While it’s true that most conversations begin with a question, some small talk has become so rote that it doesn’t inspire any kind of exchange beyond, “Hey, what’s up?” and “Oh, not much.” Avoiding the lull that comes after can be tough, especially if you’re hosting a gathering where you want people to talk. Like, for instance, a Friendsgiving party.
There are few things more dreaded than awkward, prolonged silence, particularly at the beginning of a meal. On first dates, at family functions, during social events with peers — we’ve all been there.
When the holidays arrive, small talk shifts to day-specific questions that have been asked for years and have lost a lot of their effectiveness. And there’s one such fallback question that could do with a serious upgrade: “What are you thankful for?”
The trouble with that classic question
For those of us who celebrate Thanksgiving — whether we were made to cosplay pilgrims in elementary school on the day before break, or asked by grandparents to set the centerpiece for the dinner table, or told to put the book down and join the rest of the family — this question may invoke a certain sense of ennui.
It’s not a bad question. Identifying people, opportunities and things that make us grateful is something we should probably do more than once a year, to be frank.
But it’s a question that, after a certain point in our lives, feels kind of stale — namely, if we’re celebrating Thanksgiving with a friend group. It’s easy to have a stock answer that you whip out year after year, which dulls the sentiment of the question significantly.
Better conversation-starters you can ask
However, there is hope! We’ve compiled a list of questions that are better than the classic, “What are you thankful for?” Here are a few to get you started:
What is your most treasured memory with someone here?
Who here do you want to make more memories with?
For everyone here, which of their qualities are you most grateful for?
What three things do you associate with each person here?
What do you value most in a friendship?
How have your friendships changed your life?
What do you believe is the key to maintaining good, healthy friendships?
What have you learned from people here, and how are you grateful for those lessons?
If you could only name one great thing about today, what would it be?
What experience are you most thankful for from the last year?
What are you most looking forward to about the end of this calendar year?
How would you describe your perfect holiday season?
How do you intend to make an impact on the world in the next year?
How are you inspired by your friends?
Why do you choose to celebrate Friendsgiving?
Why they work so well
These questions elicit nostalgia, sweet sentiments, humor and even some raw emotion — all components necessary for a rip-roaring and successful Friendsgiving.
Ultimately, we’re not saying you shouldn’t ask your friends what they’re thankful for; we’re just saying you should have some other ideas in your back pocket in case that question is a dud. Less generic questions (like the ones above!) will encourage more heartfelt answers from around the table.