Small talk can be difficult. If you’re introverted, shy, or you feel uncomfortable in a room full of strangers at a party or conference it can quickly become a stressful situation. Sometimes you will stand in silence and try to avoid eye contact just so that you don’t have to make conversation.

Luckily for you, there’s a technique to help guide you through these awkward moments and help you to build an initial conversation so that you can try to establish relationships for the future.

The FORM small talk trick

F.O.R.M stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Money. The idea is that these 4 topics can open up a conversation easily and help you to discover more about the person with whom you are talking. That way you can delve into topics of conversation that involve shared interest topics. Generally speaking, people like to talk about their life. They feel more important when you are asking questions about them — and it helps to keep the conversation flow. This, in turn, makes them feel more at ease and relaxed.

Let’s break down the F.O.R.M. acronym, shall we?

  • F-amily: Do you have kids? Where is your family from? How long have you lived around here? Then you can elaborate and tell them about yours.
  • O-ccupation: What do you do for a living?  What is that like?  Have you always been a scuba diving parachutist? You can compare notes about the similarities and differences in your jobs.
  • R-ecreation: What do you do for fun?  How long have you been involved in birdwatching? Ask them what they do outside of work for fun. Sports, hobbies, favourite website, TV shows, movies…find out what you have in common.
  • M-oney:  What happened with the price of gas? How do you think the new liquor store laws will shake out? Anything that is current news and falls into neutral territory is fair game.

The beauty of F.O.R.M. is that it can be adapted to your needs because you can change what it stands for. Alternatives could be “motivation” instead of “money”; the discussion can then shift away from finance. “Media” is another alternative — you can talk about what’s happening in the media world.

In fact, you could change any of the 4 topic areas. O could be for Olympics (especially if an Olympic Games will be happening soon), or R could be reading, where you could talk about what you’ve read recently.

You should be able to have a great initial conversation around these 4 questions — and, of course, these same questions can be revisited again in the future to form the basis of future conversations.

(Update: Now that you can start a conversation try these tips to keep the conversation going)

Featured photo credit: Two friends enjoying a chat and a hot drink together via Shutterstock

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