The Art of Small Talk
Do you hate going to networking events for the sole fact that you don’t quite understand how people engage in small talk? Some people are just naturally “talkers” while others are naturally quiet. Below are a few tips on how to employ small talk into your daily conversations with close friends or complete strangers.
Go into the conversation with a positive attitude. When you go into a conversation with a positive attitude, that positivity and happiness shows. The other party will be more inclined to continue talking with you, because you are enjoying the conversations. Another step is to stay positive. If you go in with a positive attitude and then start to lose interested, it will show. If you do become uninterested, try to make the conversation more interesting. Or, if you want to end the conversation, do so politely.
Names are important, so try your best to remember them. Bring them up in the conversation; think of someone you know that has the same name; think of something related to their name that you can remember when seeing them--all are good ways to learn and retain people’s names. Think of how great it feels when someone you just met calls you by name. Plus, it creates more of a connection if you are able to remember someone’s name.
Start the conversation; discuss the weather, the setting, the food. Always remember that networking is a great way to meet new people and get your foot in the door for companies in which you may be applying for. The more people you know at a company, the better your chances are of obtaining that position. Another way to keep the conversation going is to avoid “one-word answer” questions. This means any question that can be answered with “yes” or “no” should be avoided, unless you have follow-up questions. Questions that require an explanation or story to answer will keep the conversation going much longer than “yes” or “no” questions. For example, if you ask, “did you go to college?” the answer could be simply “yes” or “no.” But if you ask, “what was your college experience like?” They can’t answer with just “yes” or “no,” they have to go in more depth to answer the question which creates a stronger conversation. This leads me to my next point.
Avoid controversial or uncomfortable topics
Avoid topics that are always in the news or have two strongly opposing views. Starting a conversation with topics like these can create a strong potential for a failing conversation. Most people have their personal views on all issues and bringing one up right away, especially if both parties have opposing views, may lead to dislike or a rash judgment of the other person. These are sensitive topics that probably shouldn’t be brought up until you’ve known the person for a while. Some examples of controversial topics include: politics, religion, immigration, gun control, death penalty, etc.
The best way to get to know someone is by asking them questions. Have them explain something using a personal experience or story. In the beginning of the conversation, you can start with simple questions, but as the conversation evolves, so should your questions. Open-ended questions are able to bring the conversation into a deeper, richer territory. You will learn more about the person and they will learn more about you. All they have to do is return the favor and ask you questions. And if they don’t pause when talking about themselves, casually add something about yourself, when appropriate.
Remember, silence isn’t bad
Just because neither parties are talking, doesn’t mean the conversation is over. People need time to think, especially if asked a profound or deep-thought provoking question. They are thinking of how they want to reply and come across. Silence could also be a good thing because maybe their thinking of how they want to reply in an effort to interest or intrigue you. They could be so interested in you or the conversation that they don’t want to answer incorrectly or leave you with a negative impression. Even though a silent moment may seem like a long time, they usually are not. You’re just giving them an opportunity to think about the question or statement and develop an answer or opposing view.
If you are still struggling on figuring out what to talk about, check out this list of 48 questions!
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