Conversation starters for the shy and introverted vet, vet tech

Icebreakers for any situation

According to various personality tests, most vets (and techs) are introverts. After all, most vets (and techs) secretly prefer animals to people (shocking).

Little did we know that we would have to interact with clients, colleagues, coworkers, receptionists and vendors far more than with animals.

So what do you say when you sit next to a complete stranger in a conference room, at the dinner table, at a wet lab or on the shuttle to the airport? Not everybody has the gift of the gab.

As you read below, please remember that this is supposed to be a casual, low-key, friendly chat—not an interrogation or an interview.

The Basics

These questions can be asked by anybody, even the super shy:

  • Where are you from?
  • Are you a practice owner or an associate?
  • Have you been to this conference before?
  • Have you attended any awesome lectures so far?
  • Who’s the best speaker you’ve heard so far?

Easy to Ask

Other questions are easy to ask and are completely nonthreatening:

  • How many pets do you have?
  • How many vets (or techs) are there in your practice?
  • Do you have any hobbies?
  • What is the nicest compliment you have ever received?
    What was the last picture you took with your phone?
  • What type of music do you like?
  • What cheers you up?
  • What is the latest book you have read?
  • What is your favorite word?
  • Have you seen a good movie lately?
  • What is your favorite commercial?
  • If you could move tomorrow, where would you live?
  • Where would you love to go on a vacation?
  • What is your favorite breakfast food?
  • If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do?
  • What is your favorite vacation?
  • Which season do you love the most?
  • What is your favorite dish?
  • Do you have any vacations planned soon?
  • What is your favorite movie of all time?
  • Where was your last vacation?

Funny Talk

If you’re in the mood, some questions might elicit funny answers:

  • What’s the funniest thing you’ve done at a clinic?
  • What’s your super power?
  • If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
  • Have you ever been pulled over by cop?
  • How did you get out of getting a ticket?
  • What was the weirdest prank call that you have made?
  • Have you ever been in a food fight?
  • What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve told a client?
  • Do you see the glass half full or half empty?

Gossip Corner

Although more frivolous, gossiping about celebrities can reveal a lot about someone’s personality. Related questions include:

  • What’s your favorite TV show?
  • Do you have a secret crush on a celebrity?
  • If you could spend the day with any celebrity, who would it be?
  • If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else, who would you pick and what would you do?
  • Which celebrity would you most like to be stuck in an elevator with?
  • If you could bring any person back to life, who would it be?
  • If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which one would you choose?

Higher Comfort Level

I learned a long time ago that three topics should never be discussed in public (or with clients): politics, religion and pet food. Still, some questions are a bit trickier to ask a stranger. After the conversation has warmed up a bit, you could consider asking:

  • What was your first thought when you woke up this morning? (Please do not ask this question if you suspect that your new BFF might be suicidal or a serial killer).
  • Which habit are you trying to break?
  • What is the bad habit you’re proudest of breaking?
  • What is your favorite thing to spend money on?
  • What was the most terrifying moment of your life?

Even Weirder

Depending on your audience, you might be able to kick the conversation up a notch with questions such as:

  • Do you sing in the shower?
  • What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
  • What was the last lie you told?
  • Have you ever loved two people at the same time?
  • What do you think Victoria’s secret is?

Questions to Avoid

No matter how comfortable you are with your newfound friend, some questions should be avoided altogether. Please never ask these questions:

  • Have you killed anyone?
  • How much do you make?
  • Do you have any relatives in jail?
  • What do you think is illegal but should be legal?
  • How many times have you been married?
  • Do you see a shrink?
  • Do you have any weird diseases?
  • How would you like to die?
  • Have you ever had VD?
  • Would you like to torture anybody?

Of course, most questions can be asked in your personal life as well. Except for that last section …

Dear Reader,

You may want to tear off this article and stick it in your suitcase. You could review it before your next CE meeting. Or you could write a few questions you feel comfortable asking on a cheat sheet that you keep in your pocket or your purse. Then be bold and casually break the ice. Don’t worry—the person you are about to ask a question may very well be even more introverted than you! Try these questions and you will look like a real social butterfly!

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. You may visit his website at or follow him at 

Originally published in the June 2017 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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