Imagine—you’ve been invited to a wedding, work function, or a party at a friend’s house. After cozying yourself with a martini and a plastic plate filled sky-high with food, you catch sight of your ex. This is what we call social trickiness. Why would your beloved friend invite your wretched ex to their event? You just need to know how to make conversation with your ex.
Hey, it happens. And usually there’s nothing you can do about it unless you are a: one of these rare breeds who is actually friends with their ex, or b: don’t mind making a giant scene and being ‘that friend’ in the wedding party.
How to make conversation with your ex
You know, if you absolutely must. We kid, we kid. Sort of. Unless you’re looking to make everyone else around you highly uncomfortable, breaking the ice with your ex is pretty much essential if you’re stuck together at a function or event. Here is how to make conversation with your ex and be the bigger person without wanting to scrape your skin off with a cheese-grater.
#1 DO: Ask questions. Asking open-ended questions is a great way to get to know someone, so why not treat your ex like anyone else you’d meet at a party? Obviously, there are going to be some questions you already know the answers to, but the implication of ‘let’s talk’ is the same. Some conversation starters include:
– How’s your family doing?
– How’d you spend your *recent holiday/summer*?
– How’s work?/Where are you working now?
– What have you been up to since we last spoke?
-Did you hear about *this awesome thing* that *our mutual/once mutual friend* did?
– Any exciting plans coming up?
#2 DON’T: Talk about yourself too much. Remember you’re in a conversation. That involves what, ladies and gentleman? That’s right, a conversation happening with two people, not just you. We know, we know, you want to rub your cool new life in your ex’s face, but bragging about your excellent job and s*xually satisfying partner may not be the subtlest way to approach a conversation with your ex.
#3 DO: Try and find common interests again. You did like this person at one point. If you’re trapped for conversation, why not reconnect over your past common interests? Talk about the latest episode of a show you both like, a new video game, a sporting event, or some other pastime.
#4 DON’T: Talk about your past relationship. When it comes to learning how to make conversation with your ex, bringing up the past probably isn’t your best route. This conjures up old hurt feelings that you probably don’t want to relive at a social gathering.
#5 DO: Share a personal anecdote. Research suggests laughter is both a humorous and a social emotion. Laughter is also key for regulating social interactions, so why not use a funny story to your advantage? Personal anecdotes work great at parties, so why not try one on your ex?
Share a wacky or embarrassing story that’s happened to you recently and wait for the laughs to roll in. Remember not to incriminate yourself too much, this is still your ex we’re talking about.
#6 DON’T: Share your whole life story. Catching up with an ex can actually be enjoyable and may even bring a small amount of closure to you both. Just don’t confuse catching up with telling your ex every single thing you’ve been up to since you were last intertwined. Have a give and take conversation instead.
#7 DO: Talk about the current event you’re at. How do you know the bride or groom? What brings you to this bar? Who invited you to the party? All of these are perfectly cordial ways of making conversation with an ex at a social function.
#8 DON’T: Mistake being funny with being rude. Want to joke about that whole cheating fiasco you experienced in your relationship or how you hope the bride and groom at this function end up happier than you two did? Ouch.
#9 DO: Pay attention to your body language. Learning how to make conversation with someone has a lot to do with body language. Smile, open up your posture, make eye contact, and make it evident that you listen when they speak. These gestures can be overthrown if you’re making conversation with your ex, and you’re trying not to throw your cocktail in their smug face.
So, what kind of message are you sending to your ex? Avoiding eye contact pretty much says if you could stomach looking in their eyes you may end up figuratively shooting daggers at them. Not friendly and definitely awkward.
There is a tricky balance if you’re trying to play it cool. First, you don’t want to seem cold and closed off since this could make them think you’re still bitter about the breakup. Second, you don’t want to be too touchy-feely, since they may think you’re looking for a round two romp! Unless, er, you are. Then go for it.
#10 DON’T: Stay longer than you want to. Sure, talking to your ex at a social gathering is the mature thing to do, but don’t carry on the conversation longer than is comfortable to do so. Whether you got dumped or did the dumping, this person is still your ex for a reason and there’s no point in sticking around to reopen old wounds for the sake of being polite.