By: Mitali Chaudhary
How do you meet someone out of the blue, and proceed to talk about everything and nothing at all for extended periods of time? How do you navigate that fine line between questioning someone and asking smart questions? How do you practice the art of small talk without looking like you’re conducting a study on human social behaviour? For an introvert, surviving a bout of small talk is matter of life and death, but these tips will make it more like a casual stroll in the park.
To get someone talking about him or herself, ask general questions. Once you get them talking, half the work is already done and all you have to do is be a good listener. This includes asking questions for clarification to show continuing interest, when appropriate, as well as maintaining casual eye contact and actually listening.
This especially applies if you’ve only recently met and are still in that sort-of-strangers stage. If you’re at a party, you could start a dialogue about how you both know the host, how the food/drinks are or how the people seem so far. This can then serve as a segue to more personal topics (but not too personal! See point #3).
Remember, it’s a simple conversation, not a job interview. Even though you’re trying to get to know someone, there’s no need for a rapid fire round of questions probing into someone’s personal life and experiences, nor does it add anything to the conversation if you aren’t familiar with the subject matter that you’re asking about. For example, if you don’t watch hockey and ask the other person whether they do, it could stilt the conversation since you probably won’t know what to say after they have responded.
Your interest and excitement will show naturally if you talk about a hobby that you have or an activity you really enjoy partaking in. You’ll also be able to answer any questions easily and your unique personality will also show. However, it’s important to note that conversations are reciprocal. If one of you is doing all the talking, that’s a monologue, not a conversation. Be mindful to not become that person.
Note that this doesn’t mean “be an asshole”. Instead, try to relax and show that you’re comfortable. This will put others, and yourself, at ease and will let the conversation between you flow more easily.