The art of small talk

Written by Christopher Lewis. Posted in Blog

water cooler chat

Many people struggle with talking to anyone outside of their social circle. The inability to engage in basic, casual communication can hinder their careers and personal relationships.

Knowing how to talk about everyday things with strangers is not some mysterious talent; it is a basic life skill. Consider the fact that in any group of strangers there may be some who are struggling with the awkwardness of meeting and talking to you. In other words, you are probably not alone in your discomfort. They may be both relieved and flattered if you initiate a conversation with them. 

The Benefits of Small Talk Skills

  • Forming Relationships
    Small talk can be seen as a path to deeper, more meaningful communication. People do not normally leap into discussions about the most important matters in their lives with complete strangers. The approach to such subjects is gradual and is paved with small talk. Most of your relationships with people outside of your family began with some form of small talk. This means that it is a tool by which strangers are converted to acquaintances, and (occasionally) friends.

  • Small Talk Feels Good
    Human beings are social, which means that some form of connection with others is necessary for a sense of wellbeing. People crave social interaction, and being able to competently engage in a casual conversation can leave you feeling better.  

  • Boosts Executive Function
    Small talk may make you smarter. A University of Michigan Study has shown that social interaction can boost cognitive functions via the perspectives you get from others. The brain functions associated with everyday problem-solving can actually be improved by short conversations about a common topic. The researchers liken the effects of small talk to those of brain-training games.

  • Small Talk is Essential on the Job
    In the workplace the ability to engage in small talk is a vital tool for dealing with clients. It not only puts people at ease, it demonstrates your ability to think quickly and to communicate effectively.

  • It Creates a Friendly Atmosphere
    A part of the definition of small talk involves the avoidance of serious issues. You focus on common topics like sports, travel and food since most people will be able to relate to these things. This is especially important for people who may not be comfortable in a social setting.

If you want to master the art of small talk, the most important factor is practice. You can learn how to do it in much the same way that you learn any other skill. Try it out, find what works best for you and keep trying until you become confident.

discussion small

Tips for Small Talk

  • Have a set of conversational subjects ready before going into a social setting. Current events, sports and weather are all subjects that you may have in common others.
  • Make an effort to remember your conversational partner's name and try to use it frequently. If you have met the individual before, try to remember anything you learned about them in the previous meeting.
  • Talk and ask questions without dominating the conversation. Try to spend more time listening than talking. Give feedback via questions and your body language. Body language is one of those subtle cues that can betray a lack of interest and make others uncomfortable. Maintain eye contact.  
  • Have lines prepared so that you can smoothly disengage from a conversation without offending the other person. Exiting is important. Small talk is exactly that: small. Casual conversations should be short, leaving a good impression and making the other person interested in getting to know more about you.

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