Do you dread making small talk with strangers or acquaintances? Do you struggle to come up with interesting topics?
Many people find small talk challenging and uncomfortable. But the good news is that it’s a skill that can be learned and improved upon.
In this post, we will cover some effective tips for engaging in small talk, and one bonus tip that might surprise you.
Tips for Making Small Talk
Before entering a social situation, think about some potential topics you could bring up in conversation. This could include current events, hobbies, or common interests. Having some ideas in mind will help you feel more confident and prepared to engage in small talk.
Ask open-ended questions
Open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. Instead, they require the person being asked to provide a more detailed or elaborate response.
For example, Yes/no questions are questions like…
- Do you like pizza?
- Do you have a pet?
- Have you been to Paris?
To rephrase these questions into open-ended questions, you could ask:
- What do you like to eat?
- What kind of pet do you have?
- What is your favorite city to visit?
As you can see, these open-ended questions encourage the person you are asking to provide more detailed answers, rather than just a simple “yes” or “no”, and are great for keeping small talk flowing.
Avoid Sensitive or Controversial Topics
Small talk is about breaking the ice in social situations and getting to know each other. It’s not the time for sensitive or controversial topics that people may have powerful feelings about or may be difficult to discuss without causing disagreement or conflict.
Examples of sensitive or controversial topics that may want to avoid in small talk include things like…
- Sexual orientation
- Health issues
- Personal beliefs or values
By avoiding sensitive or controversial topics, you can help to keep the conversation light and enjoyable for everyone involved.
Be an active listener
When someone is speaking, give them your full attention and listen actively. This means making eye contact, nodding, and providing verbal cues to show that you’re listening.
By actively listening, you show the other person who you value what they have to say and are interested in the conversation, which will make them feel comfortable with you and more likely to open up and continue the conversation.
Small talk is not the time to bring up negative or uncomfortable topics. Instead, focus on positive, lighthearted subjects to keep the conversation enjoyable and upbeat.
Here are some examples of positive, lighthearted topics that are suitable for small talk:
- Hobbies and interests
- Travel and vacation
- Food and cooking
- Sports and fitness
- Books and movies
- Current events that are not too controversial or divisive
These topics can help to keep the conversation enjoyable and engaging, without veering into negative or uncomfortable territory.
As stated above, remember to form your question so they are open-ended to encourage the person you are talking to to share more about themselves and their experiences. For example, you might ask:
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- Have you been on any interesting trips recently?
- Do you have a favorite recipe that you like to cook?
- What sports or activities do you enjoy?
- What are some books or movies that you have enjoyed recently?
- What is something interesting that has happened in the news recently?
Remember that small talk is a conversation, not a monologue. Allow the other person to speak and share their thoughts and ideas. Be respectful of their opinions and boundaries, even if you don’t agree with them.
Be aware of your body language
The nonverbal cues you use in a conversation are just as important as the words you say. Pay attention to your body language
and make sure it is open and inviting. Avoid crossing your arms, fidgeting, or looking bored.
Small talk can take many forms and can go in many directions. Be prepared to change the topic or shift the focus of the conversation based on the other person’s interests and responses.
Small talk is not just about talking about yourself or your own interests. Be open to learning about others and their perspectives.
This can help to expand your horizons and broaden your understanding of the world.
Small talk should not be forced or fake. Be yourself and speak authentically. This will make the conversation more natural and enjoyable for both you and the other person.
Special Bonus Tip: Be prepared for silence
Even the best small talkers can sometimes encounter awkward silences. If this happens, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and try to think of a new topic to bring up or a question to ask.
Remember that silence is not necessarily a bad thing and can give both parties a chance to collect their thoughts and recharge.
By following these tips, you can improve your small talk skills and feel more confident engaging in conversations with anyone.
Small talk may not always be the most interesting or deep conversation, but it serves an important purpose in social interactions.
By being prepared, curious, an active listener, positive, and respectful, you can make small talk with ease and build connections with others.
So, the next time you find yourself in a social situation, try out these tips and see how it improves your small talk skills.