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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Social Situations and Small Talk

As humans, we are frequently required to attend a whole host of social functions where we are required to interact with groups of strangers. Most of us could use some help in such social situations.

Wouldn't it be nice become a better conversationalist in the art of small talk?

In a previous post, "First Impressions", the importance of making a good first impression was highlighted. This was followed up with the post "How to Make a Great First Impression" where we looked at some tips on how to achieve this.

In this post, we will be exploring the next step in socializing which is making the art of making small talk.

What is small talk?

It is an easy going, light hearted and casual conversation about everyday happenings. It deals with general topics and everybody should be able to participate in the conversation.

How do you begin?

Well, asking a question is always a great place to start. Ask open ended questions which trigger a response. Alternatively, you could always make a statement, state a fact or give an opinion.

Here are some dos and don'ts of small talk.

Do talk about

- Business
- Situation
- Travel
- Background
- Food
- Sports
- Cars
- Movies
- Entertainment
- Hobbies

Avoid talking about

- Religion
- Politics
- Personal Questions (age and income)
- Appearance
- Race
- Inappropriate Jokes

Here are some things you could do to be better at engaging in small talk

Practice Practice Practice:

Engage in conversation with people whom you come across, be it cashiers, waiters, people you're in line with, come across or encounter, be it neighbors, co-workers or even kids.

Chat with people dissimilar to yourself, from seniors to teens to tourists. Force yourself to get into small talk situations. Accept invitations, or even host your own very own meeting or gathering.

Be Well Read and More Involved:

How do expect to contribute to and be involved in a conversation if you are ignorant of the issues? Television, music, sports, fashion, art and poetry are great topics for everyday conversation. Everything is a source of information that can be discussed. Noticed that the people most skilled in conversation usually have an opinion for most topics.

Even if you don't like something, that too can be an interesting source for a conversation. Expand your horizons. Try japanese food, play pinball, paint, or even bake a pie. Try something new every day.

Become a Better Listener:

Listen more than you talk. Attentive listening can bring up many opportunities for making small talk. Did she just say that she suffers from migraines? Did he mention his favorite football team? Take your time during introductions. Make an extra effort to remember the other person's name names and use it frequently.

Remember, the more you practice, the better you are at it. The more you know, the more you know you can talk about. The more you listen, the more you can focus on the other person's interests. This will help you become more confidence, overcome any traces of shyness and any feelings of fear.

Small talk can and is a huge challenge for most people. However, some preparation and confidence is all that you require to be successful at it. A skilled small talker will come across being more friendly and open, as compared to a person who does not say much during social situations.

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Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog. I have blogmarked you. From personal experience I can tell you that starting small talk and sustaining it is an art. Information in your blog is a great help.

Patricia Rockwell said...

All great ideas! I would also add--"Ask questions!" It goes along with listening and most people love to be asked questions. Just keep the questions about the topics you list as appropriate.

Unknown said...

very good and helpful! i have never been told about the using of peoples names i will have to do that more often!

Interpersonal Communication Skills said...

Listening more at the start is actually very useful. Most of us tend to think that we need to speak more at the start in order to impress.. which may not be true always.