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Find common ground

​If you’re at a family reunion, ask people where they fit in the family tree, or the neighborhood they live in, or their favorite hobbies.​​

“Most people like to talk about themselves,” says novelist Marie Bostwick, 60, a former event planner. She adds that you can discover common ground by listening, which can then trigger another round of questions. Some examples of openings:​

​1. What kind of music do you like to listen to?​

2. Where was the last place you went on vacation?​

3. What motivates you?​​

Share memories

Every longtime family or friendship has favorite stories that go way back. If you meet someone new, you can have funny stories about people you know in common. Launch a “Remember when…” and see how many people intervene; they can help fill in details you didn’t know or might have forgotten. For older adults, a good place to start reminiscing might be to say, “Tell me about a time…”​

4. What do you remember about where you grew up?​

5. Do you have a favorite memory of the two of us?​

6. How were you at my age?​

7. What was one of the best days of your life?​​

Pick up where you left off

Because of COVID-19, you might be seeing friends for the first time in quite a while. Try to remember what was going on in their life the last time you saw them and follow up. The same goes for extended family: At the last family reunion or family reunion, did a niece tell you about a new relationship or did a cousin mention a challenge he was confronted ? If so, ask how things went. Does the news of a change of job or a professional promotion pass through the family or friendly vineyard? Send your congratulations and express your interest in learning more about what is happening in the lives of others.​

“A really important part of being at a meeting is catching up with people and finding out what they’re up to,” says Edith Wagner, 84, editor-in-chief of Meetings review.​

​8. Has anything important happened in your life since the last time we saw each other?

9. What do you like to do for fun?​

10. What is a delicious meal you had recently?​

11. Are you facing any challenges these days?​​​