There is nothing small about small talk. Small talk is an important people skill. It’s the first step in connecting with others and creating meaningful and lasting relationships.
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It’s easy to dismiss small talk as pointless and say that you are only interested in “deep” conversations, but you must recognize that you can’t just jump into deep conversations immediately.
You can’t just approach a person who you have just met and open with “Why do you think terrible things happen to good people?”
Think about your conversation as a ladder, with small talk serving as your first few steps.
You can’t just leapfrog up a ladder, correct? It would be like trying to cook a steak without defrosting it. You have to prepare.
Consider how some of your existing non-familial relationships have begun. It’s almost certain that a bit of small talk was involved. Small talk is the portal through which most people you meet enter your life.
You never know who you are going to encounter on a plane, at a coffee shop, or on your run at the beach. They could be your future business partners or best friends.
You simply never know when someone you meet will send your life in a new direction. You can’t get to that point without initiating conversation.
Imagine any situation where you are entering a room full of strangers, where everyone is actively socializing. It’s anxiety inducing to try to find somewhere to jump in, a group of people and a conversation you’re comfortable with.
What if you and the person you’re conversing with have nothing in common? What if you can’t think of anything to say?
This brings me to some advice on how to get a conversation rolling and master the art of small talk.
1. Start seeing yourself as a host
Regardless of the situation you’re in, be prepared to take the lead. Be active, guide the conversation, fill pauses, introduce yourself, introduce people to one another. Be really curious about the people and the situation.
It’s about making others feel comfortable and welcome around you.
2. Scan the room and observe
If you enter a social event and you’re alone, you’ll want to find someone else who is by themselves and seems approachable.
Make eye contact with that person, smile, and go greet them. Discuss your shared reality. Mention the funny keynote speaker, the sunset, the crowd.
What you share is an excellent jumping point for any conversation. Make sure to encourage the person you’re talking with to engage in the conversation. Ask questions.
3. Listen compliment and be present
A good way to kick off some small talk is to tie a compliment and question together.
For example, “I was really impressed by your patience when you were answering some challenging questions from the audience. How did you stay calm?”
The important thing to remember that when you compliment someone, stick with a behavior or accomplishment.
Furthermore, make sure you’re listening!
Nothing is more embarrassing than someone losing their train of thought and asking for a reminder, only to discover you weren’t listening at all.
4. Ask for advice
It’s the perfect way the to get conversation flowing. Most people love giving advice and talking about their experiences.
Studies show that talking about yourself feels great – it activates the same areas of the brain that light up when having sex or eating delicious food.
Take advantage of asking for advice as a great opportunity to learn something.
5. Be aware of your body language
Your body says it all, so have approachable body language.
Cues like eye contact, sincere nodding, and leaning in communicate interest. Smile, uncross your arms, pay attention.
Nothing kills the conversation like feeling that the other person is waiting to escape.
6. Assume that people are pleased with your company
This is easier said than done, but the world will take you at your own estimation! So, if you approach people as though you are confident that you are worth talking to, the chat should flow.
Don’t be arrogant, but if you behave as though you know you are fun, people will respond to your warmth and positivity, regardless of what your words are.
7. Remember the value of small talk
A recent study by NUY shows that small talk makes people who engage in it happier.
It’s a pleasant surprise in your everyday routine, and it’s a skill that will help you finesse a crowd at a social event. The only way to improve is practice.
Strike up some small talk with the man behind the deli counter or the cashier at the grocery store.
All experiences, good and bad, will help you gain your mastery of this skill!
Utilize these tips and see your social connections jump to the next level. You may even make some longterm friends in the process.
By practicing on a day-to-day basis, you’ll make it seem effortless when the time comes to further use this skill.