveys say we spend 10 months of our lives talking about the weather. (!!)

What are your foolproof conversation starters? Please share below! The world needs to know!

P.S. How to make dinner conversation, and conversations with a four-year-old.