Here’s the first thing you need to understand about small talk – it’s not really about what you say, it’s about how you make the other person feel.
Usually these short little conversations we consider small talk are in fact pretty pointless.
You rarely exchange any important information. It would be more accurate to consider them as a sort of an introduction to an actual conversation, which will happen only if the other person felt comfortable small talking with you.
Now, not everyone is natural at small talk. Sure it seems fairly easy in theory. It’s just chatting, right? Well, actually, most people get pretty tangled up while ‘just chatting’ with someone for the first time – especially when it’s important to make a good first impression. And this is almost always the case whether you’re talking to a potential date, your crush or networking.
It’s too easy to get nervous about what you’re saying, what kind of impression you’re making and stress about what the other person is thinking. Being positive, receptive and interesting plus making it seem like you’re doing it all effortlessly – way harder! But, fortunately, this is something you can work on! Here are a few ways to completely master small talk!
1. Be Interested > Be Interesting
Or, at least as much. People often get sidetracked from being a good conversationalist by their wish to make an awesome first impression. Instead of worrying whether you sound interesting or enchanting enough focus more of your attention to your listening skills.
Active listening, smiling and looking like you care about what you hear just as much as you like to talk is the key to mastering small talk. It’s looking receptive and open that’s going to make the other person feel comfortable. And with that, you’ll feel less uneasy about the whole thing.
Also, it’s important to remember the name of the person you’re talking about and use it during the conversation (moderately of course). It really helps in forming a closer contact between you and them.
However, we all know this is NOT easy. I for instance never remember names. The only thing I remember when meeting someone new, is my own name! This happens to lots of people, usually because we’re focusing on what we’re going to say next and not really listening when someone’s introducing themselves.
“I don’t remember anybody’s name. Why do you think the ‘dahling’ thing started?” – Eva Gabor
2. Be Real
Being genuine and not trying to seem smarter or funnier than you actually are is very important. It can be awkward enough to try and hold a conversation with someone new without putting on an act!
If you don’t understand something – ask. If you don’t know what the person meant, again, politely ask them to clarify. That’s perfectly fine to do. Now that I think of it, I’ve been guilty of nodding and hoping I wasn’t asked a question, more times than I can count! And that as we all know can lead to a complete fiasco – completely unnecessary.
3. Ask & Answer
For example – a guy comes up to you, let’s say, in a bar. Usually, if he’s the one who approached you, most of what you’ll talk about from that moment on will revolve around you. Since he’s the one coming up to you it’s only natural for him to ask the questions and show interests. However if this is a (small) talk you want to participate in, I mean, if you’re digging this guy – it has to be a two way conversation. Feel free to ask some questions yourself.
4. Get a Clue
If you pay enough attention to what the other person is saying, their body language, facial expressions and read between the lines a little bit, it’ll help you get them faster. You’ll be able to get a clue on what they’re comfortable talking about, what makes them uncomfortable or uneasy and so on… All of this will definitely help you in making small talk!