Sports is always my go-to conversation starter. Even if I don’t know if I’m talking to a sports fan. I know that uncertainty can make some fans uncomfortable, but sports is truly one of the most efficient ways to spark small talk because the answer doesn’t matter nearly as much as the clarity it provides.
If I lead with “Did you see the game last night?” I know I’m going to get one of two answers, and quite honestly I don’t care which one it is. If the answer is “Yes” I know I can follow up with another sports question or a question about the game. If the answer is “No” I can ask something like, “What did you have going on last night?” And now I’m into a conversation without playing 20 questions or asking a handful of questions while trying to find something meaningful. Using sports as a starting point made it easier to make a connection and have a productive exchange.
Here’s something else to keep in mind: Asking “Did you see the game last night?” doesn’t mean that I had to see the game (or even know what happened.) It also doesn’t mean the person I’m talking to needs to have watched the game. It’s possible she’s a sports fan who didn’t see last night’s game but has plans to attend in person next week, which opens additional conversation avenues.
We’re not looking for right or wrong answers in small talk or in sports talk, we’re looking for easy ways to connect and make the most of small interactions during the day.