Small talk is tough, both in practice and in principle. No one likes pointless conversation, but meeting new people is worthwhile, and networking is a valuable activity. So what do you do when you hate making small talk? According to Hannah Morgan, don’t bother — ask questions instead. It’s the fastest way to a real conversation.
Photo by David Goehring.
We’ve shared several ways to make small talk easier, but the secret to better small talk is to talk less and ask more questions. After all, if the goal is to have real, meaningful conversations with people, skip talking about the weather and the scripted one-liners. Here’s what she suggests:
Last night I was watching TV with my kids and got caught up in Good Luck Charlie, a silly PG sitcom. In last night’s episode, 10 year old Gabe asks his mum how to talk to a girl he likes. He was so concerned about what he was going to say, he couldn’t put his words together when talking with the girl. In the mum’s infinite wisdom, she eventually suggested he try to learn about her, “ask her questions and see if you have anything in common.” After this advice, he asked the girl good open ended questions. “Tell me about your family” and followed that up with “tell me more!”. This is the short summary, and to be honest, I didn’t make it to the end of the show, so I am not sure how this ended up.
Finding something in common with someone can instantly start a great conversation. It isn’t about spewing information about yourself or being witty. Let the other person do the speaking. This is about being a good listener.
Obviously, this has networking and interviewing application. Not just in job search, but in managing your future. Building relationships along the way is the best employment insurance you can have!
There’s more utility here than you might think — sure, it might seem like common sense that the best way to actually converse with people is to find a common interest and talk about that, but as someone who’s easily drained in large groups, I find that I’m happier listening to the stories that other people tell than I am talking about myself. Once the conversation really gets going, then I may jump in and engage, but you can learn a lot about someone just by being genuine and interested in what they have to say — and people will appreciate you for it.
Hate Making Small Talk? Ask Questions [Career Sherpa]