You go to a friend's party, attend a work event, or just find yourself out and about. You meet someone new, and you're inevitably asking and being asked three questions:
- Where do you work?
- Where do you live?
- How much is your rent?
Okay, you don't always encounter that last one, especially outside of NYC, but there's a sinking spidey-sense when it's about to pop because you've run out of places to go with the other two.
Let's ditch that template for these improved icebreakers.
What have you been up to?
Work is a weird topic because not everyone loves their job at any given moment or generally feels like it's their main identity. If it is, they still can discuss it in response, but this question invites a much wider range of topics than asking about work directly. If they have something more relevant to talk about at the time, or just something they think will be more interesting to you, they can talk about that instead.
What's something you love about your neighborhood?
This opens the conversation up to so many more possibilities than "Where do you live?" and even covers that information along the way anyway! If there's not a natural lead towards this question, you can talk about how cool it is that there are so many different neighborhoods where you live and so much to explore.
If you find yourself in their neighborhood later, you can check it out! Maybe, if the conversation goes well and you want to get to know them better, you can suggest what they mentioned as a thing for you to do together.
I deliberately worded this as "What's something you love about your neighborhood?" instead of "What is your favorite thing about your neighborhood?" because trying to pick out your favorite can be overwhelming on the spot and the easiest beloved thing to talk about might not be that anyway.
Don't talk about rent.
Just don't. It's awkward, but more importantly, it's rude.
Talk about all the nifty things you just learned about them instead.