Most advice on the subject of making small talk won’t actually work for you.
Because most pieces of advice on the topic come from people who already know how to make small talk.
Yeah yeah, you are probably confused right now, so allow me to explain.
You see, when someone gives you advice on how to make small talk with people what they are really telling you is how they make small talk with people.
Don’t get it? Believe it or not but this is actually a problem!
Most people never went through the process of social anxiety to become masterful in the art of talking about nothing.
Some people hate small talk and try to avoid it, and they may be right to do so – you don’t really gain anything by going through small talk, so why force yourself through it?
The truth is that small talk is very beneficial – you show people who you are and you build a relationship with them.
The way you do small talk reflects deeply upon your very personality.
If you are in college, small talk is practically the basis of your whole life.
Sounds extreme? Most of your ‘leisure-talking’ is small talk, whether with friends, co-workers or strangers.
It’s your way of building social relations.
By establishing yourself as a certain type of person people will become more comfortable (or less comfortable) around you.
Think about it for a moment.
Say you talked to someone about cards, and had some great insights to share – The other person will remember you as “interesting”, or maybe even “nice”.
You, on the other hand, will feel much less awkward around people who you already left a good impression on. The fact that they will be much more accepting of your company now is a huge plus.
Right, so what is the actual, practical, advice on making small talk? Like most cases, a systematic approach is the best way to go about dealing with the problem.
1) Stop thinking so much
The problem with being shy or socially anxious is the “what if” approach.
“What if nobody likes me?”
“What if I say something stupid?”
“What if they’ll notice how nervous I am?”
And to all of these I say – don’t think.
People tend to believe that their thinking makes them strong, makes them ready, but in truth, a spontaneous, open reaction is always more preferable in casual conversation.
People can tell when you are thinking about something, and if they indicate that they noticed that something is wrong you are likely to assume the worst and just panic.
Believe me, I know.
Instead, you should simply smile, greet them, and ask them how are they doing.
It seems extremely basic, and it is, but the idea is to do it automatically, without running multiple scenarios in your head.
Look at it for what it is – a casual interaction between two people.
It’s important to notice that if you are the one that starts the conversation you will also be able to bring up the topic to talk about, and that’s easily doable, but when the other person brings up a topic to discuss, feel free to let them lead the conversation.
2) People like themselves
If you have any experience as a human being you might recall how people around you told you that being selfish is bad.
The thing is, they themselves are being selfish by denying your desires to make their own a reality.
You are the sole motivating force for yourself, you are your own world.
Even those people who are “selfless” simply do so because it makes them feel good. It’s always about them.
In his book, “How to Win Friends & Influence People“, Dale Carnegie wrote the following line
“…-ask people questions and they will love you.”
Dale’s book was awesome, and his advice is 100% legit, but it’s only half the truth.
In actuality, another driving, motivating, force of the human nature is our need for approval, or more importantly, in this case, their need for approval.
Adjust your tone based on the mood, drop a few lines to encourage them to talk further (“Oh wow, and what then?”, “that happened to me too!”), and don’t take the spotlight away from them unless they willingly relinquish it.
You should have a follow-up question until they’re done.
For those of us who suffer from social anxiety, listening is the most important thing in a conversation.
3) Don’t talk small
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” – Eleanor Roosevelt
An odd idea when discussing small talk but hear me out on this one.
Small talk, in nature, is meant to be generic and uninteresting.
A polite exchange between two individuals over one thing or another without any care behind it.
As someone who’s having a hard time with people, be it due to shyness or social anxiety, that’s the last thing you want happening.
The way the conversation is going directly affects your confidence.
It isn’t right, and you shouldn’t be drawing your sense of worth from something like small talk, but it’s the truth.
Discuss something bigger than yourself, make it interesting.
You could be asking about the weather (do people really do that?), or you could bring up hobbies, current events or maybe even philosophy (a tad more difficult, but it’s possible).
Here’s a quick example.
Say you talk to someone and mention a book that you’ve read. They are likely to ask you about it.
BAM! You hear that? That’s the world of literature opening up for you without you being weird about it.
Recalling the previous section, you could then ask them what they read.
If you don’t read, ask them what is it about and if they happened to like it.
See? Just like that!
4) Don’t be the “nice guy”
Whenever I get a new book, I like to just take a moment and smell the paper.
It has nice, fresh smell to it that I like a lot.
That’s actually 100% true, but why did I tell you this? To avoid becoming a bland, ‘nice guy’.
When you do some small talking with people it’s important to leave a positive impression on them – after all, they will like you more!
At least, that’s what Dale says in his book, and although it’s a great read, and it really is, he is yet again only half-right.
Here’s a question – how many ‘nice people’ have you ever met?
Say I talk to someone and out conversation runs smoothly.
When asked about me, that person is likely to reply something along the lines of “Oh, Vlad, he’s pretty nice.”
And that’s a terrible reaction.
Here’s why: Think about the next time you two meet, you will likely have the same type of conversation, again and again, and that’s going to tire your topics of discussion very quickly.
Right? We’ve established that dull conversations can kickstart your social anxiety, so that’s a huge problem.
Yet you won’t think of me as “Vlad the nice guy”, but rather as “Vlad, that dude who smells new books”
Believe it or not, that makes the whole difference.
In order to leave a truly positive impression, and “he’s nice” isn’t cutting it, you should add a bit of an edge to whatever you say.
Be different, share some stuff you like to do, put in some unique insights.
Something that will leave them, knowingly or unknowingly, intrigued by you.
That gap of knowledge is something that humans strive to close whenever possible.
Being different is the only way to develop any meaningful relationships with anyone. If you aren’t different, at least in the eyes of the person that you were talking to, they aren’t going to care for you all that much.
Which leads us to…
5) Don’t deal with “those” people
When all is said and done, some people are just not worth it.
The people that I’m talking about are drier than the Sahara desert, more vanilla than vanilla essence, and plainer than an old piece of bread.
You know what? Comparing all of those things to their personality would be an insult! They really do suck that much!
Don’t dare to think that this is your fault either.
It really isn’t, they are the ones who are making the conversation as plain as it is, not you.
Don’t feel discouraged because of that, just learn to recognize these people and politely leave them be.
You should value your time enough to know better than to waste it on them.
Make your small talk as big as you can
The art of small talk is really the art of knowing what questions to ask or statements to make someone interested in your conversation
Don’t overcomplicate something so basic, you were born and bred for these mundane human interactions!
So instead of breaking down, you should thrive in them!
Hopefully, these tips will be enough to help you do just that.
If they aren’t…
Well, another thing that really helped me with my own social anxiety is “The Shyness and Social Anxiety System” By Sean Cooper.
Feel free to check it out!
Here’s a quick question before you go: Did you ever get stuck in a conversation? Why?
Make sure to write your answers in the comment section below, I read every single one of them.
If you got any personal issues or things you would like to discuss make sure to send me an email, I go through every single one of them.