Advertising
Advertising

8 Fabulous Tips To Help With Small Talk

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.

Advertising

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?

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience 20 Little Signs You’ve Found The One 8 Signs of a Man Who Will Never Ever Stop Loving You 8 Things To Remember When Dating Someone With A Guarded Heart 14 Signs You’re Not Drinking Enough Water

Trending in Communication

1 How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward 2 What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships 3 How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence 4 This 4-Year Old Girl’s Explanation On the Problem with New Year’s Resolutions Is Everything You Need 5 What You Really Need to Feel Secure in a Relationship

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

Advertising

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Advertising

1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

Advertising

5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

Advertising

If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next