How to Never Run Out of Things to Say (If You Blank Out)

I often used to run out of things to talk about. Either because I got stuck in small talk that died out or because I tensed up so that my mind went blank.

Sometimes, a conversation is meant to end, and there’s no need to push it. But if you often run out of things to say, this guide is for you.

1. Practice saying what’s on your mind

I used to worry that what I said would sound dumb or too obvious. When I analyzed socially savvy people, I learned that they say mundane, obvious things all the time.[2]

For example:

  • “It’s really cold today, isn’t it?”
  • “I love the sandwiches they sell here.”
  • “Huh, the traffic isn’t usually so light at this time of day.”

When you start a conversation with someone new, you may feel like small talk is awkward and meaningless. The truth is that small talk helps us “warm-up” to each other and signals that we’re friendly, easy-going, and open to interaction. People will judge you for what you say as little as you walk around and judge others for what they say. Instead of trying to say smart things, say whatever’s on your mind.

2. Ask something personal

“I often run out of things to say with friends. I get stuck in small talk, and the conversation dies out”.

– Cas

Ask people slightly personal questions to make boring topics interesting.

For example:

If you’re talking about work:

  • “What do you like most about your job?”
  • “Why did you choose [their field of work]?”
  • “If you could do any kind of work, what would you do?”

If you’re talking about the cost of renting in their city:

  • “Where would you love to live if you could pick anywhere on earth?”
  • “Have you lived in many other places?”
  • “Did you grow up around here?”
  • “Would you ever move out of the city to save on rent, or do you think the cost is worth it?”

This way, you move from small talk to personal mode. In the personal mode, we learn about:

  • Plans
  • Likes
  • Passions
  • Dreams
  • Hopes
  • Fears

When you transition the conversation like this, you’re engaging the other person more, and it’s easier to make conversation.[3] At this point, you get to know each other rather than just making small talk.

See my guide on how to make interesting conversation.

3. Focus on the conversation

Sometimes, all we can think about is if we come off as weird, if we’re blushing or that our heart is about to jump out of our chest. The key is to calm your mind by focusing intensively on what the other person is saying:

In a study conducted at Macquarie University on attentional focus in social anxiety, they found that when the participants focused their attention on what the other person was saying, instead of on their internal reactions like heart rate, blushing, concern over how they were being perceived, they were less nervous and had fewer physical reactions as a result.[1]

When you focus on what your partner is saying you won’t have time to feed your internal anxiety because your mind is caught up in the conversation. When you worry less about yourself, it’s easier to come up with things to say.

4. Stop trying so hard

I decided to stop trying so hard. I accepted that conversation didn’t have to go great and that people didn’t have to like me. Ironically, that helped me relax and be more pleasant and likable to be around.

Rather than being on edge trying to come up with things to say, allow for silences. Be okay with taking a few seconds extra to formulate an answer. Rather than trying to make people like you, make sure that they like being AROUND you.

You can do that by being a great listener. When you talk, you say things that you think are fun or interesting for the other person to hear, not things that are supposed to make you look a certain way. (Humblebragging, talking about cool stuff you’ve done, etc.)

People want to be liked and heard and are interested in people who show them that kind of genuine attention. As Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did; they will remember how you made them feel.”

Read more here in our guide on how to be more likable.

5. Watch their feet to gauge their interest

Sometimes a conversation dies out because the other person tries to end it, and sometimes they want to talk but just don’t know what to say. How do you know the difference?

Their body language will tell you if they are inclined to spend time talking or if they have other plans. Look at what way their feet are pointing. Is it toward you or away from you? If it’s toward you, they are inviting further conversation. If it’s away from you, they might want to get away from the conversation. If they also spend a lot of time looking in the direction of their feet, it’s an even stronger signal that they want to leave.

If they point away from you, you can wrap up the conversation with one or two sentences.

For example:

  • “It’s later than I thought, so I’d better get going! It was great to see you, hopefully we can catch up soon.”
  • “I’ve really enjoyed chatting to you, but I’ve got a busy afternoon ahead of me. See you later.”
  • “It was really nice talking to you. I think it’s time for me to get back to work.”

If they point their feet at you and look at you, you can feel confident that they’ll want to keep talking.

6. Use things around you to inspire new topics

Take inspiration from your environment and make a comment or ask a question about it to not run out of things to say.

For example:

  • “I love these plants. Are you good at growing stuff?”
  • “I like this new office. Is your commute longer or shorter now?”
  • “That’s an interesting painting, isn’t it? I like abstract art. Do you?”
  • “It’s so warm today! Do you like the hot weather?”
  • “I love the music in this place. I can’t remember this band’s name, though. Do you know it?”

Some avoid simple statements like these because they think that they are too mundane. Don’t! They work great as inspiration for new, interesting topics.

For more tips on how to keep a conversation going, I suggest following our Instagram channel:

7. Refer back to something you talked about before

When the topic you’re talking about dries up, feel free to go back to any topic you talked about before.

Let’s say that someone mentions that they are in the import business, and then the conversation moves on. A few minutes later, when it fizzles out, you can go back to asking something about the import business. For example, you could say, “You mentioned that you’re doing imports. What do you import more specifically?”

Conversations don’t have to be a straight line. When a topic dies out, feel free to move to a new one or a previous one.

8. Make simple, positive statements

I think of these as conversation buffers. They keep the conversation going, but they’re not too deep.

For example:

  • “What a cool house.”
  • “It’s sunny today.”
  • “Those flowers are pretty.”
  • “That was a helpful meeting.”
  • “What a cute dog.”

This is a fairly organic way to move on to new topics. It helps you see if you have a connection to something else like being interested in architecture or what weather you prefer and, based on that, where you’d rather live.

You don’t need to fabricate statements. Your mind already makes statements about things – that’s how the mind works. Feel free to let those thoughts out.

9. Ask open-ended questions

Open-ended questions give the other person a chance to think about their answer and say something more detailed than yes or no.

For example:

  • Rather than asking “Was the vacation good?” (Close-ended), you can ask, “How was your vacation?” (Open-ended)
  • Rather than asking “Did your team win last night’s game?” (Close-ended), you can ask, “How was last night’s game?” (Open-ended)
  • Rather than asking, “Did you enjoy the party?” (Close-ended) you can ask, “Who was at the party?” or “What kind of party was it?” (Open-ended)

Asking questions like these often gives more elaborate answers, and because of that, you’ll get to know each other faster and on a deeper level.

10. Look for mutual interests

When we find out that we have something in common with someone, it’s an automatic spark to the friendship (and a hint of relief). Make it a habit to mention things you’re interested in.

If someone asks what you were up to over the weekend, you could say, “I met up with my book club yesterday,” or “I went to the gym and then took my son to his hockey game,” or “I watched this harrowing documentary about the Vietnam war.”

Mentioning things you’re interested in will help you “scout” for mutual interests. If you come across someone who’s also interested in books, hockey, or history, they’ll probably want to hear more about it.

11. Know that people want to learn about you too

It’s a myth that people only want to talk about themselves. They also want to get a picture of the person they’re talking to – you. Don’t be afraid to share things about yourself as long as you’re also showing interest in the other person.

Balance with the other person how much you share. If someone gives you an in-depth explanation of their job, give them an in-depth explanation of your job. If they just briefly mention what they do, briefly mention what you do.

This helps us bond because we are revealing things to each other at the same pace. You’re keeping it interesting for your partner because you’re opening up, too.

12. Ask follow-up questions

Let’s say you’ve just learned that the person you talk to is originally from Connecticut. To move the conversation along, you could ask “what,” “why,” “when,” and “how” questions to draw that experience out more.

For example:

  • “What was it like to grow up in Connecticut?”
  • “Why did you move here?”
  • “How did you feel about leaving home?”
  • “When did you first think about leaving Connecticut?”
  • “What do you like most about your new home?”
  • “How long did it take you to find a new house here?”

Let your natural curiosity guide you. Share related information about yourself in between your questions so you don’t come off as an interrogator. If they are giving you full, thoughtful answers, keep going.

13. See a person as a map with blanks to be filled

Everyone comes from somewhere and has interesting stories related to their interests, dreams, aspirations, and past. Think of getting to know someone as a gentle quest to understand more about where they come from, what they like, and their future dreams.

You’re asking questions with the purpose of filling in the blanks of where they’re from, what they do, and what their future plans are.

For example:

To learn more about their life growing up, you could ask:

  • “Where did you grow up?”
  • “Do you have any siblings?”
  • “Did your family live close by when you were a kid or did they live far away?”
  • “Did you have any pets as a child?”

To learn more about their education or school, you could ask:

  • “Where did you go to school?”
  • “What did you study?”
  • “What was your favorite class?”

To learn more about their passions and hobbies, you could ask:

  • “What do you love to do in your free time?”
  • “Do you have any particular hobbies?”
  • “What do you usually do on the weekends?”

To learn more about their hopes and dreams, you could ask:

  • “What’s your biggest ambition in life?”
  • “What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the chance yet?”

Over time, filling in these blanks gives you an unlimited number of topics to talk about, and while you ask questions (and share about yourself in between), you get to know each other.

14. Be comfortable with silence

Silence happens. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a natural part of a conversation, and it’s okay to just let it happen. There’s no need to fill it as quickly as possible. In fact, silence has a purpose. It gives you time to take a breath and think and to make the conversation more meaningful. Letting there be silence and not being anxious about it helps you bond with the other person. If you learn to be comfortable with the silence, it can be refreshing not to have to talk all the time.

Filling every break in a conversation with words can come off as anxious. Remember that a conversation is between two people, who are both participating equally. If you need a few seconds to take a break, that’s fine. They might need it too.

15. Practice being more relaxed when talking

“Why can’t I think of things to say with someone I like? I specifically want to learn how to never run out of things to say with a girl I know. Around her, I get extra nervous and run out of things to talk about.”

– Patrick

It’s normal to be nervous when you’re meeting someone for the first time, especially if it’s a girl or a boy you like.

Practice staying a bit longer than usual in a conversation, even if you’re feeling nervous and would rather just leave. Our instinct is to get away from what makes us nervous. But you want to stay longer in those situations! You’re slowly teaching your brain that nothing bad happens if you do, and you’re slowly becoming better at handling these situations.

Here’s our guide on how to not get nervous around people.

16. Know that silence isn’t your responsibility

Silence is not a failure. A sign of a great friendship is that both can be quiet together and not feel uncomfortable about it. It might feel like you’re the one responsible for coming up with things to say, but the other person is likely thinking that it’s THEIR responsibility. They aren’t waiting for you to talk. They’re also trying to come up with things to say!

If you show that you’re calm in the silence and OK with not saying anything, your friend will be, too.

Read our guide on how to be comfortable with silence.

17. Dive deeper into topics when texting

When you’re texting with someone, have the following two rules in mind. These rules will make your conversations more interesting, and it’ll be easier to come up with things to say:

Rule 1: Lead by example

If you want an interesting answer from someone, share something interesting first.

For example:

  • “Today I almost missed the bus because I saw two squirrels fighting. How was your morning?”
  • “My boss just announced that this year’s office party will have a circus theme. I hope I don’t have to dress up as a clown. How’s your day going?”
  • “I got home this afternoon to find that my dog had knocked over my yucca plant and rolled around in the soil. He looked very pleased with himself. How’re you?”

You don’t have to think very hard, because you can use things that happened during your day for inspiration. It can also inspire a more thoughtful reply than “How was your morning/afternoon/day?”

Rule 2: Always go deeper

Always go deeper into a subject if you want the conversation to be more interesting. It’s also easier to come up with things to talk about if you go deeper into a subject.

To continue the first example in the step above, you can go deeper by sharing how you feel in the mornings (stressed, happy, dreadful) and ask how they feel about their mornings. From now on, you can talk about personal feelings and thoughts about life.

For example:

You: Today I almost missed the bus because I saw two squirrels fighting. How was your morning?

Them: Haha, squirrels are crazy. My morning was OK. I’m kind of tired though. I don’t know why. I went to bed early. It’s a mystery.

You: I know how that feels. I’m the sleepiest person I know in the mornings. Is it just me, or is 8 hours of sleep not enough? It’s like as I get older, I need more and more sleep.

Them: It’s not just you. When I was younger I used to stay up all night, party, then go into work…sometimes I miss my college days because… [carries on talking about college and partying]

The conversation gets more interesting, and you get to know each other on a deeper level.

18. Remember that conversations are meant to end

Not everyone you meet will be someone you connect with on multiple levels. Sometimes it’s just a bit of small talk, and that’s all you have time for. Time, circumstances, how you feel that day, how they feel that day, lots of things decide how much emotional space we have for conversation. No conversation is meant to go on forever.

A conversation is not a failure just because it’s short. One thing is certain. The more conversations you’ll have, the better of a conversationalist you’ll become.

A real-world example of how to never run out of things to say

Here’s what you will learn in the video:

00:15 – The solution to never running out of things to say
00:36 – Linear- vs Nonlinear conversations
01:00 – Won’t you come off as random switching the subject?
01:24 – Real life example of Conversational Threading
02:30 – How to best practice Conversational Threading
02:46 – The best thing about learning this

Show references +

David Morin is the founder of SocialSelf. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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  1. We meet regularly in a party of 4 or 5. When there are 5 ppl (2 women, 3 guys), one woman insists on dominating the conversation by talking only to me, ignoring the rest of the conversation. It’s so strange to me. I’ve tried signaling that I was interested in what they were saying but she blatantly ignores this almost insisting that I talk directly to her. This separates everyone at the table leaving the guys to settle in on work talk (they often work together but in different fields: electrician vs. computer tech for instance). I feel so rude when this is being done. What can I say to her to show her how to be all inclusive? And what’s even more interesting is that because of health issues (she cannot sit for more than an hour) she will get up and walk away. This leaves an awkwardness at the table for everyone.

  2. I once spoke with a girl on the phone, I asked how she was doing and how is everyone. She replies quickly and I don’t know what to say next. I ask her about school she replies ‘School is fine’, and the phone goes silent for about 3 three seconds because I axiomatically do not know what to say. So I say hey where is your bro? can I speak with him? ‘Okay’ she replies, but when I speak with her brother I know exactly what to say, even if I don’t I can come up with something but not with the girl. Dear David I look forward to hearing from you.

  3. I actually had an OFC moment today but quickly ran out of conversation avoiding the “me too” effect. Like I was afraid to ask too much about the other person since i was barely contributing anything about myself and they weren’t asking, and I didn’t know how to change the topic or pick a new topic once the “mini-interrogation” was over. Writing this, i realize maybe I was too much in my head, but it was a good first step talking to a stranger. Next time, I will better apply PAC(positive, attentive, coordinated) and include conversation threading and see how it goes.

  4. Thanks so much for your articles and research. I struggle with social anxiety and making new friends. I’ve been looking for a resource like this for a long time. I’m just getting started but I can already tell it’s a gem. ????

  5. I just wanted to say thanks so much for your articles. I’ve had social anxiety problems most of my life, I’ve never really learned to develop close relationships, so I’m hoping as I continue to learn more from you, I’ll be able to develop long term relationships, and get some good sleep, because I know my social anxiety keeps me awake at times.

    I have started using some of the techniques on people who are already close to me, and it’s been working. I was even able to carry on a conversation for an hour, with only momentary pauses and little awkward silence. I was even able to meet a special someone

  6. Thank you so much! I have placement next week in a hospital where I have to meet new people so I will try this there and hopefully it works but before that I’ll try it with people I know. I can relate to every email I get and I’m glad other people feel that way too!

  7. Thank you so much for this video. I started using it when texting my long-distance friend and our conversations went from extremely bland and quick to fun conversations that lasted a long time. And it helped me learn a lot more about them and their interests. This is really helpful, thank you!

  8. I struggle a lot with holding conversations and it makes me feel like uninteresting person around people. It’s really affecting me in both personal and work relationship. Listen to you gives me hope that I can improve and be able to build good relationship

  9. I’ve lived w social anxiety my whole life. I work with people (because I was to overcome my anxiety) and it’s through listening and applying advice like yours that my people skills are improving. I’m being considered for management positions which before I was far too nervous, shy, socially awkward for. Great observation and best advice by far. Thanks a million. Keep doing what you doing.

  10. This is awesome. What you’re doing is amazing and the work you’re putting in to helping out all these people going through the same struggles you went through is inspiring.

    I just have one question and that’s how do come up with interesting topics to talk about? My problem is that most everything i come up with is bland, and it always seems like I can’t think of anything else to speak about

    Thanks again brother! God bless

  11. This is a very helpful tip and I really really appreciate what you’re doing. Thank you so much!
    Im gonna practice this in real life.
    God bless you!

  12. I think one of the way to improve social conversation is to stand infront of the mirror( As I prefer this). And try to speak that someone is really listening my talk and could make reply. I really believe to do so to make such improvement in our life . Accordingly u have said ” before saying anything we don’t need to think about it ” so in what way we could easily apply in our daily talk .
    Here I am waiting for ur recommendation…..

  13. Great opservation and advice. I’ve realized that I’m using this when meeting new people, and it comes naturaly for me but till now I wasn’t aware of that!

  14. i think i never run out of things to say. but people to whom I’m talking to, they don’t seem to having a fun time talking with me. it’s a thing I realise suddenly during the conversation and I start to sweat. and thats when all the things i could talk to them gets blank.

    • From whom u r talking get bored from ur conversation maybe because of u itself don’t add any spices in ur talk and the other subject (person) don’t want for long ..

  15. Yes watched it and listened very carefully and at time 1:50 to 2:00 i have Come trough a lot of time but this really helped me a lot thanks man

  16. I’ve used a similar method 4 some time now and I won’t deny da fact that it indeed has helped to a certain extent you know but I can’t help but still feel as if tho I’m coming of as awkward cos here’s da situation, you’ll eventually jst find yourself on a continuous loop of asking questions to which again answers will dry up and what then. But here’s a different thought like what what I’ve noticed from others engaging in fun topics was that they usually tell personal stories and dats whr my problem comes in, I’m jst nt a gud story teller and dats honestly jst very upsetting really. Again this is very gud advice and thank u but i think what will personally help me is da advice dats maybe still to come.

  17. Very good! This makes me feel a lot better about my social life! It’s given me a lot more hope that I can improve my communication with other people. The one thing I’m not so certain on: you said not to think about what you say before you say it, and while I think that is vital to keeping a conversation going, listening attentively to what the other person is saying instead of being so focused on what your are going to say in response, some of the funniest things I’ve said have been things I took a little bit of time to think of before saying them aloud. Is it possible to be funny and interesting without thinking? I’ve been this way my whole life, and for some reason, I’m only now starting to feel like I’ve lost my sense of humor because I am like this. A little advice would be much appreciated!!! Please respond!

    • Think and say it nonetheless! When you come up with jokes and humor think about it and continue to say it and don’t change it! This should convince yourself to continue to say jokes even if you think before (never tried it). I remember learning that you laugh when you hear someone say something unexpected and possibly true/ironic. When you think of something, highly likely, you’ll say that this is weird and you shouldn’t laugh even though it is funny. Most jokes come from our thoughts than our heads. Hope this helps! This is what I think; however, if you think otherwise or need clarification, please let me know!


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