If you’re tired of the usual kind of conversation, try changing the question or the venue.
Some favorite examples of the other kind of question include “How are you here?” (vs. “What do you do?”), “What’s on your mind?”, and “What did you want to be when you grew up?”
It’s hard to go from one of those questions to meaningless “debate” about the broken state of the world.
Alternatively, you can change people’s state by changing their place. Classrooms, offices, and the proverbial water cooler aren’t redolent of personal storytelling. And most people at the water cooler didn’t go there looking to hear or share anything deeply personal.
Try inviting people over for dinner instead. You might be amazed at what they’ll do with not too much further prompting.