A key part of small talk is knowing the right questions to ask. If you start a conversation with a series of close-ended questions such as "Do you come to this bakery often?" "Is that a pixie hairstyle?" or "Did you like the lobster?" you will end up sounding like an interrogator and likely get a series of one-word answers instead of a flourishing dialogue. On the other hand, stronger questions can ignite an interesting and informative conversation.
Gretchen Rubin, author of "The Happiness Project," suggests asking a somewhat "cheeky" question that pushes the boundaries of the other person just a little. Rubin notes that these types of questions usually spark intrigue rather than offend, despite their personal nature -- the key is getting it right. Questions such as, "What super heroine would you be?" "What do you like most about your life?" or "Why do people like you?" hit the mark, while the question "Why are you single?" misses it completely. Think outside the box, but don't get awkward.
Keep up with current events as a source of ideas for making conversation, suggests motivational speaker Debra Fine. Topics that spark emotion, controversy and divided opinions are good options for creating a heated discussion, while pop culture and celebrity gossip can keep the conversation light and fun. Get even more creative by combining the two -- for example, ask a girl what she thinks about a celebrity's stance on a social issue.
Pay attention to the hints that a girl drops in conversation that show what she would most like to talk about. If she keeps circling back in the discussion to tell you about her kickboxing class, or mentions the ornamental grasses she picked out for her garden, these are ideas that you can expand on. Ask her what she likes most about her time at the gym, or which of the grasses are her favorite. Not only will she be happy to discuss her favorite topics, but she will appreciate that you were listening carefully enough to pick up on them.
If you find yourself stuck, a simple question such as "What has been keeping you busy lately?" or "What's been going on with you?" gives a girl leeway to talk about whatever she likes. Rather than making assumptions about her life, ask a general question that opens the floor for conversation. If she chooses to tell you about losing a job, dropping out of school or having to move out of her apartment, at least you'll know it was her choice to broach a personal topic -- and then you can fan the flames of the conversation with specific questions.