As an introvert does small talk scare you? Do you find it a pain in the butt when you you go along to events or parties? Would you rather be talking about something else?
Guess what, it is not going away and as long as their are humans on this planet we are going to have small talk whether you like it or not.
The first thing to remember is that the one who asks questions has the control of the conversation and if you start asking questions about them they are going to think you are the best person in the world because people love talking about themselves.
Before I get talking about some strategies can I just say don't ask, "What do you do?" Look at that question. They are asking you for a verb. Have you even noticed that? They want to know what you DO. However when you answer what you do, most of the people don't understand and they expect you to say a noun.
"I'm a butcher."
"I'm a baker."
"I'm a candlestick maker."
Here is a better question to ask:
"What keeps you busy?"
"How do you spend most of your time?"
Do you know what these questions do? They let the other person decide what they want to talk about. They can talk about their job if they want to. They can talk about their business if they want to. They can talk about their tennis game yesterday if they want to. They can even talk about their cat(s) if they want to.
OK, Small Talk. What can you do to prepare for the scariness that is small talk?
1. My friend's friend used to read the newspaper* before he went out. He did this so he was up with the play on what was going on and if they asked him he could come up with a comment or two. Of course in small talk you want to stay away from the real heavy duty topics like politics, finance and natural disasters. Keep it light.
*For younger readers a newspaper is, according to the dictionary on my computer, a printed publication consisting of folded unstapled sheets and containing news, feature articles, advertisements and the horse racing details for today's meeting. For New Zealand young people, it is what they wrap fish and chips in.
2. Find out about pop culture and what is going on. Are you keeping up with the Kardashians? Do you know who Tyler Swift is dating? Why did Angelina walk out on Brad? You could have a very good conversation with someone who is interested in all of this.
3. Sports. A lot of people, especially men like talking about sport, right? Find out a little bit about what is going on in the NFL, NBA, EPL, NHL or IPL. (For American readers, the EPL is the soccer league in England and the IPL is cricket league in India. Believe it or not, cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world and the IPL is one of the most lucrative sporting leagues.)
4. Countries. My knowledge of some things can be best described as superficial at best but I try to find out at least one thing about most things. Countries for instance, then you can have a base to build a conversation. I remember talking to a woman from Lithuania. I mentioned about basketball which is very popular in that country and they have had several NBA players over the years. She was so excited that I knew something about her country, that we talked for quite a while.
5. I know that I tell the same stories over and over but if people haven't heard it then it can be quite funny for them. So always have a bunch of stories or jokes in your arsenal and bring them out at the appropriate time.
6. Think about things that you have bought recently. Have you found any cool items at new hip shops? People are always looking for good new things to purchase so you can really help them out by advising them on new shops and more importantly for them anyway, new bargains.
There you go. Small talk doesn't have to be as scary as you think. All it takes is a little preparation and you are well on you way to small talk mastery.