Here Are the Rules for Being a Good Conversationalist at Even the Most Awkward Dinner Party

Just drink a lot and talk about Netflix. 

Jennifer Lawrence sat down with Oprah for The Hollywood Reporter, and amongst other topics, dished on who she’d most like to have at her dream dinner party. Ready for it? Kardashian party boy Scott Disick and The Real Housewives of New York City recent divorceé, Luann de Lesseps. It definitely wouldn’t be a boring night.

For the rest of us invited to dinner parties, where there will be friends and strangers alike, the conversation can get awkward at times — when you’re not shoveling food in your mouth, or taking gulps of wine to ease the pain, you can get caught in a political conversation that will force you to excuse yourself to the bathroom where you can bang your head against the wall then hide for a while before anyone comes looking. Donald Trump, religion, sex harassment — so many topics these days — are likely to give you acid reflux.

Here’s how to not throw your plate of food against the wall but still be interesting at your next dinner party.

Stick to fun topics

If someone brings up Trump, which someone inevitably will, ask, “Did you know his favorite snack has 2,400 calories in it?” That should at least make everyone laugh. Then they will ask what it is. Then you can say how you miss that handsome devil of a former president, Barack Obama and how fit he is. On second thought, don’t do that, someone will accuse you of something related to Trump. Just stick to Trump’s disgusting eating habits.

What are you watching?

Who doesn’t eventually talk about what they’re binge watching on TV? Harmless, but fun. What is Stranger Things about, anyway? Maybe someone can explain the plot to you. Just know they're lying, because no one knows what that show is about. Vanderpump Rules, anyone? 

Who's the last person you blocked on Facebook?

Always a good question. Again, you may get into politics, but at least you’ll get a good story out of it.


Great, cool, wonderful. Gotcha. Little Sally loves ballet class, now move it along. No one cares. And no one wants to see pictures, for the love of God. They will agree to look, but they don’t want to. Childless couples, do not start showing pictures of your animals. People will think you’re certifiable.

What do you do? How are things going at work?

That’s always a safe topic, but if someone has the most boring job on the planet, you’ll have to find something else interesting about them. (See Facebook question above.)

For couples: How did you two meet?

Please don’t say online. I hate when people say online.

Does death make you sad?

Just kidding, come on.

Do you listen to Howard Stern?

And we’re off to the races. No need to discuss anything else for the rest of the night. We’re best friends, soulmates, Bababooey. Here’s my number.

To avoid sticky topics or awkward silences, some hosts even fill a bowl with slips of paper with conversation starters on them, but that seems a little forced. 

Etiquette expert and Protocol School of Texas owner Diane Gottsman says a great dinner party conversationalist is someone who captures the attention of their table mates in a fun and engaging manner.

“Last thing they want to do is upset a table mate, or insult the host,” she says. “Although it would be very easy to discuss the latest news, which involves all kinds of volatile topics, it is the guest's responsibility to be dazzling and interesting. It means doing your homework and finding some news that is upbeat and timely.”

Diane says that also means asking opened-ended questions and listening more than you speak.

“Allow guests to talk about themselves and what their plans are for the holidays. Where they live and how far they have traveled is another good topic. Discussing customs and traditions of fellow guests is also fun. It takes some ‘work’ to look as if you are a smooth conversationalist… Bottom line, stay away from sex, politics, religion, and gossip. Your goal as a good guest is to be asked back next year.”


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