“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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm3.staticflickr.com