Thursday, January 8, 2015

How to Take Your Small Talk from Awkward to Awesome

Being home for the holiday season and winter break can remind us of many things: the warmth of family and friends, the great feeling of giving to others, and the necessity for some rest and relaxation. It is also that time of year when you run into many people you haven’t seen in a while or are meeting for the first time at parties and gatherings. If you are introverted like me, the threat of having to make small talk is enough to make you run and hideTake it from someone who knows, you can run, but you can’t hide…for long. So instead of avoiding, be awesome. Small talk is a necessity of life and if you don’t learn how to do it, it will always be zapping your energy. Also, people who are good at making conversation are the people we see as likable and end up going far in their careers. So here are some easy tips to learn how to crush it the next time you feel like flashing that awkward smile, nodding, and walking away.

1. Have a few "go to" questions in your metaphorical back pocket (or literal) to get the conversation going.  Here are a couple that I use –

  • What’s your connection to this event/the host?
  • What are your plans for the break? 
  • What keeps you busy when you’re not at work/school?
  • How did you come to be in your line of work/choose your major?

2. Have an answer for “what’s new with you?” This question is like an interviewer saying “tell me about yourself.” You just know someone is going to ask you this, so why not be prepared?  Think about your most recent social media posts, something you’re working on at school, work, or for fun, somewhere you’ve been lately. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering, just something to get the conversation going. Being prepared is half the battle!

3. Be genuinely interested in the person and what he/she is saying.  Small talk can get very awkward very quickly if you stop paying attention or seem bored. So, ask follow up questions and really listen. When someone starts to see you engaged, he/she will open up more and the conversation will get more interesting.

4. Keep it 50-50.  The conversation shouldn’t be all listening or all talking; it is a give and take.  Just because someone hasn’t asked you a question, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share. A one sided conversation can get awkward or annoying after a while. So if you are saying a lot of “yeah, uh huh, right’s” then it is time to offer up a story of your own. 

5. Exit gracefully.  Remember, small talk is called “small” talk for a reason.  When the conversation starts to run dry, it’s time to politely move on.  Here are some ways to politely end the conversation –

  • I’m going to grab another drink/more food. It’s been great chatting with you.    
  • I’ve really enjoyed talking with you. There is someone I need to speak to before he/I leave so I’m going to go catch him/her real quick.
  • You sound like you have a lot in common with my friend. Let me introduce you.
  • This has been great. I have to go freshen up; I’ll see you around. 

Before your next engagement, start to practice these tips so you can chat it up with others and channel your inner social butterfly. Good luck and have fun!

Deanna Rodin, Associate Director

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