Let’s face it: small talk is an unavoidable part of life. The pressure to engage in it is literally everywhere: elevators, cabs, checkout counters, parties, even your own home. Small talk – conversation that takes place in limited time or context – can happen at any turn between strangers and those who know each other well.
When it goes well, small talk can actually be fun! Yet many people dread it since it often feels forced and awkward. They don’t know what to say, so they stick to the weather and other mundane topics, but really, nothing is more boring than “How about the rain we’ve been having?”
So here are my tips for skipping past the weather and getting right to lively, insightful, meaningful small talk:
Volunteer a fun fact about yourself… and lean into your weird. And when I say weird, I mean whatever it is that makes you a unique human being – your specific interests, hobbies, experiences and points of view. For example,
“I’m really excited to go curling this weekend.”
“I just collected my 107th Pokémon card.”
“I never liked anything by the Beatles.”
Share what makes you you, no matter how far from the mainstream it might be. When you let your freak flag fly a little bit, you invite others to do the same.
Give a compliment. It’s the quickest and easiest way to catch someone’s attention and lure them into a conversation. Keep it simple, for example:
“Love the T-shirt, Nickleback is my favorite band.”
“Those SB Dunks are classic.”
“Wow, is that AXE body spray? I love the smell.”
Ask questions. Sometimes the conversation isn’t going anywhere, but if you ask one more question, you could find yourself in a much more interesting interaction. For this, I recommend an open-ended ‘what,’ ‘how’ or ‘why’ question. For example:
“What keeps you coming back to bocce after all these years?”
“How often do you have to walk your dog?”
These kinds of questions help you get past yes or no answers that stifle a conversation. Instead, they can uncover unknown, unexplored details about a person’s state of mind, personality or life.
When we stick to the weather, we prevent ourselves from truly communicating with one another. But if we practice and get better at having more interesting small talk, we will find ourselves taking steps into deeper, more meaningful conversations that foster greater human connection.