Improve Your Relationships through Great Small Talk

Small talk is a big deal.  It’s how we turn strangers into acquaintances and turn acquaintances into friends.  It’s how we make others comfortable with us.  It’s how we sift out the unsafe people that we meet.

Women who gravitate toward same-sex attractions have troubles connecting on a small talk level; especially with other women.  I believe there are two basic reasons for this. The first is because we entertain a belief that we are too different and that the interests of other women won’t overlap ours. The second reason is that we tend to have personalities that lean towards emotionally charged conversation rather than what we would label, “superficial.” Small talk seems boring and shallow.  It is a necessary skill, however.  This article will help explain why it is important, and how to have enjoyable small talk, even with women.

I was a hairdresser for 25 years, so believe me when I say, “I know how to small talk.”  To hear the way some of us chatted up our clients you would think that the conversation was the service they were paying for, instead of the hairstyle. Why did we do it?  We did it for the same reason everyone else does:  To enjoy someone’s company, to pass the time, and to get to know one another.

Why Should I Learn How To Small Talk?

Is it just idle chatter?  Is small talk trivial and fake? Is it only a means to get to the deeper conversations where the “goodies” are?  What compels humans to spend so much time talking about weather, food, sports, pets, shopping and every day events? The answer is because small talk is EASY and because it’s FUN.

There aren’t too many ways a light conversation can end in tragedy. There are no strong opinions expressed so there are no arguments. We are not revealing our vulnerabilities so there is minimal judgment.  Laughter is frequent, and helpful tips find their way into the subject matter.

Small talk builds familiarity and good will.  It gives people the big picture of our life.  Then, when the time comes to bring up deeper subjects or differing opinions, they will be able to understand us within a broader context.

People who avoid small talk at work and in public are open to misunderstanding. If we don’t chit chat with those around us, they start guessing as to why we might be ignoring them.  Do we dislike them?  Are we just shy or are we actually unfriendly? Are we angry and giving them the silent treatment?  Are we serious all the time?

We make people feel uncomfortable if we skip the small talk and jump right into deeper subjects, or if we never diverge from talking about the task we are working on.  It tramples the boundaries involved with the natural progression of communication.

I believe there is another less obvious reason that we enjoy small talk.  In our hearts, we all feel so different from one another, but small talk seams us together.  Light conversations focus on the areas in our lives where we are experiencing commonality. It’s a good feeling.  It makes other people want to be around us again because they feel at ease.

How Do I Get Small Talk Savvy?

  • Take note of the environment you are sharing.  Is it the weather? Is it the plate of munchies and the coffee pot? Is it a task you are both about to take on?  Is it the traffic conditions that you just experienced?  This is the best place to start the conversation rolling.
  • Use shorter sentences rather than long stories.  If you feel you must give a longer speech, then tack a headline at the beginning so that your listener knows where you are going with it.
  • Toss in encouraging phrases to show that you are listening and interested.  “Uh-huh’” “Wow!”  “Really?” “Cool!” “What a pain.” “That’s great!” “I know, Right?”
  • Put some music in your voice.  What this means is to use vocal tones that have variation to them rather than monotone.  Let your voice show some drama.  If you are talking about something happy, then sound cheery.  If you are talking about something exciting, then sound enthusiastic.  If you are talking about something aggravating then sound annoyed. Be emotive in your notes. This tip also applies to the single-word comments when the other person is talking.
  • Play Ping Pong.  Send the conversation back and forth frequently.  Listen for a bit and then talk for a bit.  If there are two of you, do half the talking.  If there are three of you, do a third of the talking. Don’t just sit there nodding your head.  If they want to hear non-stop chatter, there are radio stations that provide that.  If they want to monologue, they can buy a goldfish.
  • Use facial expressions.  Would you rather read the book or see the movie?  People are getting more visual all the time as a result of TV, Internet and digital images.  People who can add the visual element when they talk are just that much more interesting. When you listen, mirror their emotions with your own facial expressions.
  • Ask questions. It’s like putting out the welcome mat.  It tells the other person, “You are interesting to me.”
  • Discover their passions.  After talking to someone for a while, you will start noticing the things that are significant to them.  Show interest in these things, and your conversation partner will come alive.  Dale Carnegie says, “The best way to be interesting is to be interested.”

DON’T:

  • Don’t over-share.  If the other person is keeping it light, don’t go into your fears, needs, hurts and follies.
  • Don’t whine and complain.  Although this is a typical component of small talk, these topics are a bit TOO small.  Negativity is draining and boring. The exception is when you and your conversational partner are problem-solving (which means you have made a transition out of small talk.)
  • Don’t badmouth other people. It is in the same category as whining.  It is TOO small and too negative. Your conversation partner will immediately develop a fear of how you will speak about them to others.

When Others Don’t Do It Well

Not everyone is adept at conversational skills. When you find someone who monopolizes or whines or gets tongue-tied, imagine for a moment what their life must be like if everyone they meet feels like you do with them.  Try to see the real person beyond their clumsy attempts at friendliness.  They want to get to know you or they wouldn’t bother trying to talk to you.  Maybe someday, there will be such a trust built between you, that they will say, “I wish I had more friends like you in my life.”  This is the point you can say, “I think I know a way that could happen….