2. Seek authenticity and connection.
Whenever you find yourself trapped in small talk, look for ways to build a connection with the other person by understanding who they are and showing your genuine self. Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry, a global organizational consultancy recommends using the A.C.T. strategy to build connections. He says that small talk is “a natural way for people to connect. Start with a question that will build up to a conversation that meets the A.C.T. criteria.”
- A – Look for authenticity in the conversation.
- C – Look for ways to build a connection.
- T – Focus on topics that show your passions and genuine self.
For instance, you can ask questions like “How are you feeling lately?”, “What is your one goal for this month?”, “Which celebrity/famous personality do you relate with the most?”
Comedian Chris Colin and author Rob Baedeker suggest asking the following questions when trying to make small talk meaningful –
– “What’s your story?”
– “What did you do today?”
– “What’s the strangest thing about where you grew up?”
– “What’s the most interesting thing that happened at work today?”
– “How’d you end up in your line of work?”
– “What does your name mean? What would you like it to mean?”
– “What was the best part of your weekend?”
– “What are you looking forward to this week?”
– “Who do you think is the luckiest person in this room?”
– “What does this house remind you of?”
– “If you could teleport by blinking your eyes, where would you go right now?”
3. Be curious.
If you want to appear interesting, then you need to be interested. Channel your inner curiosity to delve deep into topics and issues that others find interesting. Being curious during small talk will help you learn what drives and motivates others.
Go into the conversation with authentic interest and make sure you actually listen to what the other person is saying. It is also important to offer a thoughtful response. By showing that you’re interested, you will leave a positive impression leading to a better connection.
Samantha Boardman, M.D. explains “Inquire about topics that will help you find common ground. Build on what the other person says. Avoid firing out checklists and predictable questions… Ask open-ended questions that require more than a one-word reply.”
4. Pay attention and actually listen.
Make an effort to truly listen to what the other person is saying with the intention of understanding them instead of replying back to them. You should also make sure that you pay enough attention to their body language and facial expressions. “Respond by paraphrasing and reflecting on the conversation to move it forward,” says Samantha. This will make the person you are chatting with realizing that you are genuinely interested and care about the conversation.
You can also score brownie points by understanding what they feel passionate about and talking about that. How? Simply say “Tell me more.” Samantha adds “Encourage elaboration and when the other person asks you a question, respond with more than just the bare bones… give the other person some personal (and substantive) information to work with.” However, make sure you don’t interrupt them when they speak. This is a great way to make small talk meaningful.
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.