Pet Please #86: When You Discover a Stranger’s Favorite Conversation Topic

imagesLast weekend I was back home in Virginia to meet my niece and attend a family reunion of sorts. I say “of sorts” because the actual occasion was a renewal of vows for three pairs of aunts and uncles who were all married within the same 2-week period 30 years ago. It was a beautiful occasion by my uncle’s lake in the foothills of Culpepper.

After the ceremony, I found myself making small talk with a small group of people, including the minister who presided over the renewal. Somehow Kentucky came up in the conversation, and the minister mentioned offhand that he attended the Kentucky Derby a few years ago. I also attended the derby a few years ago, so I asked if he remembered who won that year.

He not only knew the winning horse, but he knew the horse on which he had bet and the jockeys on both horses. At that point I started to suspect that I had just stumbled upon the minister’s favorite conversation topic, which is a HUGE pet please of mine. Not because it’s a special achievement or anything–moreso, if you find a stranger’s favorite conversation topic, you just made them a very happy person. And as a nice bonus, you get to learn about something new.

It turns out that the minister has been attending horse races for 35 years. He bets on horses, follows the horses from when they are very young to when they start having horse babies, and tracks the jockeys. He keeps an eye on races across the country, and his dream is to buy a share of a horse.

He probably talked to me about horses for a good hour. By the end of it, I had my fill of horse talk, but it was fascinating while it lasted.

Have you ever done this? I think this might be why I prefer asking questions in conversations to talking (although I need some element of balance or I get worn out). You can see someone’s face light up when they get to talk about their favorite topic, and you never know until you stumble upon it.


2 Responses to “Pet Please #86: When You Discover a Stranger’s Favorite Conversation Topic”

  1. Behrooz 'Bezman' Shahriari says:

    I like to sometimes just point-blank ask folk: “What are some of your favourite things?” It’s a lot more revealing and leads to a lot more interesting conversation than ‘what do you do for a living?”

    Sometimes folk get put on the spot by that but I think most folk enjoy thinking about and answering the question.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I like that a lot–it cuts right to the point. I do see how it might be a little broad for people, though. For example, when I want to know what a person does in their free time, I don’t ask, “What do you do in your free time?” Instead, I ask, “What were you up to last weekend?” That makes it easier for them to pinpoint an answer.

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