How To Make Small Talk

How To Make Small Talk

One of the keys to being successful in your career is knowing the right people. Unfortunately, it's not easy to make connections. You can overcome the challenges of networking by learning how to make small talk. With a few simple tips, you can turn small talk from a boring obligation into a meaningful opportunity.

Overcome Your Fears

Before you start standing at the water cooler, you should face your fears of small talk. Some people detest small talk. They cringe at the thought of talking about the weather with someone who doesn't even know their name. If you want to be successful at small talk, you need to get past your reservations.

As with most fears, the best way to overcome your fear of small talk is to understand it. What is it that you hate about small talk? Is it a fear of looking silly, or is it more about not knowing what to say. Think about why you dislike small talk so much and then come up with an action plan.

For instance, you might be afraid of saying something awkward. When you actually think about that fear, it might begin to seem silly. If you do say something awkward, will the other person actually remember it? It's likely that they will move on with their day and never think twice about it.

Initiate the Conversation

After you analyze your fear and figure out a way to move forward, it's time to take action. The next time you're standing next to someone in the office, kick off the conversation. It's better than sitting in awkward silence, and the other person will probably appreciate the effort.

If you're not sure how to start, come up with a 30 second introduction. You can talk about something that makes you comfortable; it doesn't need to be about work. As a general rule, people are open to talking about pets and children. They can relate to you and the conversation is easy to keep going.

With that said, talk about anything that makes you happy. You can discuss your latest work project or your favorite hobby. If you find common ground, you might even make a new friend.

Show Interest in Them

It's worth mentioning that you shouldn't initiate a conversation about yourself. Before you start the conversation, ask the other person questions. How is their day going and why are they there? As you talk to them, you might find common interests or hobbies.

Once you have common ground, it's easier to make small talk. The other person is more likely to contribute, which takes the effort off your shoulders. After you master the art of finding common ground, you might even enjoy small talk.

Prepare Yourself with Questions

If you're looking for a good way to initiate the conversation, prepare a few questions in advance. People like to talk about themselves and they feel happy when someone includes them. Even if you're with a large group of people, pick one person to speak with and ask them a few questions. If you choose someone you don't know, you'll have plenty to talk about.

By having questions ready, you ensure that the conversation won't come to a sudden stop. People can only talk about one topic for so long. To maintain the flow, have a short or long list of questions ready in your head. Here are a few great questions:

What brings you here today?

What's caught your interest up to now?

Do you have any recommendations on XYZ?

What do you do for fun?

Although it's important to ask questions, it's just as important to listen to the answers. If you ask one question after another without hearing the other person, you won't make a good impression. Take time to listen to the answer and ask questions about the answer. While you may not be able to prepare ahead of time for this, you should be able to come up with a few on the spot.

Good Follow-Up Questions

Still struggling to come up with questions? Here are a few follow-up questions to keep the conversation flowing:

That's cool! Can you tell me more?

What is it you like about that topic?

How did you get into that?

How long have you been doing that?

If you're having a conversation with a friend, you'd probably have a similar flow. Using follow-up questions is a way to create a natural conversation. It makes the other individuals around you feel comfortable and builds relationships.

Have a Wingperson

If you're particularly antisocial, you should consider asking a friend to help you with small talk. As silly as it might seem, have a practice session with them. Pretend you don't know them and try to start a conversation. Use the icebreaker you have and practice asking some of the questions above.

In this case, it can be helpful to work with someone who is an extrovert. You can even ask them to accompany you on social outings. Watch them as they socialize and follow their cues. Once you feel comfortable, start introducing people to your friend. You might feel more comfortable because the attention isn't on you.

Practice and Practice

At first, you can take baby steps. You won't become a social butterfly overnight. However, you can try to take small steps to become better at conversing. The next time you're at a work event, step out of your comfort zone. Introduce yourself to one person.

Small talk is never easy, but it can become easier. As long as you make a conscious effort to make small talk, you can improve at it. Over time, you'll notice all of the benefits of small talk and building up your network. Your connections could be what give you a new job opportunity or a promotion.

In today's world, your career could depend on your ability to make small talk. Whether or not you're an extrovert, these tips above can help you.

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