Small talk is like dating.
It is very rare to find out about religious views, childhood blankeys, spooning preferences and favourite scents on a first date. It is also very rare that your first date is going to comprise of caramel popcorn and a Meg Ryan movie marathon. Before discussing childhood memories, insecurities, sex and magic, you’re probably going to talk about jobs, families, school, and the weather. Before watching Sleepless In Seattle, you’ll probably watch something more generic, like The Internship.
Which is great.
Because you can then discuss how the weather in San Francisco is always perfect, and how the snack station at your office doesn’t stock fresh fruit unlike the snack station at Google HQ.
Which is great.
Because having the fruit conversation could lead to a conversation about the best fresh fruit margaritas you’ve ever had, which could result in a recital of drunken misadventures, which could then result in a conversation about Amsterdam, which could in turn lead to a discussion on marijuana prohibition laws, giving way to a dialogue on politics and religion, resulting in a discussion about God, leading up to an exchange of possible UFO sightings, followed by shooting stars and birthday wishes, which could lead to a conversation about cherished holiday destinations, resulting in a story about the best Greek Yogurt you’ve ever had at Ellenos, Seattle… and then before you realise, you’re having a cuddle and watching Sleepless In Seattle.
My point is that choosing only to have deep conversation and avoiding small talk is like asking for someone’s hand in marriage after the first date. Yes, you might meet someone who takes you to seventh heaven on your first date and wants to seal the deal right after, but that’s the exception.
Small talk is essential if you wish to establish a basic connection with another person. If you are bad at small talk or if you don’t have the patience for it or if you’re plain shy, every new social encounter might end up being an awkward mess. Mastering the art of small talk is the key to initiating conversation and keeping the other person engaged. This super skill can be a total game changer and will make your life easier at social or networking events.
Here’s how to master the art of small talk:
- Don’t be shy… make the first move.
I assure you that making the first move demonstrates confidence and gives you the opportunity to direct the conversation.
- You know how you play with your hair when you’re into him… now do that with your eyes.
Establish eye contact and smile to ensure the other person is receptive, and then just be ‘be cool’. During the small talk phase, it’s more about your body language than about the topic.
- Take it slow.
Though not as exciting as the deeper stuff, small talk is the corridor that leads up to the master bedroom. Think of it as foreplay before the big finale. Sure foreplay may not be your thing, but foreplay will definitely make the other person feel a lot more comfortable and more open to deeper conversation. Pick a topic that is light, polite and not super controversial.
- But seriously, what should you talk about?
It’s best to ask open-ended questions (can’t be answered with one-word answers – yes/no/fine/good) and then base your next question on their response.
– What are you drinking?
– How do you know our host?
– How’s your weekend treating you?
– What did you think of (popular recent movie or event or new restaurant)?
– Hasn’t the weather been perfect today?
- Instagram and Snapchat can wait till you’re home.
That look on your face, when you’re not really listening, is super obvious. If you don’t want to be there then excuse yourself, but if you’re going to stand across from the other person while they talk, then you owe them the respect to listen.
- So… this is awkward.
The best way to get out of an awkward silence is to acknowledge it in a joke, such as “Aaahh tough crowd” and then walk away. Warning: This could totally backfire if the people you’re talking to do not share your sense of humour, so proceed with judgment. Remember, if the silence is comfortable, let it be. Make Better Small Talk
- Time to bail? Faking a story about your dog’s death is unnecessary.
Yes, talking to the same person can get tiring, especially if neither of you are ‘feeling it’. So if you’re looking for an exit strategy, just be polite and say something like “It was really nice talking to you, I’ll see you in a bit” or “Would you excuse me, I’m going to go get myself another drink” or if you’re on a shitty date at least offer to split the bill before scooting.
- Remember, there are plenty of fish in the sea.
Don’t be afraid to ‘speed date’ a room. Move around, talk to multiple people and enjoy yourself. If you find yourself alone in a corner, obsessively checking Instagram, wondering if the entire evening is going to be like a job interview, then swipe on some lipstick, have that candy coloured vodka shot and move on to the next.