Simple Ways of Making Small Talk

Darryl Bachmeier
Jul 3, 2020

You see your long-lost friend you haven’t seen for a while approaching from a distance. Instead of running towards him and give him a warm hug, you wish for the ground to open up and swallow you whole. You have nothing against your friend.

In fact, you are happy to see him. But just a sheer thought of having a small talk with him sends cold chills down your spine. So, you take out your phone, pretend to be in a serious talk with your boss, and just say a quick hello to him when you finally meet.

You are not alone. I feel you because I have been there done that, so I know what you feel by heart. You struggle to hold small talk both with strangers and close relatives and friends you often do not meet.

What is A Small Talk?

Small talk is a clear, informal conversation. It is often used when you’re speaking to somebody you do not know very well and at social and networking events. Unfortunately, most people avoid it like the plague.

Why People Avoid Having A Small Talk

Sometimes, small talk receives a bad reputation. And to steer clear of this supposedly meaningless drivel, some individuals avoid conversations at office parties, networking events, social gatherings, and conferences.

They make a technical appearance almost equally as bad but speak to three or four people they know already.

Some people do not like having small talk as they feel it is meaningless and fake. Somehow, they are right because when you just exchange pleasantries and talk about a boring topic such as the weather to escape the silence, you are not learning anything new or getting a better understanding of the person you are conversing with.

But no matter how much you hate or dread small talk, you can not do away with it because it is a necessary devil.

Why Small Talk is Crucial

Small talk makes you look approachable and friendly, and it can open many doors to deeper connections. Without small talk, you’ll never make new friends, close successful business deals, or tell someone that you do not like some of the things they do.

Small talk is the starter for every relationship. Most people prefer doing business with those they have set up common ground. If you master the art of small talk, you’ll be seeking to cultivate relationships and create a community because you never know when or how that person can help you.

Do you know that small talk can be an opportunity for your success? Never underestimate its power.

Here is how to make small talk

Small talk causes the social wheel to spin. Here’s how to do it right.

Get in the habit

Slowly, start getting in the habit of holding a small talk. Do not restrict the behavior to social events only. You start by saying hello to an individual seated next to you on a bus or plane before grabbing your headphones. Speak to your baby sitter before leaving the house. Get to know how their night was. Say hi to the gateman as you drive off, and wish him a good day.

Engage your Uber driver and ask him or her about the day. Talk to the waiters as they serve you a hot cup of coffee. Form the habit of saying hello to the people you meet, and you’ll develop a small talk muscle. Try doing small talk, and you’ll be amazed at where it can take you.

Be Ready to Deviate to Unexpected Topics

Let yourself be startled by the conversation. Have an open mind and let conversations take the directions they wish to so that they come out naturally. Going to networking events with rehearsed conversation outlines limits the actual conversation, killing all the fun in the end.

Have some respect. Do not judge, criticize, or impose yourself on other people.

Have utmost respect for other people’s points of view. Reveal your opinions freely, but never force them on anyone.

Always know that your best topic is not everybody else’s. Maybe you are in mad love with your new grill, a certain TV show, or a book, but do not assume everybody else is interested. Weigh the conversation carefully and flow with it.

Try not to shame anyone for his or her choices. Remember, people came to have some fun and relax. So, do not appoint yourself as a judge.

Regard other people’s personal choices. Try not to judge or criticize anyone.

Avoid Placing Your Phone on the Table

Have you ever tried having a conversation with somebody with your phone on the table? How was the experience? You kept on picking it up every time it beeped, making you lose touch with what the conversation partner was saying.

You either pretended you understood what they were saying or kept on urging the person to repeat what he was saying, which does not sit well with many people.

To have meaningful small talk, avoid placing your phone on the table to ward off any distractions. You can just leave it in your handbag or pocket. In case you are awaiting a crucial email from your employer, notify the other person.

Also, make a special notification so that you’ll know it’s the email you have been waiting for. That way, your conversation partner will know that you are not flipping through Facebook or Instagram and won’t feel ignored. Try to at least hold a conversation for five minutes without touching your phone.

Focus on the positive

Look for positive topics. Instead of talking about past atrocities, discuss future ambitions. Rather than talking about the tea that spilled on your clothes last night, discuss an upcoming movie that you can give out anything just to watch it.

Sometimes it is fine to discuss a topic that sets off negative emotions, but only when you get a hint is fine with the other person, and only when it has a special purpose.

Embrace a forward-thinking mentality when you are conversing with people. Do little complaining but come up with more solutions. Show more empathy and little or no judgment.

If you judge less and do not complain, people will be happy to have a small talk with you because you will pass the positive vibes on to them.

Have you ever had a conversation with somebody, and it felt like you had been hit with a ton of bricks? Conversing with a person who is negative and is always complaining drains your energy.

Talk about positive things, and no one will get bored.

Avoid sensitive topics such as:

  • Religion
  • Age
  • Their political affiliations
  • Finances
  • Appearance
  • Past relationships
  • Illnesses
  • Serial killers

Asking about any of the above questions can make somebody uncomfortable and make you a negative person.

Instead, Talk about

  • The Venue
  • Sports
  • Food, restaurants
  • Shows, movies, plays
  • Work
  • Travel
  • Art
  • Their hobbies
  • Their professional responsibilities and interests

Wrapping Things Up

Ask open-ended questions. Show a genuine interest in the other person. Practice active listening, and avoid being combative. And when the conversation is finished or stalling, wrap things up gracefully by saying something like, “the next session is beginning soon, so I need to find my room. It was great meeting you. Do you have a card?”

Try not to walk away awkwardly.

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