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Small talk like a pro with this handy guide

Even for extroverts, small talk can be a nerve-wracking experience. Some people are natural conversationalists, but for others, these casual conversations can be awkward and uncomfortable — there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a fifteen-minute conversation about the weather.

Though it may be frustrating, small talk is a very important skill to learn. Engaging with new people and learning more about them grows your social network, giving you more social and business connections that can grow into more significant and valuable relationships.

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Just like any new skill, becoming a good small talker takes a lot of practice. If you’re ready to spread your social butterfly wings, here are a few tips you can use to become a small talk pro, no matter who you’re chatting with.

Coworkers engaging in small talk at work
Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

If you aren’t a very conversational person or struggle to find common ground with new people, embrace people who are more talkative than you are. If they’re willing to do most of the heavy lifting in a conversation, it takes some of the pressure off of you. Often, people with opposite personality types have excellent conversations. Introverts and extroverts aren’t just two sides of the same coin; they complement each other socially, allowing each to bring out the best in the other.

Ask questions and be curious

If you’re more of a listener than a talker, ask the other person questions and encourage them to tell stories or short anecdotes. Active listening is a necessary skill even if you tend to dominate conversations, so don’t forget to listen to those around you and show interest in their thoughts and feelings as well.

Practice asking quality questions by trading your “what” questions for “why” and “how.” Stick with these open-ended questions that require more than a one-word response. Likewise, when someone asks you a question, avoid giving one-word replies. Do your best to add more information and detail to your responses to keep the conversation rolling.

Avoid rapid-fire questions and, instead, listen and reflect on their answers. Keep in mind that some people pause in between thoughts, so it’s always a good rule to wait a few seconds after they finish, making sure they are completely done speaking before you jump in.

Retire worn out conversation starters

Part of what people dislike about small talk is the predictability of the conversation, asking and answering the same generic questions over and over again. Throw out worn-out conversation starters like, “Where are you from?” and “What do you do for work?” and trade them in for specific prompts. Try to tap into something they’re passionate about and ask them about pets, hobbies, or other topics they may be excited about.

Consider reframing your usual questions in a way that creates a more meaningful chat. For example, instead of asking, “How was your day?” say something like, “Did anything interesting happen today?” This encourages people to think about specific, discussion-worthy events of their day as opposed to considering what the day was like as a whole. These small changes can make a huge difference in building a genuine conversation that is enjoyable for everyone involved.

Small talk has a bad reputation because it generally only allows people to scratch the surface. However, by sharing something more personal and interesting, you can have a more illuminating chat. Give yourself permission to share your viewpoint and let your voice be heard. Doing so may even inspire the other person to take the discussion to a more meaningful place, too.

Couple having small talk at a cafe
Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

Be mindful of your body language

Our bodies often say much more than our words do, so watch your body language when others are speaking so you don’t come across as bored or disinterested. To communicate your genuine interest, stand up straight, make eye contact, nod sincerely while listening, and pay attention. Don’t cross your arms or look around consistently, as this gives the message that you’re not interested in the conversation and don’t really care what the other person is saying.

Most importantly, put your phone away. Nothing says, “I don’t care about this conversation” more than scrolling or typing on your phone. During your chat, leave your phone in your pocket or bag, and if you’re expecting an important message or call, kindly let the other person know so they understand why you’re checking in on your messages.

Small talk doesn’t have to be a dreaded experience. It can be the beginning of a new work connection, friendship, or romantic interest. By approaching the situation with genuine interest, asking lots of questions, and reminding yourself (and your body) to be present, you can take advantage of all small talk can offer.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

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