For many people, “small-talk” might as well be a curse word. It’s the cause of great anxiety and is usually awkward for most people involved. Meeting new people and making friends is wonderful, but it’s hard to break the ice. Here are a few tips to make your next small-talk encounter a little more bearable, and maybe even positive!
The best way to start a conversation and keep it going is to ask questions. It gives the conversation direction, and people always feel good when someone expresses interest in them. Open-ended questions are best, since they allow the conversation to continue and progress. A simple “yes” or “no” doesn’t give you much to work with. It’s good to ask relevant and specific questions, but stay away from getting too personal during your first encounter. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable answering the question, you definitely shouldn’t ask it. There’s a line between being curious and nosy!
Even though it seems like an easy conversation starter, gossiping or badmouthing someone leaves a bad impression. It makes you look like a mean person and leaves the other person wondering if you will turn around and say the same things about them. It’s much safer to stick with positive discussions that don’t involve anyone getting hurt. No one wants to be known for being cruel and petty!
Go in with a clear head
If you’re anxious, calm yourself down a little before entering a conversation with someone. It’s normal to be nervous, but it’s important that you can think straight when talking to someone for the first time. This goes double for when you’re intoxicated – chatting someone up when you’re in an unstable state is a good way to quickly make a terrible impression and ruin your reputation. You also run the risk of saying something stupid that you normally wouldn’t let slip. There’s nothing wrong with a little partying, but it’s far too easy to go overboard. You don’t need drugs or alcohol to be yourself and socialize, and people will enjoy your company more if you’re sober.
Tread lightly when it comes to controversy
Uncomfortable topics come up in conversation – it’s inevitable. Having discussions about heated issues is valuable, but that’s better saved for people you know well, not people you’re just meeting. If possible, try to avoid bringing up anything that could be considered a sensitive subject, and try to put the conversation back on track if it happens. Your strong opinions should be saved for a more appropriate instance.
The art of small-talk, like any other skill, requires practice. While it may be scary, every conversation you have will make the process feel easier and less daunting. Above all else, the number one essential is to be yourself. As long as you remain genuine and keep the aforementioned guidelines in mind, what starts as small-talk could become a real connection.