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How to Use the FORD Method in Conversations

by Arlin Cuncic

FORD stands for "Family," "Occupation," "Recreation" and "Dreams." Use the FORD method in conversations by asking questions about these topics when talking to others. This technique can be used in settings ranging from blind dates to business dinners, to help others feel comfortable talking about themselves.

F Is for Family

Always have a few family-related questions ready to ask when you find yourself in conversation with others. You don't need to be overly creative; simple ideas such as "How is your family?" or "How are your children?" are great starters with people you have met before. Ask questions to learn more such as, "How did you meet your spouse?" or "How long have you been together?" if you know the person is married. If the other person has children, ask related questions such as, "How old are they?" "What schools do they attend" or "What sports do they play?" If you can, learn ahead of time who you will be meeting so that you know a bit of information already, advises professor of psychology Susan Krauss Whitbourne in the Psychology Today article, "10 Tips to Talk About Anything with Anyone."

O Is for Occupation

Ask about a person's occupation to start a work-related conversation. Questions might include "What line of work are you in?" "How do you like your job?" or "That's interesting, how did you end up doing that sort of work?" If you are talking to someone you know well, consider asking about retirement plans or aspects of the company where the person is employed. With each new interaction, try to learn something new, advises Whitbourne. If you show others that you are interested, they will be more likely to open up and talk more.

R Is for Recreation

Recreation refers to anything that others do for relaxation or enjoyment. Examples of questions you might ask include "What do you like to do for fun?" "What do you do on the weekends?" or "Do you go on vacation often?" If you know a bit about a person's hobbies, you can ask questions about those topics. For example, "Are you still into mountain bike riding?" or "How was your trip to France?" Expand on the conversation by linking the response you receive to other related topics, the Shyness Research Institute article, "How to Make Successful Small Talk: The Key to Connecting, Not Just Conversing," advises. If the other person mentions a vacation to Hawaii, say something like, "I was there a few years ago. Did you happen to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?" Conversation becomes fun when you can talk about mutual interests.

D Is for Dreams

The last part of the FORD technique involves asking questions about others' dreams. Don't be afraid to get creative with questions like "What have you always wanted to do?" "If you could travel anywhere, what place would you visit?" or "Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?" Don't feel bad if the other person does not immediately pick up on the topics that you suggest. It may take a few attempts before you find something that gets that person interested in talking. Be sure to listen and reflect back what you hear. As Whitbourne notes, you might even help that person develop insight to make changes for the future.

About the Author

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.

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