10 Tips for Mastering Small-Talk

Do you have the gift of gab, or do you dread social engagements because you don’t like making small-talk? While small-talk is bordering on the frivolous, it’s an important skill to have. The ability to speak comfortably with strangers, coworkers, and casual acquaintances is valuable. It’s a great way to make new friends and maybe even find a new career opportunity.

These strategies will help you develop your gift of gab:

1. Be prepared. Have a few things to talk about beforehand. If you’re heading to a party or other social gathering, think of two or three things you can bring up as conversation topics. It could be something interesting that’s happening in your life or a current news item.

2. Be curious. Show that you’re interested and the other people will find you interesting. Pretend you’re a detective trying to find out more about the other person. Be curious and ask questions.

3. Ask the right questions. Avoid simple one-word-answer questions. These are questions like, “Where are you from?” or “What do you do for a living?” Instead, ask questions that require lengthier answers. Starting a sentence with “why” or “how” is a good bet. Get the other person talking and relax. Here are a few ideas:

* Would you rather work four 10-hour days or five eight-hour days?
* Are you reading any good books right now? I’d love some recommendations.
* Are there any foods that you absolutely would not eat?
* What’s the next trip you have planned?
* How would you spend your time if you didn’t have to work?

4. Be an excellent listener. You can become an amazing conversationalist by asking a few, good questions and giving your full attention to the other person. Hang on their every word and listen for all you’re worth. Maintain eye contact and give the impression that you’re fascinated with them.

5. Put your phone away. Studies have shown that participants in a conversation are less satisfied with the conversation if a phone was present. It didn’t matter if the phone was on the table and never touched! Keep your phone out of sight. You can check your text messages later.

6. Get lots of practice. One thing the world has plenty of is people. Use them to practice your small-talk skills. Whenever you’re out of the house, find an excuse to strike up a 2-minute conversation. You’ll be amazed by how quickly your skills and comfort grow.

7. Have reasonable expectations. One little chat is unlikely to lead to a great love affair, a promotion, or the most interesting conversation you’ve ever had. That’s good news! You can relax and enjoy the conversation for what it is – an enjoyable, low-stress, social interaction.

8. Be prepared with an escape. Many small-talk conversations die quickly. It’s not necessary to hang in there until the bitter end. Have a few escapes lined up in advance, such as:

* Allow me to introduce you to my friend, Karen.
* It’s been a pleasure. I have to say hello to a client.

9. Avoid oversharing. Talking about the weather is boring. However, talking about your child-custody battle with a stranger is sharing too much. Be interesting without making the conversation uncomfortable.

10. Keep moving. Enjoy yourself. If you’re not finding pleasure in a particular conversation, you’re free to move on to another. Bow out gracefully and look for greener pastures.

Small-talk skills require practice, but you have plenty of opportunities to gain experience. Seek out every opportunity to practice your skills. Small-talk skills can enhance your social life and your career. You might even learn to enjoy chatting with a stranger.