We’ve all been there. You’re attending an event and the worst thing happens to you – you are left alone standing next to an unfamiliar face with nothing to do except make small talk.
Making small talk with total strangers is one of those notoriously awkward, yet ever-present realities of being a fully functioning adult. Throughout your entire adult life, you will encounter situations that require you to make small talk: weddings, work events, your S.O.’s cousin’s graduation party.
Whether you like it or not, small talk is not going anywhere, so instead of dreading it, embrace it and get creative with it. Here are five ways to make small talk more interesting.
#1 Adjust your attitude
First of all, if you tell yourself making small talk with people is just the worst, then it is going to continue to be just be the worst. Before you do anything, check yourself and make an attitude adjustment. Simply changing your attitude and how you present yourself to people can make a big impact on your small talk experience.
#2 Avoid surface-level questions
The difference between small talk and a genuinely engaging conversation could be as simple as asking deeper, more meaningful questions so individuals can give answers that reflect their authentic selves.
Move past surface level topics like the weather, last night’s big game or the latest news events and take it one step further by asking questions like, “What is one thing going on in your life that you are really excited about right now?” or “What is one good thing that happened to you this past week?” Realizing everyone probably has more to say and share is just a matter of asking more meaningful questions in order to move past the surface-level bullsh*t.
#3 Ask more questions, then ask more questions
We’ve already established small talk can be routine, which is why many of us usually ask general questions with generic answers. For example, “How are you this evening?” “Good, thanks. You?” “Good.” Snooze…No real impact is truly made with this type of small talk, but by asking more meaningful questions (please see point one above) you can easily make small talk more interesting, but it doesn’t stop there.
When you ask more interesting questions, make sure you continue to ask questions that lead to more questions. For example, “Where are you from?” Then follow it up with another question like, “What was it like growing up there?” Whenever you feel the conversation getting stale, just keep asking more questions. Most people enjoy talking about themselves, so keep the questions coming and the conversation will most likely continue as well
#4 Be present
How many times do you find yourself participating in “small talk” by nodding your head in agreement, but internally you are screaming, “Get me the heck out of here!” When it comes to small talk, don’t just stand there awkwardly sipping your drink as you hatch an escape plan. Instead, bring a little life to the conversation.
Most people barely put in any effort when it comes to making small talk, and it can definitely show. Avoid viewing small talk as something you can be reactive with and instead, be proactive, positive, present and engaged throughout the entire conversation.
#5 Go rogue
If you are on the receiving end of someone starting to make small talk with you, and they decide to go the general route by asking a basic question, follow up with a not so generic answer. For example, when someone asks “How are you?”, you can respond with “somewhere between better and best,” or if you are going for a good chuckle, “Holy crap! You can see me?!” (Hey, it made me laugh).
Even if you are feeling awful, avoid turning this small talk into a therapy session (I know it can be tough). You can still respond with a not-so-generic answer, which will get their attention and build a more interesting conversation moving forward.
Small talk doesn’t have to be horrible. Simply apply these five tips the next time you are left standing alone next to that totally random stranger at the appetizer table and see how it goes. Hey, you never know the connections you could make by elevating your small talk game!
Do you have any techniques that you like to employ when it comes to making small talk? If so, please tell us @asweatlife