A lot of people are quite comfortable speaking, even with strangers, if they have a purpose for the conversation that they understand, but they can really struggle with knowing how to make small talk. All social and work situations begin with small talk, where you make the effort to engage with people. If you are going to make a connection with people around you hen you need to know how to make small talk.
The problem is that knowing how to make small talk can be very difficult for some people. They can even be nervous making everyday conversations with people and often the reason behind this nervousness is a lack of knowledge of what to talk about. But you can acquire this skill of making small talk. There are a few small talk topics that should never let you down, whatever situation you are in:
1. Look around you
Your surroundings should provide you with something to talk about. Whatever you’re doing, you are in the same situation with the person to whom you are speaking, so there is common ground there. Even if you are only queuing up for the coffee machine you can make a remark about how long the line of people is, or about how you should drink less coffee or whatever. Aim for a casual but pleasant attitude. Opening the conversation signals to others that you are ready and willing to talk and they will be likely to reciprocate.
Hopefully, the other person will make a casual comment and you have got the conversation started. It gets easier from there. If you are just met with a smile, they may not be willing to talk; don’t worry and don’t take it personally. Either take some time to be quiet too, or you could smile and make eye contact with someone else; if they want to talk, they will pick up on that, having heard you just speak.
2. What do you want to know about other people?
A first meeting is no time to grill someone on their personal life; but think of a friend and the things you share in common like work, hobbies, families etc. Think about what you normally talk about too. All of these things are potential topics for small talk with someone else. Quite neutral topics are work, family and where someone lives so you could begin your small talk with asking about any of those things.
3. Ask about their day so far
People appreciate it if you ask about them in a friendly manner, so you could always try asking them how their day has been so far. Even in a store you might ask the cashier if they have been busy today. It’s a good, simple ice-breaker and will often lead the other person to open up, even if it just a little. You will usually find that they smile because you have asked after their welfare too, and it is surprising how much easier you will find small talk once you have got a smile from the other person. It will give you and real psychological boost.
4. Talk about current affairs
The news is just that: news. People like to keep up with what is happening in the news, so a question like ‘did you read in the newspapers how…?” or “did you see why (whoever) was on the news last night?” will usually open up a good conversation. Depending upon who you are talking to, you may not want to raise a particularly sad item or a gruesome crime, but if you have chatted with the person before, perhaps they are a colleague, you can chat about these things too as people tend to unite against such things and you will soon find yourself on the same side and involved in a conversation about society today.
So, keep these topics in mind and practice them on a few people in your daily life and you will soon discover that you really do know how to make small talk.