Small talk used to be really hard work for me. I never knew what to say, and I always worried about saying the wrong thing.
Then something awful happened to me…
I had to take a job dealing with the public. My worst fears came true, and I had to make small talk with a whole range of people each and every day.
I found it difficult, tedious, and nerve-wracking.
Eventually, after a lot of trial and error, I got the hang of it. And today I find it easy to do and even enjoyable.
You can do the same when you learn a few key distinctions:
1. Understand that the purpose of small talk is not to exchange information.
It is a game you play to find things you have in common with the other person.
Decide to be intensely curious about the other person and go fishing for what you have in common. When you are genuinely interested in other people they will respond positively to your questions and to the way you listen to what they have to say.
When you take the pressure off yourself to be a great conversationalist and become a detective searching for commonality the conversation tends to take care of itself.
Because people like people that are like them.
The more commonality you discover, the more the other person will like you and feel as if they have known you for some time.
This in turn causes the conversation to flow.
2. Give first to encourage sharing.
If all you do is ask questions the other person will feel as if they are being interrogated.
That is not the idea!
Be prepared to reveal something about yourself first without getting too personal.
By sharing first you are leading the way and cause the other person to feel obligated to return the favor.
Sharing and receiving in this way allows you to take charge of any conversation and to easily lead it where you want to go.
3. Aim to control the conversation.
If you can lead a conversation you can control it. You now know how to lead any conversation – give first and watch the other person respond.
Most people will follow your lead right away. If the person does not just move on to someone else.
Never shoot for 100% with people as it’s not a realistic goal. Life does not work like that.
The key to success with these distinctions is to use them, play with them, and then adjust them to suit you.
For the sake of 10-15 minutes a day, every day, you can progressively get better and better at making conversation.
It’s not rocket science. It’s just a matter of strategy – knowing it and using it.