The dreaded small talk. For some, it’s the stuff nightmares are made from. For others, it’s a social norm that just needs to be dealt with. Every now and then, if we are lucky enough to find someone who isn’t staring at a screen, the right set of circumstances allows for an engaging conversation to blossom from small talk. Although, these days, they are far and few between. Small talk happens just about anywhere. Waiting rooms, while using public transport, social gatherings… basically, wherever there are people. Small talk can be stressful and unpleasant, but deeper conversation feels rewarding and can put a smile on our faces. So it makes sense to be armed with a few good tips on how to turn small talk into smart conversation.
Ask the right questions
Asking questions that require in-depth answers will inevitably get the conversation ball rolling. Now is the time to ask and listen. Just talking away about ourselves will probably only disinterest the person even more. Ask engaging questions like “Where are you from?” or “What’s your favorite hobby?” to break the ice. Once someone starts to talk, it becomes easier and easier for the conversation to flow. Asking a question that is too generic, like “How is this weather?” will result in a generic answer like “Yeah, it’s cold.” that doesn’t lead to further conversation. Our whole aim is to get the other person to be actively engaged with us.
It’s almost inevitable that they will ask a question back to us, and when they do, it’s up to us to answer in a way that carries on with the conversation. Giving closed answers will stunt the conversation. For example, If the question “What do you do for a living?” is asked, it can be answered like this: “I’m a lawyer.” to close the conversation. Or it could be answered with something like this “Most of the time I’m a lawyer, and when I’m not doing that, I enjoy rock climbing. What do you do for fun?” The answer was expanded and was finished off with another question, which shows that we want the conversation to carry on.
Have a topics arsenal
Being equipped with interesting topics for conversation starters is important. Armed with these topics means the conversation will never dry during these interactions. Get to know the news of current affairs. Know a bit about what’s trending on social media. And, of course, don’t be scared to talk about topics you know a lot about. It’s best to avoid sensitive and inappropriate topics at first. Religion, rude jokes, and politics should be completely avoided.
Don’t force it
There are times when people just don’t want to talk. The reasons for this could be just about anything, and that’s ok. Respect the person’s boundaries and walk away. Don’t ever force a conversation that isn’t going anywhere. We can see the signs in the answers we receive and in our interlocutor’s body language. They will use vague closed answers to our questions. They will look in the opposite direction to us, or look at their phone, or have their arms crossed in a mental attempt to protect themselves from our verbal onslaught.
We know that practice makes perfect, so the more we do this, the better we will be at it for our future chit-chat endeavors.