Small talk should be about making connections and having conversations that go beyond "Hi, how're you?" Getting beyond those default starters can be tough, so here are seven tips that can help you have more engaging conversations with anyone.
In the video above, Malavika Varadan shares a few things she's learned having to chat with guests on her radio show. Here are her suggestions, which you can also use in virtually any situation.
- Focus on the first word. Get over your nerves by focusing on just getting your greeting out. Malavika makes a good point, "What's the worst that could happen? They won't talk to you? Well, they aren't talking to you now."
- Ask a non-standard question. You want to spark an interesting discussion, which means you need to ask an interesting question. This moves you away from the usual boring topics and onto something you're both more enthusiastic to chat about.
- Find common ground to bond over. Conversation goes a lot easier when you both feel you're on the same wavelength. Maybe you both like the same kind of music or workout class. Whatever it is, finding a common interest helps you create a connection.
- Give them a unique compliment. Paying someone a genuine compliment is a well-known way to start conversation. To really catch someone's attention, make sure your compliment isn't one they hear all the time. For example, tall people know they're tall, find something else to compliment them on.
- Solicit their opinion. Asking someone for their opinion gives them an easy response and can help them open up to you.
- Give them your full attention. Checking your phone or glancing around the room to see who else is there are habits that are hard to break, but being present in the conversation creates a bond between you and the other person.
- Reference their personal details when relevant. As the other person reveals more about themselves, try to remember personal details. This could be as simple as using their name or could be a good way to continue the conversation. For example, if they mentioned their significant other and there's a lull, you could ask what their significant other does or how they met.
Whether you're networking, new to a job, or at a friend's party, talking to strangers can be a scary, but rewarding, experience. Use the above tips to go beyond empty exchanges and really get to know those you're talking to — without feeling awkward.
7 Ways to Make Conversation with Anyone [Tedx Talks (YouTube)]