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8 Fabulous Tips To Help With Small Talk

8 Fabulous Tips To Help With Small Talk
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“How about that weather out there?” “Wow, the Yankees sure blew it last night!” “Looks like someone’s got a case of the Mondays!”

If you cringed after reading that last line, congratulations! You’re a human being, after all. Small talk is one of the more monotonous events in life that we all secretly hate, but we all go through to put on a good show to the world around us. However, small talk doesn’t have to be so one-dimensional. You just need to put in some extra effort. No friendships were ever forged because someone agreed that you hate the rain. Dig a little deeper next time someone engages you in mindless chitchat.

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1. View everyone as a potential friend

If you saw your friend walking down the sidewalk, you’d be happy to see them. You’d engage in conversation about pretty much anything, and you’d be more than happy to do so. However, when a stranger engages you in menial conversation in the elevator, you probably feel a bit put off. Change your perspective. If you approach all conversations openly, you might end up enjoying small talk on some level.

2. Assume the best

Most people will only start talking to you if they’re welcoming and friendly. Why do we feel like it’s a such a hassle to talk to someone for two minutes while we both wait for a bus? The truth is, we’ve put up guards around ourselves to only let a select few people into our inner circle. By doing this, we inadvertently shut the door on so many other possible relationships. Even if you’ll never see the person next to you at the train station ever again, what’s the harm in letting down your guard and talking about nothing for a few minutes?

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3. Skip introductions at first

At parties, you probably feel like you have to introduce yourself to people you’ve never met before. Of course, you want to meet new people, or else you would have stayed home, but it really isn’t that important to know someone’s name right from the get-go. If your friend is talking to someone you’ve never met, and that person says something interesting that you feel you can chime in on, go for it. Don’t worry about the fact that you don’t know each other’s names. There will be time for that later. Think about it:

4. Focus on the conversation

Even if you’re feeling stuck in boring chatter, resist the urge to take out your phone and check your Facebook feed. First of all, you’re actions speak volumes about the type of person you are. Secondly, you never know when the other person might say something that will completely pique your interest. If you shut them down from the start of what seems to be a boring topic that doesn’t interest you, you might end up missing out on some insightful and intriguing information or knowledge.

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5. Make meaningful connections

There’s nothing wrong with taking stock of who you’re talking to (or who’s talking to you) and making a positive remark referring to something you notice about them. If someone is dressed to the 9s, tell them they’re looking sharp, or ask them what the occasion is. Chances are, something special is going on that they’d be more than happy to talk about. If they’re wearing a hat with your favorite team’s logo on it, give them a shout out (this really only works if you’re out of town, but it’ll make you both feel right at home for a short time). Basically, just make it clear that you genuinely care, and aren’t just using conversation to pass the time until something more meaningful comes up.

6. Be open and interested

Like I said before, it might be tempting to take out your phone or a book while waiting for a bus to give off the impression that you don’t want to be bothered. However, think of all the experiences you miss. Remember Forrest Gump? He’s literally telling his incredible life story to anyone willing to listen. Some people blow him off, but the ones that stick around have a story to tell themselves for the rest of their lives. You might not think you’re into whatever your neighbor is blathering on about, but if you take the time to listen to what they have to say, you might leave the conversation with a new hobby or interest.

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7. Be enthusiastic

Even if you’re not intrigued by someone’s life story, at least humor them. Is it really so torturous to let someone have the spotlight for a short period of time? Chances are, if someone is droning on and on to a stranger about something that’s only meaningful to themselves, it’s because they don’t have anyone else to talk to. Ask them questions, even if you don’t really care what the answer is. But listen anyway. How would you feel if you had something to tell the world and were met with blank stares everywhere you went? Pay it forward, and the next time something good happens to you, feel free to let everyone know about it.

8. Put yourself out there

For introverts, small talk is torturous because we’re not good at it. However, the only way to get better at something is to expose yourself to it as much as possible. Leave your headphones at home, and your phone in your pocket. Greet everyone you come across with a smile, and be the one who engages others in conversation. The worst that can happen is you’ll get shut down by some Gloomy Gus who isn’t open to new connections. The best that can happen is…well, you could meet your future best friend, or wife. You never know.

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Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm3.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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