Why do we all need small talk in our daily lives? According to researchers at the University of Michigan, determined that social interaction such as a ‘get-to-know-you’ conversation can help you focus, plan, prioritise and organise. Most of all, small talk makes us feel better through daily interaction with casual acquaintances like your neighbour as it can contribute to feelings of belonging and happiness. Overcoming the awkwardness of speaking to a stranger is not easy, but following these simple tips will turn your daily mundane routines into an opportunity to make meaningful connections.
1. Make eye contact
When you make eye contact, you establish a subconscious connection with the other person. This can help promote a feeling of trust, which will make small talk easier for both sides. If you are not good at making eye contact, try to imagine a triangle on the person’s face that surrounds their eyes and mouth. Shift the location of your gaze every 5 to 10 seconds from one point on the triangle to another.
2. Ask alternatives to classic questions
Ask questions that allow people to determine the focus of the conversation. This will lead to a more open dialogue. Ask about family, occupation, recreation and dreams to help you avoid sensitive topics like religion and politics. Here are some examples:
- I am going to visit my parents this weekend. Where do your parents stay?
- I just got bought tickets for tonight’s showing. What kind of movie genre did you like to watch?
- Sometimes I work from home. Where do you work?
- I am thinking about a family trip this upcoming school holiday. Are you planning any trips this year?
3. Be an active listener
Being an active listener to what your conversation is saying can help make small talk easier and more natural for both sides. Try to focus on keywords and phrases, use them to picture what people say in your mind. At times, restating something you’ve heard in your own words shows that you are paying attention and can prompt the other person to keep speaking. Here are some examples:
- You said you were going to Singapore this year, didn’t you?
- Did you say you are active in long-distance running?
- What was that joke you said about your boyfriend?
4. Use your body to communicate
You can often convey more with your body language than with the tone of your voice and actual words. Positive body language will show you are interested in a conversation. Make sure to position your body so it’s facing the other person during conversation. Keep your arms at your sides, uncrossed and lean in slightly. Your current setting can also be something both you and your conversation partner can share. Take this opportunity to establish a longer conversation.
5. How to make a graceful exit.
When it’s time to end the conversation, use the phrase “I need.” This takes the burden of ending the conversation of your partner’s shoulders and indicate that you are not leaving because you are bored. Examples of closing lines:
- You will have to excuse me. I am dying to get a glass of water.
- I am sorry but I need to make a move. My client just arrived, and he will be wondering where I am.
- This has been great but, I need to get something to bite. I shouldn’t have skipped lunch.
Small talk doesn’t have to be stressful. By following these simple tips and preparing a few questions in advance, you will be ready for any situation whether it’s talking to new coworkers, or chatting with fellow pedestrians on the streets.
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You Jing is a content writer who writes career and lifestyle contents to inspire job seekers and employers alike on their journey to work-life balance, empowerment and transformation in their career path.
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