Social communication is a very important part of our social skills. Your ability to interact with others in a free and easy way, with the other party feeling comfortable as well, can be an invaluable asset to you. From time to time, people find themselves in situations where they have to start or engage in informal discussions. This is often known as small talk.
While there are some people who seem to instinctively know how to make small talk, others lack the required social skills to cope with small talk effectively or even at all. Since small talk does not focus on any particular topic, many people find it difficult to manage smoothly without stalling like a deer in headlights or just retreating somewhere else, out of sight.
Situations that call for small talk
There are certain situations where people will be involved in informal conversations. Social settings and events account for the bulk of instances when you will be required, largely by social behavior expectations, to interact with others.
Mostly, these will be with people you know little or nothing about other than maybe their name.
For instance, conversation starters will come in handy at a party, in an office environment, in striking up a conversation with a member of the opposite sex and when you meet strangers, be it at a bus stop or while you are on a flight. In such cases, how well the conversation goes will be largely determined by how one or other of you breaks the ice.
Advantages of chit-chats
The advantages of these conversations and discussions cannot be emphasised enough. A chat of this nature may lead to many benefits in future.
In fact, small talk is one of the best ways that you can meet new people.
In addition, through small talk, you can develop a new interest, friendships can blossom, networking opportunities can be created and everyone involved can be inspired, making them better people in the future.
With the benefits that these seemingly unimportant (even trivial) chit-chats carry, it is important for people to learn the social skills necessary for such informal communication.
Tips on how to make small talk
Using the following tips will result in friendly chats with strangers being fun, informative and memorable rather than scary events that are best avoided at all cost.
- Avoid questions that require yes or no answers – open-ended questions have the advantage of allowing the conversation to flow. Questions that require yes or no answers may just end the talk after the answer, leaving an embarrassed silence.
- Build the conversation – you can ask about the activities or interests that your conversation partner mentions in the course of chatting. This will help you build the conversation.
- Keep abreast of current affairs – small talk is not based on any one particular topic. Therefore, keeping up to date on various issues will help you keep your conversations interesting and informative. Just be sure to avoid controversial issues such as religion or politics.
- Listen to the other person – this is an important communication skill regardless of whether it’s small talk or a more in depth conversation. Paying attention will help you be a good listener which is an equally important skill.
- Keep you body language in check. Simple things like not crossing your arms, keeping a respectable gap between you and the other person and smiling all help.
- Practice – being shy does not improve your social skills! However, practice will help make you a better person to converse with.
All in all, the next time you are at the dentist’s office, in a bank queue, at a party or a wedding, or any other public event where you meet new people, striking up a conversation should not be difficult.
With the tips I’ve just given you on how to make small talk, you should begin to find things gradually getting easier.