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Mastering the Art of Small Talk

Not everyone is born with the gift of the gab or the social confidence of a talk-show host. For the introverted, small talk can be intimidating and frightening. Often small talk can seem inconsequential, but it is still an important part of events where people gather.

You might meet your new best friend, the love of your life, or a future employer at your next event. But the very least, if you can master small talk, you can learn to look forward to social events.

Use these strategies to master small talk in any social environment:

  1. Be curious. This is an effective way to start a conversation and take your thoughts off yourself. Decide that you’re going to learn as much as you can from, and about, the person in front of you. Ask questions about him or her, without being too personal or too pushy.

  2. Use the power of questions. The great thing about asking questions is that people love talking about themselves. A good question can keep the other person talking for a few minutes.

  • A few decent questions will also leave the other person thinking you’re a brilliant conversationalist. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

  1. Be courteous with your attention. Nothing saps the energy from a conversation faster than one of the parties showing an obvious lack of interest. Maintain eye contact, and be a good listener.

  2. Put your phone away. It’s rude to look at your phone while having a conversation. You can survive without it for a few minutes.

  3. Find someone that wants to talk. At any social gathering, there will be people looking for a conversation partner. Look around and find someone who is standing on their own and most likely wants to talk.

  4. Steer the conversation to something interesting. Work, the weather, and the price of milk might be fine for a few minutes, but everyone gets bored with this type of talk. Most people love to be part of an interesting conversation.

  5. Topics you should avoid. Religion and politics are questionable topics. Everyone has their own opinions, and those opinions rarely change.

  • Overly personal issues are another subject to avoid.

  • Find a topic that won't lead to offense or confrontation. Something interesting in the immediate vicinity can be a good conversation starter.

  1. Get the person’s name, remember it, and use it. You’re likely to exchange names very early on in the conversation. Use their name in conversation and memorize it.

  2. Don’t be afraid to cut your losses. Some conversations just don’t work out, for a variety of reasons. Avoid taking it personally, and move on to someone new. See how many new people you can speak to.

  • You can make your escape by saying something as simple as, “I need to find something to drink. I feel dehydrated. It was nice to speak with you.”

  1. Smile. You appear more inviting and less intimidating when you smile. You’ll feel more confident, too. Smile easily.

The best way to master any new skill is practice. Use these tips to work on developing your small talk skills. But remember that not everyone will want to to talk to you. That is their issue, not yours. Keep going until you find a willing conversation partner. It won’t take long.

Master the art of small talk and expand your social possibilities.

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