Generally when you accomplish anything big, you have to talk about it with a team. And before you talk about it, you have to talk about something else to break the ice. That’s the truth about small talk. It can lead to something big! It is the gateway to more interesting and bigger, better things.
Talk about inconsequential things
With small talk, you are advancing the conversation. It really doesn’t matter what you say, small talk is really just a signal that you’re interested in moving the conversation forward. The words are irrelevant; the act is what’s important.
The real goal of small talk is to make yourself conversationally available to other people. You have to find common ground.
So, what to talk about?
Start small and straight to the point. “Hi, I’m Kevin” or “Hot out today”gives them room to comment and let you know if they’re available to talk. “So, you’re a doctor?” Also okay. “Thank God it’s Friday!” always a good line.
And here are some examples of small talk that is too big: “An iceberg exploded yesterday.” Too big. “You have a good cheek.” Too big. “Why are we here? On Earth, I mean.” Much too big.
Listen and reply
Continue the small talk if you get this signal from the other person: I’m not threatened, so let us continue this mundane banter.
Some people think of conversations as a series of opportunities, which is great. These people have a “promotion orientation.” Others think that conversations are a minefield of embarrassment, and they have a “prevention orientation”.
Try to put yourself in the ‘promotion orientation’ category. This involves making eye contact and smiling, which are two of the best things you can do when having a conversation with someone. And also if you have negatives in your head (like ‘don’t say that it’s stupid’ or ‘I can’t keep up with him’) as you go into an interaction, you tend to seem distracted and not engaged. So just try and listen! Listen and reply, and remember that the person in front of you is still just a person.
Have a fall back
We don’t think quickly when we’re nervous so the more well rehearsed the behavior, the better we can pull it off. It helps to have two or three questions or topics you know you can pull out when you’re on the spot. And then, it also helps to have an exit line.
If you feel that the person isn’t so into the conversation…if their eyes are wandering, even a little bit, you should find a way out: “I see a friend, I need to talk to.” or “It’s been great talking to you; I’ll let you talk to some other people now.” or “I’m going to the bar for a drink! ”
But whether it goes well or not, it’s important to take that step. Keep going. Maybe you eventually start a business with the person you engaged in harmless banter at a party. Maybe you meet later and talk more casually because you already know each other. Or maybe you just pass the time talking to another human being. The thing about small talk is: Even if it’s awkward, it’s worth it.