In my experience, there is a question you can ask almost anybody and make them feel better about themselves and their place in the world. I’ve used this question for decades on people I meet at work, always with excellent results:
Just out of curiosity, what do you like best about your job?
When asked with true curiosity, this question always gets a positive response, for three reasons.
First, when you ask somebody a question that requires the other person to find positive things about their job, their mind immediately finds them. Second, when you show true curiosity about what makes other people happy, they are complimented by your interest, feel more comfortable talking to you, and feel more positively about you. Third, the question is an invitation for the other person to talk about themselves, which in my experience is everyone’s favorite topic of conversation.