I understand why the weather always comes up in small talk. It’s something we all experience, and it’s easy to agree or disagree with the current conditions. But man oh man, I can’t stand talking about the weather with strangers. I shut down whenever it’s brought up, grunting a quick yep or yeah.
Small talk doesn’t have to suffer from the weather, though. There are ways you can make it better. In the December issue of IU Health & Vitality, Bernardo J. Carducci, the director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, offers some helpful advice on improving your small-talk skills.
“Small talk is really, really important,” Carducci said. “It helps us connect with people, and not just at holiday gatherings. If you make connections with people, it makes it much more difficult for you to treat them in an uncivil way. If you think about being kind to and connecting with people, people you engage in conversation, you’re going to open a door for them, you’ll let them step in front of you in line. You’ll engage in more acts of kindness and fewer acts of rudeness.
“Small talk is important, particularly now when we have people retreating into their own electronic bubbles, their own worlds, where they can get whatever they want on their own terms,” he continued. “The people who are happiest and most influential have the strongest social network, social capital.”
Carducci suggests the following small-talk tips:
Start small. Begin with a simple greeting or a compliment. Over time, as people see one another, those will turn into conversations.
Aim for nice, not brilliant. You don’t have to be funny, just willing to talk.
Have something to say. Learn about local and current events so you have something to talk about.
Rehearse your introduction. Be prepared to offer two pieces of information—your name and something about you that helps continue the conversation.
You’re late? Big mistake. Arrive early or on time to a networking event so you can greet people and pace the conversation.
Extend the conversation. Be in the moment and consider how you can build on the last thing said.
Now, stop talking. Take a break and let others contribute to the conversation.
Help yourself and others with “quick talk.” Make your conversations brief, showing you can talk with a variety of people.
As with any skill, practice makes perfect.
“It’s like exercise,” Carducci said. “If you can build it into your daily routine, you’re healthier. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.”
(Image: Orange Photography)