From Tim Sanders: Talking about how bad the economy is constitutes a sideways conversation. You cannot be afraid enough of the future to make it better — in fact, you’ll often make it worse. Dale Carnegie trained his YMCA students in the 30’s to ignite positive conversations by opening with “what’s the good word?”. It changes the conversation, the mood and the direction of the talk. You could also ask people the following: What are enthused about these days? What are your working on these days? Tell me something interesting, I’m dying to hear about something new and cool.