Locking eyes with someone across the room and thinking of the words you might fumble over can be a nerve racking experience. Some people can sail through the small talk, while others need a little helping hand. But’s that okay, it’s a skill that needs fine tuning, practicing and perfecting, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not the best right now. We’ve got some simple tricks of the trade to help you in any social situation…
Always have three topics in mind
Before you start a conversation with someone, always have a handful of topics in mind to talk about. It’s best to stick to safe and simple topics that most people will have in common. Weather, sports, news, work and hometown are just a few topics that will get the conversation flowing. If you are meeting someone for the first time, it’s probably best not to talk about sensitive topics like politics, finance, religion and relationships straight away.
Ask open-ended questions
Most people enjoy talking about themselves, so once you’ve exhausted your safe topics, you can then move onto questions. Always try and avoid boring questions that require a yes or no answer; this just begs an awkward silence.
Instead, ask open-ended questions like: “What do you enjoy most about your current job?” If you’re speaking to someone particularly tricky, dazzle them with a two-option question so they can elaborate more. Like: “Did you get the train here or did you drive?” These types of questions offer multiple follow-up options – smart eh?
Remember to talk less and listen more
As a general rule of thumb, one of the best ways to master small talk is to talk less. Crazy right? But seriously, it’s true. If you let the other person lead the conversation it not only gives you time to breathe, it shows you are genuinely interested and are listening to what the other person is saying rather than asking questions for the sake of asking.
Put people at ease
If you try too hard it can become painfully obvious. The aim is not to impress, but to put the other person at ease in your company. Once a person relaxes, the conversation will flow - just don’t attempt to preach or teach!
Smiling sounds like such a simple concept but when nerves get the better of you, all good logic goes out the window. Smiling gives a welcoming impression and makes people feel like they can talk openly with you. Whether it’s an old client, colleague or a potential business connection – don’t forget to bring you game face aka smiling face.
Try and avoid overthinking the conversation as it might result in you missing cues during your conversation. An important part of an exchange is searching for cues and learning to respond appropriately.If you’re having a conversation with someone but their eyes are flitting around room, it might be time to wrap up the conversation or change topic. On the flipside, you may find the conversation is goingsmoothly, with all smiles and eye contact and you know you can delve deeper into conversation.
Wrap things up
Regardless if the conversation is swimming or sinking, always thank someone for their time and be sure to say goodbye. You may have no intention of ever seeing that person again, but you don’t know who that person is well connected with, so it’s always important to be polite and leave on a positive note.
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