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How To Make Small Talk With Anyone

How To Make Small Talk With Anyone

When meeting new people, do you know how to make small talk? Do you feel that’s the barrier keeping you from making friends and building a social life? Making small talk is in fact a great skill to have; it gives you access to pretty much anyone that you come across in a social setting.

In this article, I want to share some key pointers on how to make small talk and have great conversations.

It’s Way Easier Than You Think

What makes small talk an easy skill to learn is the fact that you can practice pretty much anywhere. You can practice with bartenders, waitresses, cab drivers, neighbors, etc. You can always be ready to talk a little longer with a random stranger, and take just small attempts at improving your small talk muscle.

As a rule of thumb, try to hold conversations for 5% longer than usual.

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Fortunately, you can only get better at it, and it stays with you for a very long time. You automatically start to adapt what you talk about and how you do it according to the social situations you’re in.

Learn To Go With The Flow

Making small talk is about being random and going with the flow. This means that it’s not a structured way to communicate.

The easiest way to start learning small talk is to realize that all topics of conversation are related. Every subject is related to every other subject, directly or indirectly. There is always a link between anything and everything else.

For example, if someone talks about what they saw on TV today, you can share what you saw recently on TV as well. If they’re talking about the news, you can talk about your favorite kind of news, even if it’s not directly related to what they just mentioned.

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As a rule of thumb, talk about what the last thought reminds you of. Don’t censor yourself too much…

The Enemy Of Small Talk Is Self-Censorship

Now that you know that all topics are linked, you can start practicing with people wherever you go.

A major block that won’t let you do that is a common tendency to avoid speaking your mind freely. See, if you only say things that are interesting, fun, original, funny, or impressive… you’ll run out of them very soon.

Instead of censoring yourself and ending up with nothing to say, give yourself more freedom to experiment with subjects you’re not used to addressing. You don’t have to be Miss or Mister amazing; all you have to do is get into a talkative mood.

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Now, should you talk about anything that pops in your mind? Well, if you have trouble making small talk, then I bet you’re very far away from the other extreme. I bet there are a lot of things around you, and ideas you have inside that you’re not allowing yourself to talk about.

I recommend that you break free from that excessive self-censorship and just talk.

Access The Magic Behind Small Talk

A great mindset I’ll leave you with here is the one where you understand the value of small talk and why you should learn it. The purpose of keeping conversations going is to build rapport, find things in common, and make people feel comfortable.

While it looks like some pointless chatter, small talk has real magic behind it. The value is in making people comfortable with you; it makes them open up to more meaningful conversations. If there is no small talk and no comfort, they keep their distance.

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If you want to achieve that faster, look for subtle commonalities, and focus on the things that you agree on with the person. This habit of finding common ground with someone you meet gives you the basis on which you can build great friendships.

Remember, the basis of friendship is commonalities. Make sure you look for them.

Best of luck.

More by this author

Paul Sanders

A communication expert who tries to help people improve their social skills and make friends anywhere.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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