Do you avoid making small talk? Is it something you dread? Some people seem to be naturals when it comes to small talk but many of us struggle to know what to say. But small talk has its place and building rapport using casual conversation is a useful tool to have in all areas of your life. So try these simple tips to make it less of a chore.
Part of the problem is not knowing what to say so it helps to have some simple stories prepared. Whether it’s about the coffee you spilled first thing in the morning, an interesting problem that is challenging you, or a funny conversation you had with a friend, find something that has a clear beginning, middle, and end that you feel comfortable talking about.
Find Common Ground
It’s human nature that we’re not always interested in things that don’t directly involve us. If you really want to enage the person you’re talking to it’s best to base your story on something you have in common. Whether it’s your study, the public transport or a contact you both know, talking about something that the other person can relate to will help to keep his or her interest.
Keep it Short
If you’re sharing an anecdote make sure it takes no longer than a minute to get through. Remember that you’re having a conversation rather than delivering a presentation and you want the other person to engage with you. You have to be careful not to dominate the discussion and leave your partner with no chance to respond.
Ask Open-ended Questions
Most people enjoy speaking about themselves because it’s easier than talking about a subject you don’t know much about. An open-ended question allows the other person to answer using their complete knowledge and understanding. These questions can help you generate dynamic, exciting conversations, and encourage the other person to share information.
Small talk is a simple exchange that is not meant to delve into your deepest thoughts, feelings, and ambitions. It fills the silence while waiting for something or during an introduction, but you never know where it might lead. If you want to improve your skills in this area, look for opportunities to make small talk and approach people as if they are already your friend.
QUT’s Speakeasy Peer Program offeres a range of interactive sessions aimed at helping you gain the confidence you need for success at university and beyond.