Being the escapist creatures that humans are, one thing that we find dreadfully difficult to escape is “small talk”. Just the other day, you probably tried avoiding an eye-contact with a talkative college-mate in the corridor. Another time, you decided perhaps to stay home instead of attending a formal social gathering so you wouldn’t have to make awkward small talk with your acquaintances. In all likelihood, I am pretty sure that everyone has been in a small conversation that they want to get out of because carrying on seems meaningless.
For some of you all, small talk comes naturally and seems effortless. You get free drinks at the bar and make friends in no time. I envy you folks. The others who have no clue in the world about how to move past that awkward “hello”, we should be friends. I can think of countless times I have had to engage in small talk. From torturous family gatherings with distant relatives to meeting new players in a tournament to greeting the neighbors. Every time I was in the scene I used to end up tongue-tied. Don’t get me wrong, I love humor, witty banter and light-hearted moments. I like talking about things that don’t matter. And I can be downright silly and highly inappropriate too. But the idea of being able to connect to someone in fractions of seconds never occurred to me. And I started realizing that this is where I was loosing.
So I gave it a thought and came up with a coping mechanism for the sake of not losing my mind. If you are someone who has difficulty getting conversations started or keeping them going, here are five things that can help you the way they continue to help me:
1.HAVE INTERESTING CONVERSATION OPENERS
By this I mean avoid all talks about weather unless you work in the Meteorological department of some sort. You could probably start with a compliment. And by compliment I mean, flattery is not allowed. Genuine compliment, because people will forget what you said but not how you made them feel. And complimenting is the best way to break the ice and reduce social distance.
There is absolutely no trick in making one-word answers exciting, so I suggest You avoid it. Lets take a small example : “are you here with your family?” Yes or No. Dead question.
Lets reframe. “Whom are you here with?” My family. Then you can ask about them, since the other party brought their family in the conversation themselves. However, keep in mind that you want to have a conversation, not an interrogation or an interview. Asking one question after another without sharing anything can be perceived as invasive. So when you ask something , be ready to share about yourself too.
While a lot of small talk is based only on the fact that you are standing next to someone and have to say something, the real goal is to find a common ground to spark up a conversation.
Search for Commonalities. I remember, once, while working on a group presentation, I met a guy who’s T-shirt said “NARCOS” with a picture of Pablo Escobar right next to it. I asked the guy “ on a scale of 1-10 how much did u like the last episode?” He looked at his t-shirt and said “nothing less than a 100”. We have been best friends for the last two years now. So starting small is the way to go.
4. BREAK THE MIRROR:
When small talk stalls out, it’s often due to a phenomenon we call “mirroring.” In our attempts to be polite, we often answer people’s questions directly, repeat their observations, or just blandly agree with whatever they say.
X says : Its going to be a tough semester.
Y says: Ya! very tough.
and they stare at each other’s shoes now. See? By mirroring X’s opinion and language,Y has followed the social norm, but he’s also paralyzed the discussion. Instead, Y needs to practice the skill of disruption and move the dialogue forward probably by telling that he plans to start studying from tomorrow itself (which never happens) or telling about his home tuitions.
5. KNOW WHEN TO SHUT UP.
There is a reason why small talk is called small talk. But ending a small talk is some tricky business.You certainly don’t want to leave a conversation with hurt feelings, but you also don’t want to unnecessarily prolong it.remember that if you’re itching to end the conversation, you might not be alone. Most people mingling at a public gathering know the deal: You talk for a while and then move on. The trick is doing it in a graceful manner that preserves the relationship you’ve built.Out of all the phrases that i keep at the back of my mind, my favourite one is