You’re at an event and your friend touches your arm and says, “I want you to meet someone.” They introduce you to Joe Blow and you’re thinking, “What’s the best escape plan right now? Those pinwheel roll ups with the cheese and salami look good. How do I divert this conversation to go shove my face with five of them?”
We’ve all been there. It’s that awkward, “So what do you do?” small talk that everyone hates to talk about but nonetheless has to face once in awhile. The questions and answers are so generic that you start to feel like it’s all deja-vu. It’s rehearsed, polite, and dreadful all at the same time.
It’s pretty universal we all hate the act of small-talk, but it’s the starting point for almost all forms of relationships before they blossom into something deeper and more meaningful. Let’s face it, nine times out of 10, you’re not going to talk about politics with someone you just met unless it’s relevant to the situation. You wouldn’t want to be too forward and offend someone before they truly get to know you.
I took a psychology class in college where we learned how to communicate one-on-one effectively. I’ve taken some of that knowledge mixed with what I’ve learned in my communication classes plus real life experience and came up with a few tips in turning small talk into #realtalk.
- Be an active listener.
Active listening is totally different than just hearing what the other person has to say. An active listener shows the opposite that they genuinely care about what they’re talking about and makes sure they know that. Nod once in a while, ask questions periodically, and make comments. They will appreciate that you understood them and will build that circle of trust from an early stage.
- Use your commonalities to strengthen the convo.
When you start a conversation, one thing leads to another and all of a sudden you’re surprised you share so much in common with this person. People love talking about their kids or their pets. Especially pets (but I’m a little biased.) Latch onto those shared interests and let them lead the rest of the conversation.
- Use this as the basis for building your connection.
If you’re a people person, you know the first step to getting to know someone else is to ask about their interests, occupation, and goals. You can gauge what a person is like from these traits and then decide if this is someone worth getting to know on a deeper level. Also – check out their body language. Often times, you can tell whether someone is interested in what you have to say just by the way their body is positioned or if they look you in the eyes. I like to do this and see how uncomfortable I can make someone. Just kidding. But not really.
- You’ll perfect your communication skills.
Practice makes perfect. The more you talk with others, the less frightening it’ll become to strike up a convo with a stranger in the future. You won’t be a stuttering robot and the words will just flow naturally. You’ll be working the room before you know it.
Use these skills the next time you’re faced with a small talk situation. And don’t be “that guy” that talks about the weather.