Getting Comfortable With Small Talk
March 14, 2022
Are you comfortable with small talk? I’m not a fan of small talk, and I’ve noticed that many people struggle with it.
The thing is, we can’t avoid small talk. It’s an inherent part of how we communicate, even if we hate it.
The answer to our discomfort with small talk is to understand its purpose so that we can leverage it to have the deeper conversations that we seek, and to develop new relationships.
So, what is the purpose of small talk?
It leads to deeper conversation and opportunities that you might not have had prior to what feels like an unimportant conversation that’s going nowhere.
If small talk is so important, why do we struggle so much with it?
For one, I don’t think we realize what purpose small talk plays, so it’s easy to discount it.
That’s the big misconception: We tend to think that small talk is unimportant and something we just have to endure. But small talk IS important! It is leading us to a rich opportunity.
When we engage in small talk, we’re working with our conversational partners to create a connection and get on the same page. It may just feel like chatter, but it can lead us into deeper conversation and it can serve as the beginning of a relationship with the other person.
And for another…it just plain makes us uncomfortable! We spend a lot of our time during small talk thinking things like:
- “What do I say?”
- “What if I say something wrong?”
- “Why is this matter? It doesn’t sound important.”
- “What do they think of me?”
- “Is this going anywhere?”
- “Is this worth my time? Should I be someplace else…?”
These concerns are normal. The realm of small talk is a vague, uncertain space where we’re all just trying to find some solid ground.
To help you (and your conversational partner) have a better small talk experience, I’d like to offer three suggestions that can make it less uncomfortable and also get you into the deeper conversation faster:
- Say their name a few different times. The most powerful word for any of us is our own name. It gives them an amazingly positive feeling and it will help you leave a positive impression. It also helps you remember their name for your next conversation with them.
- Give them a compliment. Whether you say you like their name, the color of a piece of clothing they are wearing, or are impressed by something they’ve accomplished, a compliment is another way to leave a positive impression. On top of that is the fact that they have the same concerns that you do. They’re thinking, “What if I say something wrong?” and “What does this person think of me?” Giving them a compliment eases these concerns, enabling the conversation to move more smoothly into deeper territory.
- Think of small talk as less about talking and more about listening. This is your opportunity to get to know the other person better. Bonus: When you ask your conversational partner questions that invite them to talk longer, you start moving beyond small talk and into the rich, deeper stuff.
I think the most important thing about small talk that we need to remember is that we are not the only ones who are uncomfortable with it. Most people are! But if we can be strategic about how we engage with that initial part of a conversation, we can get a lot more out of where it’s leading… deeper conversation and building great relationships that serve us.
Are you ready to move beyond small talk into building a professional relationship?
Use this step-by-step guide to easily engage in smoother conversation and improve your confidence.