“What’s for lunch?” “What’s everyone watching?” If that’s the peak of your group chat these days, it’s time to get your bestie text chain out of its conversational rut.
Having a posse of pals pre-gathered in digital space is a luxury. When used effectively, group chats can be intellectually stimulating and connective spaces where friends can feel close, and even the longest-distance of bonds can strengthen. When neglected, a group chat can become a negative or uninspiring place you avoiding checking into. If your group chat has become so superficial or stale that you’re fantasizing about ex-ing out forever, it’s time to zhuzh things up with prompts to make your group chat more interesting.
According to clinical therapist and millennial life coach Caroline Given, L.C.S.W., it only takes one person to refresh the energy of the chat. By stepping up as the resurrection tribute and stirring the pot with a few loaded or dynamic questions, you can breathe new life into an old chat. Here are eight ways to spice things up and make your group chat a place you actually want to hang out in.
Peak & Pit
If the tone of your group chat is too negative, or too surface-level, asking friends what the peak and pit of their day/week/month was is great for a number of reasons, Given says. “I think it encourages us to find authentic, non-generic answers and it also encourages us to be vulnerable, which is always more interesting.” The question acknowledges the messy reality of life that we might not get from curated social media feeds or polite non-response responses. “I also love that it indirectly challenges people who may have overly optimistic or pessimistic world views to see things from another perspective,” she says.
We all get caught in digital rabbit holes — MomTok, a Reddit thread about time travel, a YouTube tea playlist — and while you might not want to brag about your latest time suck, there’s nothing more relatable. Given says a great way to reframe your attitude about your latest rabbit hole is to think about what you learned from it that was surprising, or relevant to something else in your life. “This is a good prompt if you want to have an intellectually stimulating conversation with friends but might want to avoid anything too personal,” Given says. Ask your friends “anyone fall into any surprising web-holes lately?” and see what the group comes up with.
Bring the TikTok trend over to the group chat. Ask your friends, “What niche subject matter could you give a speech on this week?” Given says these kinds of conversations can be surprisingly hilarious, and learning about what interests your friends helps you to understand them in new ways. Whether you’ve become fluent in lightweight overalls due to a recent online shopping adventure, or learned all about a new strain of lettuce after a chat with a farmer at the market, your recent discovery might be more appealing to your friends than you realize.
Find a personality assessment or funny quiz and share the link with your crew. Given says that discussing the results can be an interesting source of entertainment, and also an opportunity to learn more about your friends in depth. “Even love language tests that are geared toward romantic partnerships are interesting to do with friends,” Given suggests.
Ask questions, even if you’re not that curious. Best pizza place in the neighborhood? Best app for productivity? A breathable shoe for summer? Given says asking your friends for recommendations is a great way to inspire responses and spark up a lively conversation that turns into a great resource for everyone. “I love asking people for recommendations on things and delving into why they recommend something and the experiences/stories they’ve had with those recommendation,” she says.
Ask your friends if they’ve come across any techy shortcuts or random life hacks recently — like how to customize your iOS home screen, or how to stop nausea. This kind of conversation has a valuable utility, which can lead to lots of other conversations — which is key. “People bond with you more when they feel like they’re letting you in on a tip,” Given adds.
“Sometimes introspective or philosophical questions, like ‘If you were a breakfast food what would you be and why?’ can lead to stimulating conversations,” Given says. Prompts like this “keep your lines of communication open and fun because it tells the group that they don’t have to be formal about stopping and starting conversations.” This takes the pressure off breaking the ice, especially if the line’s gone dead for a few days.
Given says that playing conversation games in the group chat is another great way to get everyone participating, without relying on one person to be playing MC. Card games like “We’re Not Really Strangers” are “centered around digging deeper with people conversationally,” Given says, and can challenge the group to talk about things that they might otherwise never have thought to discuss.
Caroline Given, LCSW