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How to Master “Medium” Talk (aka Your Ticket to Avoiding Awkward Conversations)

posted: 02/24/16
by: Mara Betsch
Group of adult friends drinking at a house party
iStock

We've all been there -- stuck at a party or event talking to a new acquaintance about the weather while hoping to connect on anything (literally anything) but our unseasonably warm winter. No one likes small talk, but it's practically essential while trying to find exactly how we connect with a stranger.

So how do keep the conversation light but also engaging? The answer is what experts call "medium talk," or that conversational grey area that lies somewhere between safe, mundane topics like what you do for a living and the topics you'd only talk about with a best friend (or your psychiatrist). Science shows that these slightly deeper conversations are actually good for us, too. According to a 2010 study analyzing conversations, the happiest participants had twice as many complex conversations and one third as much small talk as the less joyful participants.

But what exactly is "medium talk"? It's not perfectly defined, but recently, some Reddit users had a heated debate about the types of questions that fit the bill. Whether you're an introvert or simply at a loss for words, these silly, but also revealing questions may get you out of an awkward discussion. Here are a few of our favorites:

-If Batman died, would the Joker be happy?
-What do you think about (insert subject here)? Ekoth goes on to say that as long as you care about the topic, it will lead to a good convo.
-What's something you like that most people don't?
-What do you care about?
-I need a good vacation. Been anywhere interesting?
-What's your guilty pleasure?

Or, better yet, user dainty_flower had a good idea:

I happen to think the best way to skip the small talk and jump into medium talk is to ask someone to do something with you; or rather create little "quests" during your interactions with strangers. For example, at a party or networking function, ask a stranger or a group of strangers if they are interested in helping you hunt down food or booze. You've immediately included them, and now have a basis for getting to know them better and visa versa. Ask people if they want to play cards, or if they want to do whatever it is you're doing at the event. Doing things together is more fun and inspires more opportunities for intimacy than standing around talking about nothing important.

We think these topics, though quirky, may the perfect way to get through the next PTA meeting.