We’ve all had moments where we can’t find the right thing to talk about, whether it’s on a first date or stuck in the elevator with our boss’s boss. Chris Colin and Rob Baedeker’s book “What to Talk About” offers communication tips for nearly any tricky situation. The authors join us to share their secrets for navigating awkward moments and avoiding dead air.

Chris Colin, co-author of "What to Talk About" and frequent contributor to The New York Times
Rob Baedeker, co-author of "What To Talk About," writer, performer, communication consultant and co-founder of the San Francisco comedy group Kasper Hauser

  • Guest


  • ES Trader

    A MLB hitter may be skilled in the art of fouling off pitches to remain at bat but even they look silly chasing unexpected pitches when they attempt to adjust their swing to the pitch, resulting in a weak bloop, grounder or miss It’s often wiser to just take the pitch and look for a pitch that they can really drive.

    Timing is everything; remaining silent is preferable for career and social respect then sounding foolish. It’s the age old axiom, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

  • Ben Rawner

    For years i was waiter and learned how to chat with anyone. when I would see books like this on the bookshelf I would laugh at the obserdity that one needs to learn how to chat. But now that I work in an office, there are so many people who need to learn these skills. Awkward conversations for days.

    • Laura Rose Medina Davis

      Being a waitress was the best training to talk I anyone!!

  • Michael

    I have an instantaneously available”data base” of unique, real-life, and potentially entertaining personal stories, stored in my brain, that I have accumulated over 50 years. As someone who pays attention to detail I find it challenging to tell these stories briefly in a 147-character-fueled world. Any editorial advise?

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    I hate “how was your weekend” when I got into work on Monday! Any question that requires laundry-listing foods eaten or what-you-did-this-weekend feels tedious.
    Speaking of work, any suggestions for smoothing a job interview?

  • Spencer Miller RN

    Just remember the FORM
    Family: Are you married, do you have kids, where is your family from?
    Occupation: What kind of work do you do?
    Recreation: What do you do for fun or over the weekend?
    Message: Would you like to meet for coffee or a date or buy my product?

  • Laura Rose Medina Davis

    I usually have a simple joke or play on the topic at hand or use your idea of complimenting on something I admire.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    That chickwalla-lizard-lives-w/o-water comment is the kidn of thing I do too often and I fear it makes me sound like Cliff Clavin on Cheers, dispensing tidbits no one tunes into..

  • Nick

    Is this book available in audio format?

  • Mimi

    I’m wondering if Chris and Rob could comment on ways for an individual to share more about themselves and their own lives with people they are trying to get to know. I’m a therapist and a natural people-person so I have no difficulty getting others to open up, but in dating and new friend situations I have a hard time thinking of what to share about myself. Any ideas?

  • Yvette Bozzini

    I once had a stranger at a cafe start a conversation with me by asking, “What do you think of Michael Krasny?” The radio wasn’t on in the cafe! Charming…and we had a nice long chat.

  • RA

    The comedy shtick these guys are doing on the air is really making me more unlikely to read this book.

    They talk about context but seem to have no discernment at all and, worse, they seem to have no respect for the subject they purport to be writing about.
    Some of the things they mention do sound good and useful, but half of them are manipulative, shallow AND transparent.


  • RajK

    Great topic! As someone who’s generally anti-social and physically
    uncomfortable in unfamiliar social situations, do you have any tips on
    easing “the pain”? Small talk is one of the most excruciating things
    for me…..

  • Uffish Thought

    Eye contact? How much is enough before it becomes starring?

  • Brian G

    Any tips on getting to know someone without it sounding like an interview?

  • Kathleen Moazed

    I am genuinely interested in people and their stories and I think people can tell so are usually very open to talking to me. Its easy to ask people about themselves – most everyone finds it easy to talk about themselves. I don’t even mind being sat next to the most socially awkward person at a dinner table b/c the host/hostess knows I’ll be able to draw them into conversation

  • Andrew Cattell

    I am traveling to Italy soon (and I don’t speak Italian), what is your advice
    for stimulating interesting conversations with strangers when there is a language

  • Kenn Fong

    Observe. One afternoon I was on a bus with a man in dirty coveralls carrying an old-fashioned lunch pail. I sympathized that he must have worked hard and asked him what he did. Oh, I’m just a plumber. I said, wait, you’re the most important person on this bus. Without you, we’d be up to our knees in human waste! He laughed and then told me he worked with air-conditioning and heating systems in buildings. I then told him so it’s you I need to thank for working in comfortable condition. I told him he had to be a detective to find the problems. His posture changed and his day had improved.

  • Kurt thialfad

    I’ve observed a east coast vs west coast dichotomy in most common opening line. Tell me if you agree.
    east coast: What do you do?
    west coast: Where are you from?

  • vivi wicker

    You all are making me anxious just listening to you. Particularly, Michael Krasny who is being so critical and judgmental that I would never risk saying anything to him for fear that I blunder. Geez. Conversation requires the energy and input of all participants. Sometimes an “how are you?’ is just a conversation opener that invites the other to jump in. Take some responsibility for your end of the bargain and show a little humanity!

    • trite

      But Mr. Krasny is, by his own definition, “the king of conversation”!

  • trite

    What exactly is wrong, politically incorrect or rude about asking someone what he or she does?

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