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8 Fabulous Tips To Help With Small Talk

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8 Fabulous Tips To Help With Small Talk

“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 November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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