"Wow, it's cold out!" Yes, we know. We were outside too. But mention of the weather is almost unavoidable in small talk. "Medium talk" aims to get rid of those mostly meaningless conversations. There's no official definition, but the goal of medium talk is to walk away with something you'll actually remember about that person.
The art of conversation is complicated, especially at a time when a series of back and forth one-line texts can count as chatting, says Gail Saltz, M.D., a psychiatry professor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Both Saltz and Michele Kerulis, EdD, a clinical lecturer and counseling professor at Northwestern University, encourage people who struggle with social anxiety to have medium talk conversations. "Creating a sense of intimacy has to do with two things: sharing things that feel close to you and an exploration of value systems," Saltz says. When you upgrade to medium talk, you find out what's actually important to someone, rather than just a list of facts about their life.
Getting to medium talk can be as simple as putting a twist on a commonly asked question, as we saw on a recent "Ask Reddit" thread. (Instead of asking 'What's something you like?' opt for 'What's something you like that most people don't?')
"Young people ask 'What was your major?' but sometimes 'What do you wish your major had been?' can be more interesting conversation," says Christopher Willard, Psy.D., a practicing therapist. Similarly, 'What would you change about your job?' can be more interesting and revealing than 'What's your job?'
We've included some example questions below, but it's important to approach it with a bit of spontaneity too. Medium talk is about whatever conversation topic matters most to you, especially in a dating setting, Saltz says. "The best conversation topics are things that come from you, because they really matter to you," she says. "And that doesn't always have to be something concrete."
Your Medium Talk Starter Pack
- What's something you could teach me about?
- Would you encourage your own kids (or younger siblings/relatives) to go into your industry?
- I need a good vacation. Have you been anywhere awesome lately?
- What's something you want to try someday?
- What was your first job?
- What was your favorite moment last year?
(h/t The Science of Us)