Intuition tells us that comfort with schmoozing and small talk is good for your career, but science goes even further than that. Research proves that small talk -- as painful and pointless as it can sometimes feel -- is actually an essential kind of communication that helps us identify common bonds, reassure others, and sort out social roles.

But just because you really need to get over your hatred of small talk, it doesn't mean you need to continually torture yourself with bland, content-free conversations. It's possible to accomplish the many, important social functions of introductory conversations while at the same time not boring yourself silly.

All you need are better questions, according to author Chelsea Rustrum. On Medium recently, she offered a whopping 49 upgrades to the standard "What do you do?" intro question.

Some aren't for the faint of heart. (If you can imagine asking a total stranger, "What do you think the nature of the universe is?" or "Are you scared of death?" you're a far braver soul than me.) But others are creative and perfectly usable alternatives to the usual get-to-know-you conversation starters. Here are a few of the best:

  1. What would you be most likely to volunteer for?
  2. What are you looking forward to in the next few weeks?
  3. Do you like to cook? What's the last thing you cooked?
  4. If you didn't live here, where else would you choose?
  5. What's your favorite emoji?
  6. When do you know you've reached adulthood? What makes an adult an adult?
  7. What's your plan for the zombie apocalypse?
  8. How do you center yourself when you're stressed out?
  9. Do you know your Myers-Briggs personality type? What are your thoughts on personality assessments?
  10. What kind of music do you listen to when you need to amp yourself up and get things done? How about when you want to mellow out?
  11. What excites you these days?
  12. When was the last time you laughed really hard? What were you laughing at?--?or whom were you laughing with?
  13. If you were to give a TED talk this year, what would the title be?
  14. When was the last time you amazed yourself?
  15. What are three words your friends would use to describe you?

Check out the complete list here.

What questions would you add to this list?