We dread small talk but we don’t have to. Transform small talk into a welcome opportunity with these tips.
You dial into a conference call right on time. It’s just you and another person on the line, and you’re waiting for two more. Your anxiety rises, and you bring up the weather to fill the silence. “Is it spring yet in Chicago? Here in New York…” it feels fake and forced. Despite your best intentions, you feel trapped by small talk. That’s no way to start any interaction!
Most people despise small talk but I think it gets a bad rap. We don’t want to feel inauthentic. We are not comfortable with silence. We feel pressure to make the interaction work, when in reality, that’s a two person job. How can we feel more in control of these interactions without avoiding them all together?
For introverts especially, it’s essential to transform small talk from a dreaded nuisance to an opportunity to begin a new relationship—even if it’s one that only lasts for 30 seconds.
Here are tips to avoid feeling inauthentic when faced with small talk:
Think Up Topics
Whether you’re heading into a networking event or a wedding, it’s likely you’ll be chatting with someone new. Think of a few relevant topics you can bring up if you feel cornered in an interaction. What new TV shows are you watching, or are you taking a trip sometime soon? People love to talk about themselves so ask questions and go beyond the weather.
“It’s Not You…”
We feel pressure to perform in small talk situations. Reframe the experience and make it all about the person you’re talking to. Focus on making them feel comfortable. Make eye contact and remember their name. Remember that if you’re uncomfortable so are they. Practice getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable and less afraid of silence.
Make an Exit
The interaction will not last forever (promise!) and it’s okay for you to decide that it is over. Rather than making up an excuse to go to the other side of the room—and then avoiding that person until the end of the night—make a solid exit. “It’s been nice talking to you—I hope you enjoy the rest of the event” is acceptable and respectable when the time has come. It shows you value the interaction and the time spent together and gives you an out as well.