Conversation Starters

7 Dinner-Table Conversation Starters
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It's a common dinner-table conversation ploy. Somebody asks, "What did you do today?" Unfortunately, that won't carry the talk past the first sips of water when your loved one -- and maybe you, too -- spent the whole day doing the same things as the day before, and the day before that.

Instead, try these fresh approaches to dinner table conversation:

1. Ask, "What's the funniest thing you saw today?"

TV counts. So do the wacky squirrels out the window and the strange people at the local grocery store.

2. Try "What was the worst thing that happened today?"

If it was a pretty lousy day for all of you, try this variation. Sometimes by sharing a bummer of a story yourself, you can get others at the table to either commiserate with their own tales of woe or work to cheer you up -- which lifts everyone's moods.

3. Ask, "What are you looking forward to tomorrow?"

Remaining forward-focused can help boost the mood for everyone. Talk about upcoming appointments and errands, a visitor arriving a few weeks from now, or someone you plan to call.

4. Hold a tell-a-joke day.

Plan ahead so that everyone comes to the table with a joke -- of whatever type of humor suits your family. Kids can Google one. Your loved one may have a trove of oldies-but-goodies that you've never heard. Or buy a joke book.

5. Ask, "What do you think?"

Come prepared to talk about a current headline or trend. Invite your loved one to share what he or she thinks about the matter.

6. Share pop culture.

Let kids talk about a funny video they're watching or song they like. As long as they're sharing it with everyone, this is one time when it's okay to bring a phone or iPad to the table.

7. Hold a group planning session.

Consider an upcoming event together (a birthday, a visitor's arrival, or an approaching holiday or celebration). Elicit everyone's participation early, from youngest to oldest. What needs to be done? Who will do it? It won't happen if you try to do it all alone, but if everyone collaborates, everyone has a good time -- and you can pass many meals with plenty to say.


almost 2 years ago, said...

Oh, my..I should type a little slower..save me from those pesky spelling errors! I meant of course BIG BAND SINGER!! :-((


almost 2 years ago, said...

If you have a person who enjoys music and either played it in their past, or liked to sing, or was a musical professional, this can be a great way to enjoy the table-talk. My mother was a big bad singer. And even though her short term memory is affected by the progression of AD, she can still remember very vividly song lyrics and, melodies. She can also pick them out on the piano. We were talking one day during lunch - and she said, "I'm gonna change my way of living.." Which is a line from a song. Next thing she knew, she was singing, "and if that ain't enough, I'm gonna change the way I strut my stuff.. there'll be some changes made!!" What's my point? That human memory often holds amazing nooks and crannies - and music for some people, may be one way to really get a mealtime conversation off to a lively start!!


over 2 years ago, said...

I doubt my 9-year old daughter would want to answer any of these questions. She would likely roll her eyes and think that mom's being crazy by asking her all these things. I'm not sure I could answer most of these (except the current events question) on most given days. Good food for thought.


over 2 years ago, said...

My husband does not like to talk at dinner. He is concerned about eating his food. I enjoy dinner conversation and he tells me not to talk while he is eating. So, trying all of these suggestions does not work. I try thinking up new topics, as you have suggested, but to no avail. Mealtime, is not a pleasant time. Any more suggestions?


over 3 years ago, said...

Thank you for this reminder that conversations are important for relationships but common greetings can be conversation stoppers for our loved ones whose lives are challenged. Nevertheless, there can still be plenty of things to talk about.


about 4 years ago, said...

More conversation starters....these don't fit elderly people in their late 80s.


over 4 years ago, said...

As a single lady looking to meet my Mr. Right for me, these are excellent tips for conversation starts for anyone in any situation.


over 4 years ago, said...

Several days after I read this, I visited a close friend who was hospitalized for hip replacement surgery. The surgery went fine and my friend was recovering, but was bored and she really wanted to talk, to just connect. The first suggestion came to mind, and two days later she is still telling visitors about the funny thing that I asked her about the other day. Thank you for the useful tip.


over 4 years ago, said...

I would like more ideas for the one w/beginning dementia who has withdrawn into himself. He needs to know how to carry on a conversation and what are some good ways to begin or enter into the conversation .


over 4 years ago, said...

Good thinking for an article. It's awkward to just ask a question. I suggest answering the question yourself first, e.g. "You know what ? Today, I had to laugh when...." You may not even need to ask a question...your "intro", so to speak, may start others to contribute.


over 4 years ago, said...

This is fine for someone in the early stages but really won't work with someone in the late stages of moderate.


over 4 years ago, said...

my mother doesn't have much of conversation now, and when she does its finding fault with whats going on around us, great ideas thanks..


over 4 years ago, said...

you are right about #5. proceed with caution here. there is an old saying, that goes, don't talk about politics or religion with people who you don't know or, people that you do know that have a different view. nothing can change a friendship faster than a disagreement on politics or religion. just don't go there or change the subject away from the issue. i'll tell you an example, with facebook becoming a way of life for many of us, your words are on display for the world to see. it's like the dinner conversation gone global. i have been friends for years with a couple that share some of the same interests. i don't get out as much right now so i live by the internet. they, my friends, are also active on facebook but, they mainly use the space to expound their political views, some of which are just plain bad taste and rude. i am astounded at how their views are so different than mine and how mean spirited the remarks are. it's not just that they are of a different political party, it is the hate and venom they spew out about the other party. it has affected my attitude toward them even though i haven't seen them for about 9 months.i will not ever see them with the same eyes again.i may not go out of my way to see them either. this new world of social media exposes one to the world, the conversations one writes are not edited or private. it's a great new way to keep in touch with the world you must know that what you put to print is there forever and you can't take it back. the expression of not talking politics and religion is good advise.


over 4 years ago, said...

Only problem with #5, is if one of your guest's only news source is FOX news, and defines a "good dinner conversation" as one that has people yelling at each other. My father-in-law takes great pride in pushing people's buttons (his wife, son and daughter). Most dinners at home ended with his wife( she has since passed away) storming off to her room or leaving the house to go for a drive.


over 4 years ago, said...

i get the best advise and tips from this entire site. and, the information here goes beyond the scope of care giving. it is advise for living a good life and i look forward to reading this newsletter every day. the dinner conversations ideas are great.


over 4 years ago, said...

I didn't think of those and even those with dementia may be able to answer something. It may shed a light on what they are thinking. Their answers may be off beat if they answer. I'm going to try some on Mom.


over 4 years ago, said...

I've been looking for some good topics to use to open up conversations at the dinner table.


over 4 years ago, said...

We used a variation of this when our children were growing up...in the car or at dinner, we'd ask for "highs" and "lows" of the day, which gave us perspective on ourselves and each other. Choices were made about more questions, but it really helped us appreciate each other in different ways.


over 4 years ago, said...

With as many things on my plate as I have. the simple suggestions, such as this, are greatly appreciated


over 4 years ago, said...

tried and true things that have worked ... not ideas of what could.


over 4 years ago, said...

It is hard to know what to say when you know someone has been sitting inside all day with the same rituals. I am sure they are ready to talk to somone about anything, I find that they like to talk about the past most of all because they have many good memories and have faced challenges.


over 4 years ago, said...

I can't imagine starting any dinner party conversations this way but to be fair will try it the next time.