Thriving in the New Normal//

10 Conversation Starters That Have Nothing to Do With Politics

It’s important to stay informed — and vocal — about important political news, but you may find yourself wanting the occasional break. Here are some ways to redirect the conversation when needed.

GaudiLab/ Shutterstock
GaudiLab/ Shutterstock

While it’s vital to stay engaged in current events, especially now, sometimes it’s a welcome respite to have conversations that have nothing to do with politics or world events. After all, talks about politics with friends and colleagues can get stressful or even heated.

We asked our Thrive community to share a question they’ve asked to start a conversation that doesn’t involve politics — and how it’s been helping them have meaningful discussions and deepen their connections with others. Which of these questions will you start asking?

“What has become clear to you since we last spoke?”

“The stress of the election is real, and in many communities, it is a deeply divisive topic. To avoid talking about the huge elephant in the room known as America, I try opening conversations by asking, ‘What has become clear to you since we last spoke?’ This open-ended question keeps the conversation real, focused, and thoughtful. It often leads people to stop and think rather than just blather. And most importantly, it’s spacious enough that people can take it where they want, without necessarily going straight to the elephant!”

—Dr. Camille Preston, founder of AIM Leadership, Cambridge, MA

“What are you grateful for right now?”

“I’ve been focusing on gratitude instead of getting into political conversations. I’ll start it off by saying, ‘Let’s do a round of gratitude! I’ll start.’ It sounds rudimentary, but the conversation is able to go in any direction. I’ve heard everything from appreciation of coffee to more heartwarming stories from people’s lives. Asking others what they’re grateful for has kept the conversation fun and positive, and it has certainly deepened my connections.”

 —Geri Johnson, senior vice president, Innovation, Colorado Springs, CO

“What’s been your best purchase for $100 or less?” 

“This has been my go-to conversation starter, and the answers always vary depending on the group of people I’m interacting with. For foodies, it could lead to a conversation about a great restaurant meal they’ve had or kitchen appliance they’ve recently purchased. For friends who love interiors, it could lead to a conversation about their best home purchase. For business people, we could be talking about the best online course we’ve taken, or marketing software, or business books. It works so well because it gets people thinking and talking.”

—Georgia Branch, entrepreneur, London, UK

“What are you reading right now?”

“I love asking people what book they’re reading currently. Not only does the topic give us something to talk about, but I also feel like I learn a little more about the person I’m talking to. Plus, I usually come out of the interaction with a great recommendation!”

—Lauren P, people partner, Mesa, AZ

“What makes you happy?”

“I believe everyone has the capacity to be happy right now. Reminding people of this idea and asking them what they can do to change their state of mind always sparks a great conversation. It can be calling a loved one, turning to a great playlist, or something totally unexpected.”

—Jacqui Flavell, life coach and founder of 2nd cup of tea, UK

“What are you imagining yourself celebrating on New Year’s Eve?”

 “I know that the next few weeks will be challenging for many of us, just as 2020 has been as a whole. I usually ask friends and clients, ‘What are you imagining yourself celebrating or saying cheers to on New Year’s Eve this year?’ I like to encourage the people around me to begin imagining how they plan to close the year strongly and on a positive note. After all, it’s not over yet.”

—Jordan B. Jensen, business and leadership Coach, Kirkland, WA

“What have you learned from a setback you experienced?”

“I love asking people about the biggest lesson they learned from a setback or failure, and how it changed the way they live. Oftentimes, we catastrophize things in the moment and then realize in hindsight that not getting what we wanted may have been the best thing that ever happened to us.  If the door doesn’t open, it’s not our door.  But it can seem like a massive disappointment when opening that door is everything. I have gained so much from others who share these lessons with me.”

—Siobhan Kukolic, author, inspirational speaker, life coach, Toronto, Canada

“What are you passionate about right now?”

“To avoid heated political topics, I love asking people to tell me what they’re passionate about. This question breaks the personal-professional conversation barrier. No topic is off limits, allowing a person to share their heart. The answer may be their work, family, hobby, community, or anything else in their lives. The answers always amaze me as I learn what is truly important to someone, rather than surface-level information.”

 —Chris Simon, executive coach, Bentonville, AR

“What’s something you’ve been proud of lately?”

“Everyone feels good when they’re asked about what they are proud of, but lots of us shy away from tooting our own horn. I like to ask, ‘What is something you are proud of or that has gone well for you recently?’ When I ask this question, people beam when they excitedly tell me about something that lights them up. Learning about what each other cares about fosters an immediate sense of caring connection.”

—Teresa Thomas, networking speaker and author, Minneapolis, MN

“What have you learned about yourself during 2020?”

“This has been my go-to conversation starter recently. I have found that this question offers an opportunity for reflection for the person responding, along with an opportunity to engage in active listening for the person asking. What’s always a delight is that most people have a beautiful, soulful answer, acknowledging they have learned something about themselves during this unprecedented year which has allowed them the time and space to see and understand more deeply.”

—Heather Reinhardt, writer, Los Angeles, CA  

Do you have a certain question or conversation starter that you’ve been asking others lately? Share it with us in the comments!

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