Hi, how are you? What do you do for work? What do you think of the recent weather change?
These are among the most basic questions we might ask an old friend, a first date or the person sitting next to you in a seminar. Such chit chat is often regarded as small talk which has long been labelled as superficial, trivial and boring. However the truth is that most of us use small talk as a tool to start a connection with someone.
Is this a skill you are simply born with or something which can be learnt? How do you acquire it? Most people struggle with small talk because they find it hard. However with our tips and some practice, you will be able to :
- Find common ground and a shared interest
- Become better at active listening
- Lay the groundwork for more meaningful conversations.
- Reduce social anxiety when conversing with someone for the first time.
Here are 3 ways to use small talk to create bigger and deeper connections.
Start with little questions and slowly break the ice.
It could be as simple as the weather. Start by sharing an observation and end with a little question. You want to gently engage the person in a conversation.
“It’s such a hot day , isn’t it?”
“Yes it is.”
“Have you been to any place hotter?”
“Oh yes, I lived in Dubai for 3 months. It was much hotter there”
“Wow, I have never stayed longer than 2 weeks in another country, What was your experience like?”
Ask follow-up questions related to the opposite person’s experience. You want to show that you are interested to know more about them and their life.
Listen then pivot.
A good way to build a meaningful conversation is to sometimes begin by listening. Let the conversation start. Allow the person to speak, whine, or even complain. Listen carefully. It may sound absolutely silly but it works. At a certain point, share something slightly personal to you to pivot the conversation to something more interesting. For example if someone starts complaining.
“I wasted my money going to watch xxx in the cinema. It was really bad. The actor wasn’t even good looking. The worst part was for 2 hours, there was a baby crying. I don’t know why people bring little kids to the cinema”
“Oh who did you go with? Did they not like it too?”
“No, everyone didn’t enjoy it. Except for my friend who actually slept off!”
“Hahaha. Oh that’s cute. Do you know I once slept off in the cinema and my friends left me there? They thought it would be quite funny. Finally, I woke up to the noise of my own snoring”
Sharing a personal story, better yet a funny story will help the other person to feel more comfortable with you. What better way to build camaraderie than laughing together?
Make a thoughtful observation.
If you are the conversation starter and the conversation seems to be dulling off ,then let it pause for a moment. It is okay. Start back with a thoughtful observation.
“Do you know on my way up here, I saw 2 gentlemen actually carrying their mum who was on a wheelchair, all the way. I thought that was really sweet although I do think most places should at least have a ramp for those specially abled.”
“Yes, that’s true”
“During the recent floods. My neighbour’s house was affected and we helped her out. My area was quite a mess”
“ How was your neighbourhood? Did anyone face difficulties?”
Try to ask open ended questions which aren’t extremely personal.
With our tips and some practice, you can surely learn to turn small talk into a meaningful conversation. It will not seem as nerve wrecking anymore. Remember to be yourself and have fun while meeting someone new.