Becoming a skilled conversationalist is something a lot of people strive for. It will help you be more like, and many people will go to you because they know they’ll have a good conversation with you.
On the path to acing conversations, you have to be able to ace small talk. Small talk will be the one thing under your belt that will prevent awkward lulls or silences in your conversation.
What Is Small Talk?
Small talk is the easy and light-hearted beginning of most conversations. It is casual and something you can say to just about anyone. Small talk should not be deep or personal. The goal is to create an easy start to the conversation to help you lead into more personal territory.
Why Is Small Talk Useful?
Small talk is essential to many conversations and can be very useful for everyone.
If you approach someone and can tell that they are angry or just had a tense moment, small talk is the key to easing the circle of tension that surrounds them. It is casual enough to break their angry thoughts, and lead them onto a different topic that isn’t personal or offensive in any way.
Even if you know someone pretty well, it is common for lulls in any conversation to happen. As the silence grows, things can feel a little icy or weird. To break that ice, you can bring up some small talk that will smooth things over. And then you can carry on the conversation as if nothing happened.
It takes up time.
Small talk is a great way to distract yourself if you are stalling someone or just waiting around. The great thing about small talk is that you can use it on strangers, which is commonly accepted in our society. So if you are waiting in a long line and don’t want to count the seconds on the clock anymore, try turning to the person behind you and engaging in a light and casual conversation.
Perfect to use when you first meet someone.
When you meet someone for the first time, things can be a little awkward. You may both be shy or nervous, and it leads to an unsettling silence. To push past that silence, you can come up with some small talk. That way, you are at least talking to this new person without pushing any boundaries or saying something you may regret later.
A way to learn little details about someone.
Although small talk is known to be very casual and not personal in any way, there are still things you can learn about people when engaging in this type of conversation. Those little details can go a long way when you remember them and bring them up later on, as your friendship grows.
Helpful for people lacking conversation skills.
Some people will never be conversational masters, and that is okay! Learning how to be successful with small talk is important because it is the one thing you can always rely on, especially if you struggle with other forms of conversation. So instead of spreading all of your energy, focus it on becoming really skilled with small talk in conversations.
Examples of Small Talk
“The weather is so nice today.”
A simple statement about the weather could spark a nice conversation about temperature and preferences for the seasons.
“How are you?”
Although you may just receive a “good”, and then them asking you the same, it is a wonderful greeting and a good way to start things.
“Have you gone to that store?”
Maybe you are downtown, and pointing at different stores. Instead of walking in silence, you could converse about what kind of stores you enjoy going to, and what they are like in the town that you are in. Small talk is all about light fillers being added in as you go.
“What are you up to?”
Maybe you are passing by and are curious about what they are doing. Most people enjoy talking about themselves, so they will receive this question happily. And then you will get to learn something new about someone.
“How is your family?”
Maybe you know the relatives, or you are talking to an old friend that you were close with years ago. Either way, asking about their family is sweet and shows that you care about everyone’s well-being. It will also cause you to appear to be more thoughtful.
“Are you still dating…?”
This one is slightly more personal but definitely an innocent question. It is safest to ask this when you’ve recently seen the couple post on social media, so you are much more sure that they are together. And if they say yes, you can then ask them more questions about the person they are dating. They will probably light up and be happy to talk about them because it is the person they love.
“Did you hear the news today?”
Pop culture and hot news are a great form of small talk, because it is like gossip, but about people you don’t know. Maybe something tragic happened, and you can both discuss how horrified you are. Either way, you can spend a lot of time just talking about the news without things getting too serious.
“I love your shirt!”
Light compliments will always do well. Everyone wants to feel good about themselves, so a compliment will go a long way for most. It is also a great way to open into asking them where they got it or if there are any other colors.
“Isn’t it lovely here?”
Whether you are touring a beautiful city or walking through the park, a positive comment is always a great form of small talk. You can start a small conversation about the beauty of the area you are in, all while keeping things very positive and happy.
How to Get Better at Small Talk
Perfecting your small talk skills will take a while. But the best way to get better is to practice. Talk to strangers, talk to friends, and talk to acquaintances. Do everything you can to try out your small talk ideas with everyone you know or don’t know. You may mess up a few times, but you can only get better from where you are.
And if you are nervous about approaching someone new, try practicing in front of a mirror or you can try using a chat line to talk to someone you most likely will never meet. The more comfortable you can be with your words, the more successful you will be in public. Try reading out each saying that you would personally use in a light conversation, and see how easily the words flow out. Try it again and again until you feel fully comfortable and confident with the things you are saying.
When to Avoid Small Talk
Although small talk is great for the beginning of most conversations, there are some times where you might want to avoid it.
During deep conversations.
If you get someone to open up about their bad relationships with their family, it would be a horrible time to ask them about the weather. It is best to focus on what they are talking about and provide an active listening ear, instead of coming up with what you are going to say next.
If you’ve made someone angry, it is too late to save it with small talk. You will need to get yourself out of that hole before bringing things to a lighter mood. If you try to utilize small talk during an argument, you will probably anger that person more and put yourself in a much worse position than you started in.
After a tense conversation.
If someone just broke up with you, and you are both feeling sad or down, things will probably be very tense. If things are tense between the two of you, small talk will only make things worse. Sometimes silence is okay, and it would be the wrong moment to try to fill the silence with light-hearted conversation.
Learning how to use small talk to your advantage will take you a long way in your conversations. Once you can pull off small talk without making anything awkward, you’ll be able to truly master it. Small talk is all about practice and positivity.
It is important to accept and learn that some people do not want to talk to you. Some people are full of negative energy and do not enjoy engaging in small talk with strangers. You may not ever know or understand what is going on in their life, so there may be a reason why they come off as bitter or rude.
Small talk won’t work for everyone, but the odds are in your favor. Harnessing this strategy will be great for your conversation practices. And it will make you more likable to both your peers and the strangers you come across. Being good at this type of conversation will bolster your confidence and increase your conversational skills all at once.