How to be better at small talk.

Last updated Sep 14, 2021 | Communication

How to be better at small talk.

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Most introverts hate small talk, preferring deeper “more meaningful” conversations. Some introverts feel uncomfortable at the very thought of it, others avoid it. Here’s 10 tips to be better at small talk, especially if you’ve ever asked yourself ” what to do if you hate small talk”. You may also enjoy reading “why introverts hate small talk

Why bother?

It will help if you see a good reason for the smalltalk. Part of your preparation is to ask yourself why are you interested in that conversation?

If you can’t find a reason, it’s likely to feel fake and it’s hard to cover that up! Find your reason, which may be as simple as deciding if you want to get to know somebody better.

Read more articles on small talk - So you can feel more comfortable, if you need to. Click here.

How to be better at small talk

How to get good at small talk, or get better at it? Gradually refine your small talk skills (although you’re probably already good at it, you just don’t like it). As your skill increases so does confidence.

  1. Prepare: What can you find out about the others first? What questions could you ask? Thinking about subjects you could start conversations on, which other people might contribute to (a bit of planning the night before, news items, soccer scores, something that’s doing the rounds on Facebook) can help.
  2. Ask open questions. If your question can be answered in one word it’s a closed question and the pressure stays on you to keep the conversation going. Open question allows them to give longer answers.
  3. Ask questions. If you focus on asking the right questions (by listening) you don’t have to talk as much. If your thing about small talk is superficiality, ask deeper questions!
  4. It’s a conversation, not an interrogation. Don’t simply fire questions at the other person or give one word answers to them. Add something of yourself into the conversation. “Yes, I had a good weekend”, can become “I had a great weekend, fitted in some diving where I saw….”. If you’re moving the conversation to something you like it becomes easier to “chat”.
  5. Give something of yourself away. I know, you don’t like to open up until you know somebody and feel comfortable. But, logically introverts can’t get there unless we give something away, so the other person does too. What can you “plan” to give away, that doesn’t feel too personal? Even better if you like talking on the subject, so you can answer follow on questions. I talk about Scuba diving. Even writing that here is a little hook making it easier for you to engage me in conversation.
  6. Play to your strengths: Introverts are typically better listeners than extroverts. Use your listening skills to frame the powerful question that needs to be answered.
  7. Summarise: Your listening skills make you good at summarising, which adds real value to many conversations  and allows you to join in more easily. A summary also gives you a great chance to steer the conversation elsewhere, like something more meaningful.
  8. Don’t consider yourself antisocial, or worry about it, realise your strengths and focus on them. Some introverts worry about how they’re perceived. You’re not unfriendly, judgmental, aloof, snobby or conceited because you don’t get excited by small talk. Any dislike or nervousness you may feel is about your beliefs, not the situation itself.
  9. Don’t worry. Worrying about it will probably make you more tense, making the situation worse. You, and nearly half the population are introverts. Introverts can and do make great leaders/ managers/ sales people etc (all things we’re led to believe are extrovert roles).
  10. Improv, or space statements: It maybe that you’re worried about your internal processing time.  Learning improv skills (reacting in the moment) may help you create space while you process your thoughts. Or learn some phrases that give you a short space, even if it’s “let me come back to that”. In this episode of Activate Your Introvert, Micheal Dodd and I discuss phrases like this.

The parachute

Introvert parachuting away from small talk

Photo by Kent Weitkamp on Unsplash

Without being defeatist, your “people energy” may drain as your socialise, despite improving your small talk. If you know how you’ll escape before you start, you’ll feel less stressed – which will help the conversation. How will you escape the conversation, should you need to?

Small talk might never play to the natural preferences of an introvert, it can be meaningless and helps drain our energy levels.  However you can be better at smalltalk and improve your small talk skills.

Read more articles on small talk - So you can feel more comfortable, if you need to. Click here.


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