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7 Tips to Mastering the Art of Small Talk

I Hate Small Talk 

You might be wondering why I start off with such a negative attitude towards small talk

And this is why…

We’ve all been there.

You are stuck in an elevator with one other person, staring intensely at the elevator doors hoping they open soon to bring an end to this tension. 

You shakily bring up the cold and wet weather outside and how it will be nice to see the sun soon. 

The man merely agrees with a simple caveman-esque grunt and a little head nod but does absolutely nothing to contribute to the conversation.

There it is again, that dreadful silence.

You tell yourself to just accept the silence and wait, but it’s too late, you’ve already started rambling!

So you start racing to find another topic to bring up, your feeling yourself getting all hot and flushed. 

You begin tripping over your words, your talking fast and without proper sentences. 

You don’t know what your saying, it doesn’t even makes sense. 

You want to stop yourself. 

Must try to stop yourself. 

You know you sound ridiculous, but you can’t help it. You just keep babbling.

It’s like your mouth is falling down a long flight of stairs with no end in sight.

The doors finally open. 

Thank god!

You both exit as fast as you can and go separate ways. 

Hoping to never see him again because you are too embarrassed to think about it.

Okay, Okay 

This may be a slight exaggeration but I am trying to make a point. These situations used to always happen to me on a regular basis. I was totally guilty of forcing a conversation on people who really had no interest in speaking with me.

I was practically holding these people hostage, they were being held against their will to listen me! I desperately needed to practice the art of small talk.

There is so much more to small talk then we think but anyone can master it! Trust me, if I can then anyone can! Even the most shy and timid person can appear confident and intelligent with the right small talk.  With some practice and using some of these tips, we can all become better conversationalists!!

7 tips to Master the Art of Small Talk

1)    Be Genuine

Before you initiate a conversation, try to make them feel comfortable by being sincere. People always respond better when there is a genuine connection, whether you talk for one minute or an hour.

–    Smile. Before there is any conversation, be inviting. Do this with a real genuine smile. Please note that I am not talking about a big toothy grin but even a slight smile of the lips will do. Channel your mysterious side. Just whatever you do, be sincere because people can feel when you are faking it.

–    Eye contact. Look directly in their eyes, and if you feel incredibly awkward staring into other people’s eyes I suggest looking at the space between their eyes. It can be intimidating for some people to make eye contact, but, by looking in between their eyes they will still feel like you are making eye contact.

–    Open up your stance. You want them to feel that you want to talk to them. Angle your body towards them, uncross your arms, and don’t be fidgety.

Remember, the main objective is trying to make whoever you’re talking to as comfortable as possible.

2)    Starting the conversation

There are always the safe topics such as the weather, sports and traffic. These are always the go-to subjects but are quite boring and typical. It’s nice to surprise people with something different!

–    A book you have read:  “I’ve been really into (insert name of book) have you read it before?”
–    A new movie: “There’s a new movie,(insert name of movie), I’ve heard it was good.  Have you heard anything about it?
–     Vacation: “Any plans on going anywhere for vacation this summer/holidays/break?”
–    Food: “Have you heard anything about the new restaurant that opened up?”

The safe conversation starters?
Good ways to begin small talk conversations:
–    How is your day going so far?
–    How was your weekend?
–    Any plans for the weekend?
–    Any plans for tonight?
–    Any plans for (insert holiday)?
–    How was your (insert holiday)?
–    How’s everything going?
Try to ask more specific questions because it leads to a better answer than the generic one word answers like, good. This will help to keep a conversation going and not go stale.

Topics to avoid
–    Politics
–    Religion
–    Gossip (it might be nice to hear some juicy stories but it will only hurt you and your reputation)
–    Money (no one needs to know how much your house is worth or how much you make a year )

Everyone loves to talk about themselves, so when in doubt, just ask them questions about themselves. Don’t pry, just keep it light and let them do most of the talking.

3)    Reading Body Language and their Faces.

This one is very important because there are just people who don’t want to talk. Please from personal experience, don’t hold people verbally hostage. It is unnatural and is very awkward for everyone. That is why it is  imperative to be able to read people’s body language.

You can tell if someone doesn’t want to talk about a certain topic or just don’t want to talk if they:
–    Avoid eye contact
–    One word answers
–    Fast, snippy answers
–    Won’t look away from phone or won’t even look away from the floor
–    Crossed arms or body facing away from you
If you feel that they are giving off these vibes, then respect their wishes. Be polite and remain quiet.

Do not force a conversation!

4)    Become comfortable with silence

This one was the hardest one for me to do. I always hated silence, I felt like I needed to fill the quiet with some type, any type of conversation.

This only made it worse.

This sets you up to say things you don’t mean or that are not something you would usually say. Because of this I made the biggest faux pas!

I was so uncomfortable with silence, that I asked an elderly gentleman (had to be at least in his 70’s) what he was doing for his mom on Mother’s day!!

He kindly responded in a light and joking manner that his mother was no longer around, that it’s been 30 years!

How terribly embarrassing! Not only was I petrified but he was embarrassed for me. Was that better than silence, really…?

One thing I can say from personal experience, when there is nothing more to add to the conversation, just smile and make yourself look busy. But try not to look at your phone because it will look like you are bored with them.

If there is nothing you can do to keep busy, like in an elevator, be calm. Just be quiet and content with the silence.

Embrace the moment.

Silence speaks volumes.

5)    The old saying: Think before you speak

You’ve heard it a million times growing up. This is so very true in all aspects of life!

By taking a second or two to ask yourself  if this is what I want to or should say could prevent you from sounding stupid, mean, bitter, or anything you don’t want to convey.

Practicing this tip has helped me not make a fool of myself by talking just to talk, or saying something insensitive.
It also helps you to slow down. By calming down and speaking slowly really prevents you from rambling on about nonsense.

Unfortunately, this was me again. I would get overly excited about something or be incredibly nervous and the outcome was I would start to talk so fast and slur my words, people would ask me to repeat myself.  This always made me feel very self-conscious.

Just slow down, and think, is this how I want to be perceived? Is this really me?

6)    Ending the conversation on a great note!

Now you have practiced the tips, you initiated the conversation properly. Watched their body language, responded thoughtfully and genuinely. Now for the hail Mary! Ending the conversation with a bang! This is the last chance to make a great impression.

Be polite and with a real smile say:
–    “This has been a pleasure, have a great day.”
–    “Well, I hope you have a wonderful day.”
–    “Enjoy your weekend.”
–    “Have a good night.”

Even if you didn’t end up speaking to the person, be polite, make eye contact and say a sincere “Good bye”.

7)    If all else fails, accept your embarrassing moments, and move on!

Listen, it happens to the best of us, we all make mistakes. Just laugh about it and learn for the next time. Even the most composed and collected person has said something inappropriate at some point.

It’s how you bounce back that really matters, but isn’t that true for anything in life!

It is very important that  you don’t take anything personally! If you try talking to them and they are snippy or giving you attitude, realize it isn’t you. They may have had a terrible day, maybe they could be shy.

Don’t let it discourage you!

I hope these seven steps help you gain more confidence to become a better conversationalist! They still help me everyday to remain calm and carry on a good conversation.

Keep it elegant!

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