Finding Friends: Excel at Small Talk

If your conversations evaporate almost as soon as they have begun, or if you are reluctant to participate at social or business functions, you will learn some useful tips from the book, Small Talk by Debra Fine.

To become a better conversationalist, engage in the following five steps:

1)   Take the Risk. It is up to us to start a conversation with a stranger. To expand your circle of friends, you must engage strangers and acquaintances in conversation. There is no other way. Take the risk. Walk up to someone and introduce yourself, extend your hand, make eye contact, and smile saying, “Hello, my name is David. It is nice to meet you. Begin by looking for the approachable person. The approachable person is someone who makes eye contact with you or who is not actively engaged in a conversation or activity; it’s the solitary person who is best to approach.

2)   Assume the burden. It is our responsibility to come up with topics to discuss; it is up to us to relieve the awkward moments and the burden of other people’s comfort. Start by remembering the person’s name. Repeat the name back in your greeting and again in the beginning of your conversation. To start a conversation use icebreakers that start with a statement and are followed with a question. For example, What a beautiful day. What is your favorite season of the year?  You always wear such attractive clothes. What are your favorite stores? Your mission is to get your conversation partners talking about themselves; this is the no-brainer route to small talk success. By asking open-ended questions, you offer your conversation partner the opportunity to disclose as much or as little as she wants. Open ended questions start with the phrases: Describe for me……Tell me about……How did you……..? What was that like for you? What brought you to……. ? Why?

3)   Search for free information. When you invite someone to tell you about their family, job, travels, or hobbies, you will receive additional information that you can use to further the conversation. You can choose from any of the free information to find out more of what interests you the most; simply facilitate the conversation by asking questions.

4)   Good listening is seen. The speaker is always on the lookout for cues to validate receipt of the message. Visual cues, which offer the easiest form of feedback, let the speaker know you are paying attention. Facial expressions, eye contact, head nods, leaning forward, and positive body language are clear ways of expressing interest in your conversation partner’s words. There are also numerous verbal cues to let the speaker know you are engaged in the conversation. For example: Tell me more. How interesting. On  the other hand, what do you think………?

5)   The graceful exit. When you prepare to depart a conversation, recall what you enjoyed connecting on with your conversational partner by bringing the conversation back to that topic. Doing so will allow you to make a meaningful connection, extend your hand to shake hands, retain your poise, and make a tactful exit.

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