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Master Small Talk With These 10 Tips (with Examples)
What is Small Talk?
Small talk is a casual, informal conversation that is made during social gatherings and events. It is one of the essential ways to build your network and form an impression on your business clients and prospects.
One of the latest skills that you need to master to excel in any field is the art of conversation. You can have an amazing idea, a successful business plan, or valuable thoughts that can contribute to any kind of conversation, but if you cannot express them well or don’t know the correct way to explain it, then there goes your chance to make it big in any field.
Here are some Key Factors to help you with your small talk conversations:
A good listener is a good speaker. You may carefully note the details of the other person if you listen to them. Moreover, it’ll also make you seem engaged in the conversation and create a good impression on the other people. Listening is not just important to make yourself seem engaging but also make you remember the slight details and ask questions.
Developing your emotional intelligence is a great way to become a better listener.
If they tell you that they love reading books, you may further ask them about their favorite book, the book which they read recently, or the genre they like reading.
Enthusiasm is one of the key factors in any conversation. It is not always that you’re conversing in a stress-free situation. In such a case, you need to make things as light as possible, so that the small talk does not seem forced to the other people. Socializing is an art that is not always easy to master in difficult situations, but is worth it.
Asking someone about the environment and whether they like it, discussing sports that they’re passionate about, etc.
Topic of Discussion
Another tricky thing about small talks is the topics one has to come up with while interacting with others. One has to swiftly shift from one topic to another to keep the conversation flowing.
Food is the best way to connect with people. Almost everyone loves eating and experimenting with food and recipes. You may ask them about the kind of dishes they love to eat or what are the things they think they are good at making. Sharing some of your experiences with food and asking them about theirs. A good restaurant recommendation is always welcomed, you can ask them about the places they frequently visit. You may as well take their suggestion for yourself.
“I love going to the new Italian restaurant that was recently opened a few blocks down the street, what cuisine do you prefer? Is there any place you suggest that one must try?”
Another important thing that everyone loves sharing is appreciation of things. It is not only a good topic to have a conversation on but also makes the conversation engaging and interesting for all. Whether it's painting, dance, songs, movies, music, etc. if the person is interested in any art form or hobby, engage them in a conversation about it. Ask about their favorite museums, artists they enjoy, exhibitions and galleries they love visiting.
“Are you interested in any art form? Do you like visiting Galleries and Museums?”
Everyone loves a good entertainment to de-stress and spend quality time watching a movie, series, or reading a book. If you’ve recently watched a good movie, share your views on it and ask them about theirs if they have watched it. Entertainment is a good source to bond with people. Ask them about the series they like or the book they love to read. Make comments, and appreciate their choice.
“Do you like watching movies or series? Movies have you watched recently? Any genre that you prefer?”
For short conversations:
Weather is one of the most typical small talk topics. While it may not be one of the exciting things to talk about, it can give a direction to a conversation if you don’t just focus on it.
“I planned a day out with my family this weekend, however, it seems like the weather has other plans. What are you doing this weekend?”
How to Make Small Talk with Strangers
Starting a free-flowing conversation with the people we know are somewhat easier than conversing with strangers. Imagine going to a business event that is vital for your company and not knowing how to start a conversation with your prospects. It may be a tricky and complicated situation for you. However, if you know the right tricks, you may as well ace it.
Before talking to strangers, you may have to build your social confidence, I have written a post on boosting your confidence if you are interested.
Anchor and Questions
If you’re approaching a stranger in a party, you may as well put an “anchor remark” such as “Isn’t the food great here?” It would be a gentle remark which may coincide with the thoughts of the person standing beside you. Thoughts that may encourage you further the question.
The important thing about any conversation is to make it interactive. If you’re talking to a stranger, start the conversation with a few questions like, “Where are you from? What do you do?” could be an excellent way to begin a small talk.
Encouraging the person you’re talking to should be your primary motive in small talk if you don’t want to make it awkward. Engage in the conversation and try not to zone-out of the conversation. Pay attention to the details, and it may further help you ask questions based on their interest and knowledge.
Ask questions that are intriguing and not invasive. Questions about their job, hobby, city life, or environment would help them relax around you and make things comfortable. You may also encourage them by giving your own details about life and work. Adding a few comments like “the weather has been pleasant for a few days, I wonder how long it’ll stay this way though,” would give the person room to add their own views.
Observation is one of the most subtle ways to understand a person. Observing small things about a person can give you an insight into the person and help you come up with a good conversation starter with the other person.
For example, if you’re attending a fashion show or visiting a Museum, the first thing that you notice about the other person is their mutual interest in the show or the art. You may as well approach them with “Do you visit this place often? I haven’t seen you before.” or “What did you think about the show today?”
Small Talk Conversation Starters
The most difficult thing to come up during small talks is the topics to discuss that are light-hearted as well as interesting to others. One has to make sure that they're not too interfering with each other's lives, yet may come to know about someone’s area of interest and expertise in any field.
The go-to topics for all situations
People who are passionate about something, love to share and talk about it. If you want an interesting conversation, talk about your passion, and ask others about theirs. Going with it like, “What’s your passion?” or “What are you most passionate about apart from work?” would not only make them want to continue talking but also make it engaging and lively for you.
People are often engaged in some kind of events during their weekends. Whether it’s a family dinner, a cousin’s marriage, business events, or any other place that you meet someone. These events could be your ‘go-to’ topic of discussion and make small talk with them. You may as well discuss the other upcoming events and your preferences.
When it comes to parties and socializing, it can either be interesting for someone or a nightmare. For some, it may be a necessity, and others are just there for the sake of it or as someone's plus one. In this situation, you can engage with people depending on one question, “Are you having fun?” the response would give a direction to your conversation and can be a good way to begin in social events.
Books and novels
While some people are good at socializing, it cannot be the same for the introverts in the house or people who just don’t like interacting too much. In this case, a sincere question about life or understanding their need for space can go a long way to initiate interaction.
People who don’t usually interact, love engaging with their books or movies. Conversations about their chosen author or a particular fictional character would provide both of you a comfortable topic to engage in and kick start a conversation.
You’d find a really good conversation out of this topic. Dreams are something people hold close to their hearts. If you both are comfortable enough with each other, you may as well share what you have always wanted to become or found fascinating during your childhood. You may also come to know about jobs that you weren’t even aware existed.
There are often people who are engaged with any NGOs or social services. The philanthropists as one may call them, love talking about their projects and missions. Conversation starters may as well include talking about their cause and reason for supporting any particular charity or organization. What they do and what motivates them to work for the society can make them engage in an animated conversation and draw reactions that other questions or topics might not.
Get to Know Your Acquaintances
Tell me more
Small talk with anyone cannot be fruitful if, in the end, you don’t at least know a new aspect about them or their interest. You can always ask a person you have already known to share more about their life.
If you meet someone from the office in a casual event, you can engage in a light-hearted question and as well learn more about them, which is otherwise not possible in the office.
For Example, if you meet in a park, “Do you visit the park often?” may be a good question after sharing pleasantries.
Beginning a conversation with a new colleague would be to make them feel comfortable around the workplace. You may start by talking about their first day in the office or whether they like it so far.
If you’re new to the office, you may ask the other person about his experience working there so far and the dynamics of work and gain some valuable knowledge from experience.
“How has your day been so far?” or “Are you enjoying it here?”
Calendar Specific Conversation
It’s common to meet people on Christmas, New Year, etc. While meeting people during these days, you may as well begin the conversation by asking them about their New year Resolution or plans for Christmas. Summers are also always welcomed because of vacations, and it may give you an excellent topic to discuss someone’s vacation plans or destination that they’re planning to explore.
Small talk develops an understanding of a person. It’s not always that you enter a situation where clients, people, or prospects know you very well. In this case, small talk is a savior. It not only gives you an idea about the person standing in front of you but also makes them comfortable to talk to you.
A stranger for a client will always be a little skeptical about you, and therefore, it becomes your responsibility to make that person relax around you and begin discussing other aspects of life and business. Small talks thus help you understand people better and enhance your social and communication skills.
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