I'm not very good at small talk, even though I have improved quite a bit. My mother once said it's because I'm not interested in most of the topics that small talk brings up. But then I guess many small talk topics are politeness and not true interest. Anyways, I sat down and wondered what I am interested in regarding people. I'm an artist and storyteller so I noticed I usually hope the other person has a story to tell when I ask them a question. I'm also a lot more interested in why people do things rather than what they do.
One tactic I've come up with is asking what job someone has, and then following up that question with "How did it come to that?" which in 50% of the cases results in a story. (However, there are many people who chose their path randomly and seem to be without real aspiration and then I'm kind of lost.)
Do you have any suggestions for other small talk questions that are not too personal but still focus on motivations and aspirations?
(Note that I won't be able to check this post until tomorrow, so I won't be able to answer questions immediately)
I'm talking about one time encounters with longer talks, for example in Germany you can share a group ticket for the train with strangers to save money and you'll end up conversing for an hour. Uber driving might be similar. Or at events such as weddings where you talk to aquaintances of the couple that you will likely not see in years, so essentially also a one-time encounter with extended smalltalk.
I'm also considering a case where a conversation has been established where my example question works.