Starting a conversation with a total stranger with can be a little intimidating even for the smartest communicator. While a hello or hi could be a great way to start, you could be overwhelmed afterward if you don’t know what to say. To keep conversation flowing – having a strategy in place can be a great support.

With the FORD technique, you can effectively avoid those awkward silences that characterise conversations with strangers.

FORD is an acronym for

  • Family
  • Occupation
  • Recreation
  • Dreams

Think of one or more questions for each category, store them in your memory bank, and use them whenever you find yourself struggling to keep a conversation flowing. You could even come up with a few follow-up sentences that can further the conversation and prove you’re actively listening. This technique can be applied in different settings, including official dinners, blind dates, picnics, etc.

Family

In this category, you can start with a basic question like “How is your family?” or “How are your children?” To keep the conversation flowing, you can gently move to deeper questions such as “How did you meet your spouse?” and “How long have you been with your partner” if you’re sure the person is married. If the person you’re conversing with has children, you can come up with questions like “How old are your children?” “What schools do they attend?” and more.

Occupation

This category is great for starting up a work-related conversation. You can ask such questions as: “What type of work are you into?” “Where do you work?” If the person is someone you are familiar with, consider asking questions about retirement plans or their thoughts on entrepreneurship.

Recreation

This category is targeted at beginning conversations around relaxation or enjoyment. Examples of questions you might ask in this category are: “What do you like to do during your leisure time?” “Do you drink?” “Are you a fan of parties?” If you’re familiar with the person’s recreational interests, you may ask questions about certain aspects of the interests.

Dreams

This part covers questions about dreams. Feel free to bring up questions like, “What have you always wanted to do?” “What are your greatest fears?” “What is your greatest accomplishment so far” or “Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?”


Conclusion

Don’t feel bad if the person you’re talking to doesn’t immediately pick up on whatever questions you ask. It may take several attempts before you find something that triggers the person’s fancy. Make sure you listen attentively each time the person speaks. Attempting to interrupt an answer may frustrate the speaker, and end the conversation.

So, instead of listening to respond, instead, listen to understand and show true interest. Keep the conversation flowing and, remember FORD!

Related reading

Use the FORD Technique to Make Small Talk Easier
How to carry a conversation using the F.O.R.D. method
Telling your story authentically