If you are somewhat of an introvert you probably detest the idea of making small talk. But try as hard as you may it is not always possible to avoid small talk.
If truth be told, small talk often goes beyond the trivial chit-chat about weather and paves way for more meaningful discussions among individuals or a social group. It has been and will always remain an important part of social interaction.
As per a research small talk actually makes humans happy. This casual talk helps in building relationships and is the secret sauce behind networking. So if as an introvert you suck at small talk perhaps you could use some of these tips here.
What is Small Talk?
The definition of small talk depends on the situation. It may be used as a conversation filler to counter awkward silences between strangers, it could be an informal chat with your colleagues around the office corner, and it can be a conversation starter during social events and networking.
So you could say, small talk or the nature of it depends on the social environment you are in.
What is the aim of small talk?
What small talk does is it provides you with a window of opportunity to begin a conversation with another person.
After you begin this informal conversation you wait for the other person to respond or see whether they are interested in carrying on this conversation. Usually it doesn’t take long for anyone to understand if the other person is eager to warm up to you.
5 Best Small Talk Tips for Introverts
The real problem with being an introvert is not the conservation itself it’s that barrier of awkwardness when meeting new people and how to actually start a conversation. Most of wonder with questions like “what should I say”, “where do I even begin”, and so on.
Be open-minded: One of the reasons why introverts dislike small talk is due to the fact that it is often trivial conversation like for example a general observation about weather, whereas most introverts really like to dig deep into discussions.
So if you would like to brush up on your conversation skills you have to keep an open-mind about any sort of conversation, even that trivial weather talk.
View every small talk as an opportunity to learn something new and build new relationships. Think of it as a chance to meet new people. Who knows one new person you meet today may ending being your best friend down the line.
The advantage of listening: As introverts are keener on listening and observing than speaking it can be nice advantage for them to be active listeners in any conversation.
Most people love to speak about themselves and would love to have a person who is interested in what they say.
Suppose you are visiting someone’s home pay a nice compliment about it or you can speak about the furniture, a particular piece of home-décor. More often than not you will have your host recounting a nice story about the object of your attention.
This will also put less pressure on you to carry on the conversation, and you can attentively listen to that person and provide your insights wherever required.
Through this you are putting all limelight on the other person while being an excellent listener. Gradually you will gain a common ground or discover similar tastes to carry the conversation.
Here are a few tips to be an active listener:
- Nod your head occasionally to show interest in the conversation.
- Maintain a steady eye-contact with the speaker for most part of the conversation.
- Don’t interrupt when the other person is speaking.
- If you have any doubts or questions clarify during appropriate pauses.
- Be an emphatic listener and keep an open mind.
- Most people just want someone to listen without judgment. Listen to the other person fully before offering suggestions.
Break the Ice: Introverts find it difficult to begin a conversation. Being the first speaker in an unknown group is uncomfortable for them. Similarly speaking to new people is hard for them.
Most introverts are really good observers rather than talkers. They don’t necessarily dislike social situations or mingling with people, they just don’t know how to break the ice.
So in such situations especially if you have a networking event and you have to introduce yourself to an unknown group or a person, just calm down yourself by taking some slow deep breaths. You can just observe the group or that person for some seconds before approaching.
When you ready just say your name, the organization you are from or where you are from and then wait for the other party to respond.
It takes a few minutes to understand whether the other person is keen on continuing the conversation. But whatever the case give yourself credit for breaking the ice.
There’s Debra Fine’s “The Fine Art of Small Talk” which I cannot recommend enough for my introverted friends to hone up their conversation skills. Debra stresses on the necessity of small talk as an important life skill. She also mentions another very interesting thing that how small talk can lead to new opportunities you never would imagined; and it was possible now because you took time to listen to someone.
Challenge yourself: To become a pro at small talk or being a good conversationalist requires practice and more so when making small talk has never been your specialty.
The more you speak with people you hardly know the easier it will be for you to come out of your comfort zone. Make efforts to talk to colleagues, with your co-passengers when using public transport, with customers when you are standing in a coffee queue and so on. Find opportunities to talk to unknown people.
Explore known topics: When you meet someone new you practically know nothing about that person. So it’s best if you stick to some topics that most people love to talk about. Some of these topics are:
- TV shows
- Art & Culture
- Interests and hobbies
In addition, you can also ask open-ended questions which help in building up an interesting conversation. So simple questions which can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can be followed with open-ended ones like “ hey have you seen that TV show” followed by “what do you think about it” or “have you read that book “what is your opinion on that” and so on.
Some More Small Talk tips
- Refrain from asking personal question that might make the other person uncomfortable.
- Keep your body language relaxed during a conversation and also make the other person comfortable.
- When you are asking questions don’t be too push or aggressive.
- Give the other person full attention when they are speaking which means no scrolling through mobile phones. Not only it is disrespectful to the speaker it shows your disinterest in the conversation.
- When you are introducing yourself to someone you can and probably should always start with a smile. The good thing about smiling is it is so positive. A smile followed by a gentle ‘Hi’ is the best conversation starter.
- Don’t get disheartened or quick to judge someone if that person hasn’t warmed up to you as you hoped he would. Probably that person is also awkward and introvert like you are. Give yourself full marks for at least trying.
If you are an introvert like me I really hope you found these tips useful and practical enough. Would love to know your thoughts and suggestions on this one! Do share any additional tips if any.