Socializing with high achievers – be it at a professional event or office party, is always an intriguing experience. I believe one of the best conversation topics to draw upon during such get-togethers is industry news and trends; not only does this exhibit personal knowledge but also provides valuable insight from others in attendance. To the question of what successful people talk about at happy hour, my Wall Street veteran dad responded: “Who is very very good at their jobs, who is very very bad, and a reasonable amount of complaining about the boss, no matter who it is.” Hey, at least he’s honest. So I decided to ask some of the most successful women I know: What do you find yourself talking about at happy hour?

1. Trying Not To Talk About Work (And Failing)

Whenever I’m socializing with colleagues and managers, they often try to stay away from work-related conversations by declaring “No work talk!” But time after time the conversation shifts back that way because it is what we all have in common. Adda Birnir, cofounder and CEO of Skillcrush, agrees – “If I’m at a happy hour with my employees, we all try VERY hard not to talk about work,” she said. “But it doesn’t always work out.”

2. Pop Culture and Other Fun Stuff

Joannie Diaz, the remarkable CEO and cofounder of Be Moxie helped me to rid my fear that I had to always keep my conversations strictly professional. “I find myself talking about current trends at happy hours: news, fashion trends, celebrity gossip,” she said. “I know that sometimes it can be a little awkward when trying to talk to managers, but it feels good to not have to talk about work when you are at a happy hour. People want to talk and unwind at happy hours. A manager and I talked about man bun trends once! It was hilarious, but it helped us relax and get to know each other better. There always has to be a level of respect and professionalism, but it doesn’t mean you always have to be serious.”

3. #EntrepreneurProblems

Among fellow entrepreneurs, Adda stated that it’s all about running a business as anticipated: “how to manage employees, how to try and keep some semblance of work-life balance, what’s next for our businesses, etc.”

4. Trade Problems, Trade Solutions

The renowned Kate White, ex-Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan and bestselling author for the New York Times has confessed that her schedule is too packed to consider a happy hour. She prefers having lunch with colleagues and employees as a source of conversation. “There’s one thing I do with women I’ve known forever and trust,” Kate said. “At the end, we each present a professional issue and have the other person offer some possible solutions. You solve my problem, I’ll solve yours. It’s really fun and I’ve gotten great ideas.“

5. Hobbies and Personal Interests 

Joannie further endorsed discussing fellow workers’ passions (with animals being a major one). “I find myself talking a lot about dogs and animals if I see that the other person has pets as well,” she said. “Animal lovers always love to talk about their pets! I also talk a lot about traveling. Many people will compare stories about different places we’ve been to and the experiences we’ve had. Outside of my everyday job, there are other things that I’m passionate about that I love to talk about: animals, books, traveling, and even goal setting! If you see someone outside of work try to connect with them on a more personal level. That’s how you can get mentors, sponsors, and even make friends!”

6. Like Pros, They Avoid Politics and Religion

“I avoid anything that can be very inappropriate or can become very controversial…in a bad way,” Joannie said. “I always try to stay away from politics and religion conversation topics because those are two things that many people are sensitive about. Politics can become very sticky, especially at a happy hour when someone’s drinking. Try and find something in common with your colleague and bond over that instead of fighting over politics and religions when many people will have opposite viewpoints.”

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