Small talk is defined as: “An informal type of discourse that does not cover any functional topics of conversation or any transactions that need to be addressed.”(1) I googled the term “small talk” and ran into various websites with tips on how to make small talk. One of my biggest pet peeves is when you’re with a group of people and everyone’s face is glued to their cell phone. People no longer know how to converse with one another or make small talk. Small talk is important because it helps you create contacts, make new friends, and once the conversation is rolling, relax. I know it’s a dying social interaction form but it needs to be revived!
Small talk is discussing topics that are not controversial and don’t lead into deep discussions. It is a way to get a conversation started, introduce yourself, or make known that you are trying to create a friendly atmosphere. Small talk also helps to fill a lull in the conversations and is a way to avoid the “awkward silence” moments. Most people associate small talk with discussions on the weather, weekend plans, and/or unobtrusive questions on how things are going.
I know it seems stupid, especially discussions on the weather, but if you can successfully create small talk, you not only show people that you are friendly but that you have the ability to talk. It can also show others that you can spend at least 10 minutes away from your cell phone and interact with the human world. When you take the time to show an interest in people, people will than want to show interest in you.
Recently, I had lunch with a group of people and I have to tell you I left 30 minutes early. It seemed no one was able to sit and make small talk, they either were on their cell phones or they only spoke to one person. If lunch was this boring how do they interact at functions or parties? I’m thinking that they either have the television on to entertain or they always carry their trusty cell phones to entertain themselves. That would not be a party I would enjoy attending.
Not that long ago, before cell phones and movies on demand, people knew how to interact with others at parties or the office. Small talk used to be very important. People knew that by creating conversations you could create contacts and make new friends. It is very important at work to create contacts. By doing so, people will keep you in mind for projects or will be willing to give you a hand when you need it. The same is true outside of work, the more people you have contact with the more that you can develop as a person.
The most successful people are those that can effectively interact with others. I know that you will meet people that you have nothing in common with. I realize that you can’t be friends with everybody. Often times when you meet someone whom you have nothing in common with, it can be hard to find topics to discuss. Always keep in mind topics that are general and safe. One safe topic is to ask how their day is going. This could lead to several other topics that will help in developing a relationship with someone else. It also helps others to feel welcomed into a group.
Being able to create small talk could lead to an unexpected friendship with someone. For instance, maybe discussing weekend plans leads you to discover that you have the same weekend plans. That could lead to discovering other similar likes. I have many coworkers that I have become friends with simply by engaging in small talk. If you attend a party, small talk will help you discover other potential friends and will help entertain you throughout the event.
There is always that stressful moment when small talk has started and you feel a little awkward, but if you can successfully start the conversation, you will find yourself relaxing. I am the type of person who struggles in a large group. I’ve never been much of a party person. I, in fact, enjoy being alone. Truth is though, that you will find yourself at a gathering and in order to survive such gathering you are going to have to do some small talk. People will notice how you interact with others. If they see that you seem approachable and relaxed they may want to interact with you. This could lead to you finding yourself relaxing and becoming part of the party.
True, small talk can be stressful. If you are trying to interact with someone who lacks social skills it can seem impossible. There will be times when you will need to make a quick exit but at least you tried. At work, having the ability to converse with others will be noticed by your supervisors and could lead to a promotion. Being able to interact with your co-workers is a skill that employers are always looking for. If you want to grow your inner circle of friends, people are looking for others who are easy to interact with. If you are a person who they can interact with you may find yourself with a lot of friends. Below are a few tips for creating small talk.
- Put away the cell phone: It is rude to have your cell phone out during meals or when someone is trying to speak with you. When you are conversing with others do not send texts to someone else. Unless your profession requires it, you do not need to be on your cell phone.
- Stay away from touchy topics: Politics, religion, and gossip are not appropriate topics to discuss with someone you do not know. Small talk is a way to introduce yourself or to make others feel comfortable.
- It doesn’t hurt to prepare: Research small talk online. Many websites will give you small talk topics. They also will give you tips on how to approach others.
- In order to converse with others you have to know more than the hobbies of the Jersey Shore Cast: In order to create different topics of discussion, you have to be knowledgeable. Stay well-read and be aware of what’s going on at work, at church, or in the world.
- Remember Others: It’s true that you will not be friends with everyone, but if you can remember that a person has three children or that another person enjoys ice skating, you can ask them about those things the next time you interact. You can impress them by remembering personal details.
Small Talk: Conversation Starters
Written By: Kristy Trowbridge