For introverts, the art of small talk is persistently elusive and truly tough to master. Nevertheless, it’s important to learn how to make small talk since the ritual can often go a very long way. Indeed, what seems trivial at first can prove quite fruitful down the road, when your superficial banter becomes a business opportunity, long-lasting friendship, or romantic encounter. So goes our complex anthropology, which probably won’t change until we’re uploading ourselves into avatars and hanging out in virtual reality lounges. Even then, we’ll be engaging in small talk. Deal with it.
Of course, you can’t foster potential relationships with casual acquaintances or total strangers when you don’t know how to make small talk in the first place. Enter our trusty guide, which might be viewed as a primer on the art of small talk for introverts. Use the following small talk advice to turn awkward exchanges into lasting impressions, or at the very least as a way to engage in casual banter without losing yourself to stress and anxiety. But first: what is small talk anyway?
What is Small Talk?
From weddings to happy hours to pretty much anything in between, humans are always finding ways to socially interact with one another. As you’re aware, most of these social situations aren’t exactly ripe for intense debates, nor are they the place to share your innermost desires and struggles. There has to be a certain amount of shallow dialog that fills the void, allowing humans to connect on a superficial level. This is exactly where small talk comes in, and it exists between co-workers, close friends, romantic partners, and complete strangers alike.
Even during small talk, however, humans are picking up all sorts of verbal and non-verbal cues. As such, there is a certain amount of genuine chemistry at play and we mean that in the most literal sense. That makes the art of small talk an important one to master amongst introverts, who are often resistant to both superficial exchanges and social interactions in general. Which brings us to the question of the day: how does one make small talk in this modern world?
How to Make Small Talk
If you’re an introvert with a low tolerance for filler, we won’t press your patience any further. Here are 10 tips on how to make small talk.
1. Stay Relaxed
You might think that most small talk is downright pointless, but here’s another take: you only find it pointless because it induces so much anxiety. In turn, you avoid the practice to avoid feelings of dread and nervousness. Hence, our first tip is to remember that your own reactions to small talk might be part of the problem.
Upon this realisation, try to relax a bit. Take deep breaths. Don’t forget that you have an individual perspective and interesting things to say. And when all else fails, ask yourself: “what’s the worst that can happen here?” The answer is usually as trivial as the small talk itself.
2. Listen With Your Whole Body
Here’s a piece of small talk advice that will take you far in life: if you don’t feel overly comfortable talking, focus on listening instead. As you might soon discover, there are plenty of other people who will happily pick up the baton and run their mouth for minutes on end.
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All you need to do is give someone your full attention and you’ve become integral to the entire conversation. Heck, in some scenarios, simply being a good listener will make you stand out from the pack. That said, you don’t want to be mute so proceed with a little tact. For all you introverts in the dating game, use this pointer wisely.
3. Approach with Intent
Life is what you make it, as the saying goes, and so is small talk. If you walk into the room thinking every conversation you have will seem pointless, then guess what? Every conversation you have will seem pointless. On the other hand, if you think of every conversation as the potential springboard for something meaningful, then so it shall be.
4. Be Curious
We’ll keep this one brief: the more interested you are in what someone is saying, the more interesting you might seem to that same someone. Capice?
5. Be Inquisitive
Again, when you’re learning how to make small talk, there’s no harm in letting someone else do most of the heavy lifting (if they’re an extrovert, they won’t mind). Bring out your inner inquisitor by asking questions like “Have you seen any good movies lately?” or “Got any favourite places to eat around here?” or even just “How are you doing?” They’ll have thoughts and opinions and so will you. Just remember: there is such a thing as being too inquisitive.
6. Add Details to Your Responses
Should you want to keep the conversation flowing, remember to fill in details. Don’t just tell someone where you ate last night, tell them what you ate and how it tasted. Did anything else happen over the course of the evening? Was the waiter funny? How was the ambiance? How did you hear about the place and why did you go there? This is the art of small talk.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Go Deep
Open-ended questions can help turn small talk into deep talk. For example, when someone tells you they’re favourite movie, ask in return: “What did you like about it?” If someone tells you where they’re from, ask: “What was it like growing up there?” Without seeming too intrusive, these simple questions can subconsciously elicit meaningful information and interpersonal trust.
8. Read the Cues
During any given conversation, people give off all sorts of verbal and non-verbal cues. If it looks like someone is losing interest in the subject at hand, then change the subject. On the flip side of that coin, when someone gets passionate, keep adding proverbial fuel to the fire.
9. Don’t Check Your Phone
This small talk advice pretty much explains itself, but we’ll spell it out for you: if you’re checking your phone, then you’ve checked out of the conversation. You can figure out the rest.
10. Don’t Punish Yourself
Introverts are prone to introspection, during which mountains get made out of molehills. If the interaction goes south in some way, don’t punish yourself over it. Instead, determine where things went wrong and learn from the experience. If you were talking with an extrovert, then rest assured that they’ve moved on and so should you.
Starting small talk can be as simple as asking someone how they’re doing or where they’re from. Next, move onto open-ended questions such as what it was like growing up in their hometown.
Small talk is a gateway to something more meaningful, and we don’t recommend skipping over it. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, start small.
Asking questions and listening to answers is a great place to start when learning how to master the art of conversation. When talking, remember to pepper in details and stay away from one or two-word responses.
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