Here are three ways to make great small talk.
Start off by asking interesting questions like, “How do you know the hosts?” I’ll give you more interesting questions later in the post.
The second way to make better small talk is to be a good listener. Genuinely paying attention and listening will make people think you are a great conversationalist. Even if you say little to nothing.
The third tip, mirror them. When they say something, repeat back the last few words in a slightly questioning tone and the person will talk more. You’ll be amazed how long you can do this.
Stick around for more tips on making small talk. How I went from being a small talk hating introvert to a person everyone thinks is an extrovert.
For most of my life, I hated parties and having to meet with strangers. I was the classic introvert. I could hang out with friends and have passionate discussions with them but put me in a room full of people I didn’t know and I was up against a wall growing petals.
After 40 plus years of this, I stumbled upon a book and it changed me for the better. That book was The Game by Neil Strauss. It was the story about how this nerdy writer went from being so socially inept that he toured with rock bands and never even got kissed, to becoming a master at meeting and…
… connecting with women.
It is the common plight of the introverted male to not be able to talk to women, and I was no different. But by the time I encountered The Game I’d been happily married for two decades.
You see I thought you were born either an introvert or an extrovert. You were naturally comfortable talking with people, or you weren’t.
But I realized in the middle of Neil’s story that I could learn this stuff. And I did.
I applied a geek’s focus to it and within weeks, I was transformed. One night I went to a bachelor party for a friend, and as you do, we went from bar to bar. That night I’d decided to do a little “peacocking” and wear an interesting hat.
Man, did I catch it from my friends? They rode me hard on the way to the first bar. When we got there and unloaded from the SUV, my friends did what we’d typically done in the past and headed straight to the bar.
I used the 2-second rule and approached the first interesting woman I saw.
In less than a minute, my friends turned around looking for where I was. When they found me, they saw a beautiful blonde laughing, standing very close to me and wearing my “stupid” hat.
I had become extraordinary.
Talking and engaging with strangers had become a skill I could do.
You see, small talk and social interactions, in general, are a skill you can learn. Notice I said it was a skill. Skills are learned through practice, not book reading. Not just watching a YouTube video. You have to go out and actually do the thing you want to learn.
When it comes to getting comfortable with small talk, you can study a few things like the techniques I’ve shared with you. But until you go out and try them you won’t learn what works for real.
When I have a friend who wants to learn how to do small talk here’s what I teach them.
First, have in your mental social toolbox a few openers. These are interesting questions you can start a conversation with. My first for groups of women was “Who do you think lies more, men or women?”
For parties, it is “How do you know the hosts?”
When they are doing some kind of work, I’ll ask “How did you come to be doing this job?”
These should be open-ended questions that require more than a one-word answer. The best ask for a story.
Second, I point out listening makes you a great conversationalist. Then I tell Vanessa Van Edward’s story of taking a vow of silence, going to a networking event, and having a woman, that she had literally not said a word to, tell her she was a great conversationalist.
Then I’ll give them the mirroring technique I learned from Chris Voss author of Never Split The Difference. When this former hostage negotiator wants to keep people talking and build rapport, he will repeat back the last few words in the speaker’s sentence.
This forces you to listen shows you were paying attention and asks for more conversation without directly asking. You’ll be amazed at how long you can keep people talking this way.
Small talk is not evil. It isn’t hard. And doesn’t have to be awkward.
It is the first step in connecting with a new person. Don’t let your preconceptions keep you from using it to grow.
Question of the Day: What are your thoughts on small talk?