Small Talk Can Help with the Social Connection You Crave
Updated: Mar 5
We all know those people. The ones who can effortlessly strike up a conversation with anyone. At an event, they chat around, never staying in any one place too long, and always finding the perfect connections.
How do they do it?
Most of us aren’t born with a well developed social muscle. We have to practice the art of small talk. In our current reality of masks and social distancing, that’s tougher than ever.
The other day while I was walking my dog, a neighbor called out to show me a tree with magnificently colored leaves. I could have nodded and kept walking, but I didn’t. I shared in her delight and pointed out other trees. She told me that she was taking pictures for a friend who used to live in the neighborhood. And we talked about that too.
It felt great to just share a moment. We crave social connection, and need to seize these opportunities.
Admittedly, informal chats can have some bumps. Another day while I was waiting to pick up food at a restaurant, I said a friendly “hello, how are you doing” to someone else who was waiting alongside me. He seemed confused and said, “do I know you?” I said “no, just being friendly.” He paused, shook his head, and said “you know, it’s these masks.”
So, a little awkward, but that’s okay too! We can dust ourselves off from the less successful forays, and use them to sharpen our skills for the next encounter.
Wikipedia defines small talk as “polite conversation about unimportant things.” This doesn’t mean you have to discuss the weather or your IOS update. It can be whatever you want it to be. What’s most critical is that your comments be honest and authentic. So often, we are our most genuine selves when we talk to strangers.
How to Make Engaging Small Talk
The best way to start small talk is with a question or statement. This video offers 30 questions and other helpful pointers to help you get started:
The trick is to find something to engage the other person, something that gets them interested in talking with you. You want to find common ground, and fast.
Maybe it’s a compliment or commentary. But, whatever it is, keep it real.
How Making Small Talk Benefits You
Why invest the time and effort? There are so many reasons.
First off, if you do small talk right, it gives you wings. Literally. You’ll have the confidence at an event to leave a conversation after a few minutes and fly over to another one without fear or anxiety.
Second, Small talk can lead to big things. A casual conversation could be the start of a warm friendship, a professional opportunity, or could even spark a relationship.
Finally, your conversation with someone new just might make you--and the other person--feel happier, according to Dr. Laurie Santos, host of the popular podcast “The Happiness Lab.”
In today’s crazy world, that might be reason enough.
So don’t wait until your next (post-Covid) event to practice small talk. Take advantage of your surroundings now. Chances are, you have lots of opportunities to make small talk in your neighborhood, at the supermarket, or doing errands. You’ll win some, and lose some. But with each encounter, you’ll fine-tune your small talk skills, and brighten the day a little.
Andrea Tinianow is a Delaware attorney and founder of the Connector Street app. Andrea is a frequent speaker and Forbes author on a range of topics related to making connections, innovation, blockchain technology and the law. Watch Andrea’s TedX talk on The Power of Making Connections or connect with her on LinkedIn.