7 Steps to Becoming Really Good at Small Talk

Small talk can be awkward for a lot of us. I don’t know anyone who has told me they enjoy it or even don’t mind it so, at least we are all in the same boat.

It seems to pop up everywhere. I find myself making small chat at work, when I go out with a group of friends, and sometimes even at the gym (that’s the worst, it’s small talk + sweat).

What makes small talk awkward though isn’t just that you don't know what to say, it's knowing that the person you are talking to really isn’t that interested in you. There is something about it that is forced and fake which repels everyone.

But if you have ever spoken to someone who is really good at small talk then you know they put you at ease and you don't even realise you have been involved in small talk. It feels like you have had a conversation with an old friend who is genuinely interested in talking to you.

But you can learn to be good at small talk and practice makes perfect.

Small Talk Tips

Step 1 – Have Open Ended Conversation Starters

If you are feeling awkward about small talk, chances are so is the person you are talking to, so, take control of the situation. Go in armed with some basic conversation starters so you aren’t completely stumped when you bump into someone. Open-ended questions are great conversation starters i.e. questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. You could try:

How is Work?
How is your Family? (if you know them)
How did you find out about this event? / How do you know the host?
Where are you going on your next holiday? / What are your plans for the weekend?
You could also comment on the food / décor / the event

Step 2 – Be Positive

Make sure you stay positive. Stick to what you like rather than what you dislike.

Step 3 – Look Interested

I doubt you are standing there staring off into space (though this has happened to me) but showing some real enthusiasm when talking to someone really pays off. Small talk falls into the “social niceties” category, so people can’t help but think you don’t really want to talk to them and this stops conversations from flowing naturally. Try to show enthusiasm no matter how basic the conversation is so the other person knows you do want to be there.

Step 4 – Ask Questions

This is how you move away from small talk and onto having an actual conversation with someone. Rather than rattling through the go-to small talk topics, ask follow up questions that actually lead to more detailed and interesting conversations.

If they say they haven’t seen whatever TV show you've mentioned ask them what kind of shows they do enjoy watching, suggest other shows in that genre, talk about books you have read or follow on by asking them what other things they enjoy doing.

Step 5 – Look for Common Interests 

This helps you to relate to the person you are talking to. If you are chatting to someone and they mention something you are interested in, test the water, offer your own stories, see how interested they are in the topic. You could find a common interest. 

Step 6 – Show You Agree

If you want to build rapport with someone then you need to highlight your similarities. When you do agree, make sure it’s clear. 

Phrases like “You’re right…” and “I feel the same…” are simple ways of letting someone know you are both on the same page.

Step 7 – Know How To Excuse Yourself

Small talk becomes awkward if it drags on so it’s important to leave at the right time. You need to be assertive for this. Try saying things like:

“It was great seeing you”
“I hope you enjoy the rest of the event”
“I’m going to head off, I'll hopefully see you again soon”

Remember you don’t need to make an excuse for leaving, you just need to say bye!

What are you small talk tips? 

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