5. Don’t get distracted by your phone
Smartphones are conversation killers. According to a 2014 study, the quality of in-person conversations and social interactions are greatly affected by the presence of mobile phones. The study revealed that “conversations in the absence of mobile communication technologies were rated as significantly superior compared with those in the presence of a mobile device, above and beyond the effects of age, gender, ethnicity, and mood.” Moreover, it was also found that social interactions without the presence of smartphones and other devices involved higher levels of empathy.
Dr. Samantha Boardman suggests that you leave your mobile phone “in your pocket or in your handbag and never place it on the table. If you are expecting an important email from your boss, let the other person know. Create a special notification. At least they will know you are not mindlessly thumbing through Instagram.” Keep this in mind if you wish to make small talk meaningful.
6. Do not overshare
Too much information is a never a good thing, says Samantha. Understand the difference between being authentic and oversharing. Being genuine means you don’t pretend to be someone else to make people like you, but oversharing your personal information might not be the best way to do it, especially when you are around people you barely know.
Make sure you keep your personal information private. Although you may share your future goals and plans, there is no need to go too deep into the details. Samantha suggests “No complaining and no oversharing. They don’t need to know about your money problems or that rash in an embarrassing spot.”
7. Don’t shy away from healthy debates
Engaging in a debate, in a healthy and positive manner, is a great way to get to know someone and create an instant connection. It shows who you are and what you believe in, but it also depicts that you are capable of listening to different viewpoints and respect others’ opinions.
But Samantha warns “know thyself and pay attention to the other person. If you have a tendency of offending people, you may want to avoid controversial conversations, no matter how interesting or potentially productive it could be.”
8. Speak with your body
Non-verbal communication is crucial if you want to make small talk meaningful. Using your facial expressions and your body language can make any conversation more engaging and interesting. According to a 2017 study, using hand and head gestures during a conversation can ensure that your listener responds more promptly to your questions.
Lead author of the study, Judith Holler at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics at Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands, says “Bodily signals appear to profoundly influence language processing in interaction. Questions accompanied by gestures lead to shorter turn transition times, that is, to faster responses, than questions without gestures, and responses come even earlier when gestures end before compared to after the question turn has ended.”
However, it’s not just about hand gestures. Samantha Boardman, M.D. explains “Body language cues like eye contact, sincere nodding, and leaning in, communicate interest. Smile, uncross your arms, pay attention. Nothing kills a pleasant conversation like feeling the other person doesn’t care about what you’re saying.”