December 7, 2022

A Slamdunk Conversation Starter at Group Dinners

Picture this: It’s Thanksgiving, and you sit down at the table with people from different generations — a few grandparents, parents, teens, little kids. People ooh and ahh over the spread and clink their glasses. You take a bite. The conversation pauses. Now what?

Big group meals can sometimes end up feeling like lowest-common-denominator small talk — “Anika, what’s in these Brussels sprouts?” “Nana, how was the traffic?” — so, how do you kick things up a notch? This might sound dorky or third-grade-teacher-y, but we’ve done it at dozens of dinners and I promise it’s really fun:

Ask a question to the group, and go around the table to share everyone’s answers. [Ed. note: People have the option to pass for any reason!] The question can always be what people are grateful for, but here are more ideas if you want to switch things up:

— What’s the worst/weirdest job you’ve ever had?
— If you could live anywhere for a year, where would you live and why?
— What’s one of your embarrassing teenage memories?
— Which natural talent do you wish you had? (Mine would be singing!)
— What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
— What’s your irrational fear?
— What’s the best live performance you’ve ever seen?
— Everyone’s top three movies
— Share something good about the person sitting to your left (How sweet is that? Jenny saw it as a soccer-team-building exercise)

Slamdunk Conversation Starters at Group Dinners

And remember these dinner conversation napkins by artist Tucker Nichols? His suggested topics made me laugh, including “what I know about cheese,” “mosquitos do/do not like to bite me,” “food you used to like,” and “for the last time how daylight saving works.”

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Slamdunk Conversation Starter at Group Dinners

He also designed napkins of what NOT to talk about, such as “moderate flight delay,” “what is everyone keeping in the cloud,” “world’s longest fingernails,” and “someone here is wearing cologne.”

What questions would you add? (And, of course, there’s always Would You Rather.)

P.S. The nerdiest tip, how to say goodbye at a party, and 12 questions to ask your significant other.

(Photo by Jeremy Pawlowski/Stocksy.)