If you’re an introvert, you know the challenge of small talk all too well. It’s not that you don’t like people, you just prefer one-on-one interactions or larger groups where you can hide in the back and observe. Small talk feels like a waste of time when you could be doing something more productive or interesting.
But here’s the thing: small talk is a necessary evil. It’s the grease that keeps the wheels of social interactions moving. You can’t avoid it forever, and you shouldn’t want to. Small talk is how you make new friends, build relationships, and expand your social circle.
And it doesn’t have to be painful. If you approach small talk with the right mindset, you can actually enjoy it. Here are a few tips:
1. Embrace the awkwardness.
Small talk is inherently awkward. It’s two people trying to make conversation when they have nothing in common. Embrace the awkwardness and use it to your advantage. Don’t take yourself too seriously and be willing to laugh at yourself. The more comfortable you are with the awkwardness, the easier small talk will be.
2. Ask open-ended questions.
One of the best ways to keep a conversation going is to ask open-ended questions. These are questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. They require a more detailed response. For example, instead of asking “Do you like tennis?” you could ask “What’s your favorite tennis player?” or “What was your most memorable tennis match?”
3. Be a good listener.
The best way to make small talk is to be a good listener. Pay attention to what the other person is saying and ask follow-up questions. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Really listen and engage in the conversation.
4. Find common ground.
One of the quickest ways to build rapport is to find common ground. It could be something as simple as a shared love of coffee or a shared hatred of traffic. Look for things you have in common and use them to keep the conversation going.
5. Keep it light.
Small talk should be light and breezy. Avoid controversial topics or anything that might make the other person uncomfortable. Stick to safe topics like the weather, current events, sports, or TV shows.
6. Take the lead.
If you’re feeling shy or introverted, it’s okay to take the lead in the conversation. Ask the other person questions and steer the conversation in a direction you’re comfortable with. The goal is to make the other person feel comfortable and relaxed, not to interrogate them.
7. End on a high note.
When you’re ready to end the conversation, do so on a positive note. Thank the other person for their time and say something like “It was nice talking to you.” This will leave them with a positive impression of you and make them more likely to want to talk to you again in the future.
Small talk might not be your favorite thing in the world, but it’s a necessary skill to have. By following these tips, you can make small talk work for you.