Small talk is “chitchat or sub-talk”. It’s a light informal conversation originally designed for social occasions then evolved into business circles. However, it is not popular in all cultures. Some find it a waste of time, while others find it an effective way to get a basic overview of someone’s personality and interests. It can set the stage for continued interactions and is a particularly important part of socializing in America.
Keep it simple! Small talk is not meant to be a lengthy, in-depth conversation. Information is being gathered to determine how to proceed or not proceed with a friendship or hiring decision. The best conversationalists make small talk seem comfortable and effortless. While this is easy for some and difficult for others, it is a necessary component to the success of any interaction. By being prepared you will reduce the stress of trying to figure out how to begin a conversation or how to keep a conversation moving in an interesting and productive direction.
- Ask Questions! Focus on learning what you do not know.
- Prepare three conversation starters or transition topics beforehand in three distinct categories (e.g., sports, business, and lifestyle). One is bound to work!
- Focus on commonalities or special interests and gain new insights.
Much of today’s television programming centers around forensic science. This DNA approach can also apply to small talk. You are trying to learn about an individual’s interests and goals. People like to interact with people with whom they have a common interest. Use a Conversation DNA™ to get into a “gathering information” frame of mind and to make small talk easier.
- Go to gatherings … prepared! To get you started, consider the following “small talk” topics, and add your ideas.
- Closed the Generation Gap: Learn movie, music, book, and history topics from their generation.
- Expand the Culture Gap: What are some fascinating things you would like to learn about an individual’s culture? Then, respectfully share the differences between your cultures.
- Consider Sports Activities: Does he or she enjoy participatory or spectator sports? This information could encourage a fun activity. For example, if you both enjoy participatory sports, you can arrange to play a game together (e.g., golf). If you prefer spectator sports, you will know which games to suggest.
- Engage Hobbies or Pastimes: What do they take pride in doing in their leisure? What are their escapes from work or stress? Is there a hobby idea that can be shared? What books or articles have they read lately?
- Be Curious about Various Foods and Beverages: Does he or she have a favorite type of food or curiosity about the food he or she has never tried?
- Share Talents: Do they sing, play a musical instrument, compete in athletics, or create art and crafts? You might discover a mutual interest or ability.
Don’t hold back! Be the conversation starter! How? Listen with your eyes! Notice when someone is not engaged in conversation and use a question to bring them in. This is something that I have learned to do to get beyond my shyness or awkwardness. I pay attention to what is being said and when the conversation is struggling. Then I jump in by asking a question or paraphrasing what was just said for clarity! It’s fun and rewarding! Others will be glad you got the conversation moving.
Make small talk fun and engaging!
Look for every opportunity when out and about.
The more you engage in conversation, the easier it becomes.
Need more ideas or help? Use a Conversation DNA™ approach outlined in my book, The Art of Professional Connections: Seven Steps to Impressive Greetings and Confident Interactions.
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Please share your Small Talk tips.