How To Survive An Awkward Dinner Conversation

The Scene

March 15, 2017 | BY Chong Seow Wei

These four steps to keep you mingling all night.

Do you dread attending a dinner party? Perhaps you’ve been at an event where your tablemates aren’t the most sociable bunch of people—they’re too shy to initiate a conversation, or show little to no response to you making an attempt at small talk.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Here are a few ways to come out of any seated event with strangers unscathed, as told to us by four society event pros.

June Goh-Rin
June Goh-Rin

Them first, you second

“Listen first and ask the other party questions to find out about their interests. Who knows, they might have an unusual hobby or occupation that could lead to an interesting conversation. Or, you might realise you share mutual friends or relatives with them because Singapore is that small. Do this with sincerity, and the other party will warm up to you more quickly. You can consider cracking a joke or making a light-hearted comment every now and then. If it’s at your own expense, it will usually break the ice.”

How To Survive An Awkward Dinner Conversation
Vihari Sheth (left); Image: Vihari Sheth/Facebook

Their age is none of your business

“I believe everyone has a topic they enjoy talking about. Depending on their age and gender, however, I’ll start with getting them to speak about themselves, their family or kids. However, I will never ask them about their age! It’s generally a sensitive topic to avoid, even if it isn’t for you.”

Lam Tze Tze

Be inclusive

“I would try to start a conversation that everyone at the table can partake in, so everyone feels a little more comfortable with each other. I’ll then keep the conversation flowing by creating opportunities to go on to the next topic, such as closing a conversation with “Oh, that’s interesting” then divert it to another general topic. Sharing compliments about the host of the event always works too. If a conversation becomes unbearable—either because it’s going into controversial grounds or the other party won’t stop talking—there’s nothing wrong with excusing yourself politely from the table for a breather.”

How To Survive An Awkward Dinner Conversation
Rebecca Eu
Rebecca Eu; Photo: Darren Gabriel Leow

If all else fails, distract with food, or Snapchat

“For millennials, awkward silence at a dinner table can only mean two things: either we’re all editing photos and scrolling through Instagram, or we’re witnessing the unfolding of a couple’s fight at our table. Sometimes it gets so awkward you become unsure if it’s even appropriate to take photos of the food anymore. To overcome this, distract your tablemates with the food—ask them for their favourite dish so far, their cravings, guilty pleasures... If that doesn’t work, the fail-proof solution is Snapchat. No one can turn down taking photos with a ridiculous dog filter or at least smile from its ridiculousness.”