Queen Elizabeth II greets Sir Rod Stewart and wife Penny Lancaster after he was awarded a knighthood in recognition of his services to music and charity earlier in the day as they attend a reception and awards ceremony at Royal Academy of Arts
In a recent article for Wired magazine, Kristen Berman and behavioral economist Dan Ariely share their experience hosting a dinner party with one key rule: "Absolutely no small talk."
Apparently, the guests were all the happier for it -- and the authors conclude in their headline that "small talk should be banned."
Whether this sounds to you like a great idea or a terrifying prospect, the fact is that most event organizers won't go so far as to prohibit small talk -- so you'd best get good at it.
To help you out, we checked out Quora, Reddit, and other resources, and highlighted some of the best tips for upping your small-talk game. You can even make a habit of practicing with strangers you'll probably never see again, since research suggests that making conversation with fellow commuters leaves people happier.
Read on to impress new acquaintances -- and yourself -- with your masterful conversation skills.
1. Demonstrate interest in your conversation partner
Several Quora users said the best way to keep a conversation rolling was to show you care about what the other person has to say.
"If you don't fundamentally care about the person you are speaking with, that will show, and that may be the primary reason why you are running out of things to discuss," Kai Peter Chang writes.
That also means letting your conversation partner share information about himself or herself.
"Let the other person speak more," Anam Gulraiz writes. "People LOVE talking about themselves."
2. Ask open-ended questions
Instead of asking yes/no questions that lead to dead ends, encourage your conversation partner to share some more detail about his or her life.
For example, instead of asking a fellow party guest, "Are you here with your family?" you might ask, "How did you meet the host?"
3. Allow your conversation partner to teach you
"If there's a subject you're not familiar with, just be honest with that person and nine out of 10 times they'll teach you about it," Michael Wong writes.
It goes back to that central idea of letting other people do most of the talking. Asking other people to explain what they mean might prompt them to talk for at least another few minutes.
In the days leading up to a social function, take time to peruse the news. Flickr / Elvert Barnes
4. Read the news
In the days leading up to a social function, take time to peruse the news, "including the sections that don't really interest you," Mark Simchock writes.
That way, if a conversation should come to an abrupt halt, you can fill the silence with, "Hey, did you hear about ..." or "Man, how about that ... ?"
5. Share anecdotes
Don't hesitate to let your conversation partner know that you can relate to what he or she is telling you, Ellen Vrana says.
"This forms a bond," she adds.
For example, if your partner says he or she spent time living in another country and you did as well, share a story or two about your years abroad. You'll most likely prompt the other person to tell you about some similar memories.
Anchor: Find something you two have in common right now. For example, "This cocktail is really fancy -- what's in it?"
Reveal: Share something personal with the other person. For example, "I tried a similar cocktail at a beach bar in Malibu last year and it blew me away."
Encourage: Invite them to share something personal. For example: "I can see it in your eyes that you hate cocktails. You are more of a whiskey drinker, aren't you?"
12. Ask a better version of, 'What do you do?'
In a 2013 blog post, best-selling author Gretchen Rubin suggests asking people you meet, "What's keeping you busy these days?"
Rubin writes: "It's useful because it allows people to choose their focus (work, volunteer, family, hobby) -- preferable to the inevitable question (well, inevitable at least in New York City): 'What do you do?'"
13. Know that other people feel weird, too
"You are totally not alone in feeling awkward or shy," Tammy_Tangerine writes on Reddit. "Other people are struggling with that as well, and these feelings are totally ok and nothing to feel ashamed about."
She adds that even people who look incredibly confident may be struggling with the same self-doubts as you.