8 Tips to Up Your Small Talk Game
Smartphones help us avoid face-to-face conversations. While technology can help people connect with one another, face-to-face conversations are still as important as ever. One often overlooked, but essential, conversation style is small talk. While it isn’t always easy, people really can improve and avoid the awkward silences.
I reached out across the Atlantic Ocean to Barbara Davidson in the United Kingdom and she shared the following about the importance of getting better at making small talk. “Small talk is a fact of life. And while some people are naturals, the rest of us struggle to know what to say during casual chit-chat. Those awkward silences grow painful, and leave you feeling like a social failure!”
So, the next time your mind runs blank, consider following these pointed techniques to keep yourself engaged and present in conversational small talk.
- Make eye contact. This helps build a sense of trust, which makes it easier to talk to each other. Even if you’re shy, try looking your small talk partner in the eye, and varying your look to their other eye and mouth every few moments.
- Come up with alternative ways to ask classic questions. Rather than saying: “What do you do for a living?” say something like: “What’s keeping you busy these days?”
- Look for non-confrontational conversation topics and stay away from hot-button topics like politics or religion. Think FORD: Family, Occupation, Recreation and Dreams. Try to keep your questions to those four general topics.
- Listen carefully and ask for details about what the other person is saying instead of searching your mind for the next new topic to bring up. Conversations are easier when you ramp-up the empathy as you listen.
- Repeat or restate something the other person has said in your own words. This indicates you are paying attention and engaged in what the other person is saying.
- Communicate with positive body language. Be sure to face the other person, keep your arms uncrossed and your sides, and lean in slightly.
- Discuss where you are. Obviously, you are both in the same physical space; use this as a conversation starter and ask about any music that might be playing or food they are serving.
- Exit gracefully. When the encounter is over, incorporate the phrase “I need.” This places the burden on ending the conversation on you and shows you aren’t leaving because of boredom.
Barbara Davidson’s full article and accompanying infographic further details the tips to help improve your small talk game.
Small talk is a learned skill like any other. Learning how to do it better can have positive benefits for your career, social life, and the way you feel inside. Once you’ve mastered these tips you will be more comfortable with small talk and can leave talking about the weather to the weather reporters.