Top 10 Secrets To Make Small Talk Easier & Meaningful

Does the very idea of small talk make you cringe? It doesn't need to. With these 10 secrets, you can make small talk easier and more meaningful than ever!

By Jennifer Nelson
Top 10 Secrets To Make Small Talk Easier & Meaningful

Do you hate small talk?

Many people - from introverts to shy people to extroverts who prefer already knowing somebody over the intense pressure of getting to know somebody - hate small talk. Who wants to talk about the weather and work? How can you possibly get to know somebody like that? Luckily, small talk doesn't have to be terrible. You can prepare yourself for a social situation where you know you'll need to make small talk, and with a little bit of practice, you may even feel comfortable striking up conversations with people in the grocery store. Sound like an impossible task? Think again! These are the 10 secrets that nobody shares about how to make small talk easier, less dreadful, and far more meaningful than you ever could have imagined.

#1 - Make yourself focus on the small talk by leaving your phone in your purse or pocket

Making small talk with strangers can be stressful, but it helps to remember that they may be as nervous as you are. A good way to show the girl or guy opposite you that you are truly interested in what they have to say is to leave your phone in your purse or your pocket. Nothing screams "I don't want to engage in small talk with you" more than staring at your phone instead of looking at the person opposite you. If you are expecting an urgent message from work or a babysitter, you can keep it where you can still hear the ringtone, but be quick about checking any messages that come through, and definitely stay off of Snapchat and Twitter until after your conversation has ended. Wouldn't you want the same basic courtesy of having the person you are talking to be more interested in you than in your phone? You came out to meet people in the real world, so it's important to be present in the real world while you are engaged in small talk. You can catch up on social media later - and maybe you'll have even more to tell your friends on social media if you have a great night of small talk with interesting people that you may otherwise have missed out on.

#2 - Make sure to reduce your anxiety first

If making small talk with strangers terrifies you, your anxiety will show through your face and may make people unwilling to approach you. What are some good ways to relieve your anxiety before walking up and talking to that hot guy or girl? Before the event where you anticipate needing to participate in small talk, you can make a list of conversation topics. Having a mental list of small talk topics to cover will help prevent you from freezing and wondering what to talk about. Keep a copy of the list in your pocket or phone if necessary and review it just before entering the event (or in the bathroom if you panic). Another great way to relax before an event is to get yourself pumped up by listening to your favorite upbeat music while you're getting ready to go. Sing or dance along if you're into that. Whatever puts you in a good mood and gets you out of your head is a great way to prepare yourself to talk to strangers. One of the best things you can do to control your anxiety, both before and during engaging in small talk, is to focus on your breathing. When you are nervous, you tend to breathe faster, causing less oxygen to make its way to your brain. This, in turn, increases your anxiety. There are many different breathing techniques that you can try. One method is to inhale to a count of 7 while your belly pushes out (this proves that your lungs are expanding as much as possible), then exhale to a count of 7. These long breaths will reduce your heart rate and help you to feel calmer. Another breathing method some people think is good is what's called square breathing. You breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, then hold for another count of 4 and repeat as often as necessary. Working so hard to focus on your breaths also helps to put your mind in a healthier headspace.

#3 - Ask open-ended questions

Asking strangers questions that can be answered with a "yes," a "no," or another one- or two-word answer won't move small talk along very well. It's a good idea to have a list of small talk topics handy that lend themselves to longer answers. For example, "What do you do for work?" could be answered with a one- or two-word answer. Instead, try asking "What is your favorite thing about your work?" Instead of asking "Where are you from" you can try "Tell me about where you came from and what led you to move (or stay) here." "Why" is almost always a great small talk question all by itself. It's like saying, "Tell me more. I'm interested in what you have to say and don't want to be brushed off with a simple answer." Asking why and open-ended questions that can't be answered with only a word or two will help you focus on listening to your partner instead of scrambling to figure out how to insert yourself into the conversation. Make small talk about the other person as much as possible.

#4 - Talk less and listen more

#cowboy #cowgirl #talking #smalltalk #verhandlung

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You know how good it feels when somebody really listens to you? Imagine a situation where your goal is to make the person opposite you feel as good as possible. That would include a lot of listening, wouldn't it? It can be very difficult not to interrupt the girl or guy you're talking to in order to add your own story, but good small talk isn't about you, it's about the strangers you are talking to. The goal is to get to know them as well as possible, not for them to get to know you as much as possible. If they're a good small talk person, they will make sure to turn the conversation around so that you have your chance to speak. And if they hog the entire conversation, you learn more about what kind of person they are. They may just be nervous and not a narcissist, but you'll learn a lot about them regardless. Some people may be uncomfortable talking about themselves, and you should try to respect that, but most people's favorite topic is themselves and their life, so listening to them talk will help them to have a more favorable opinion of you. Also, the more you listen, the less you have to worry about saying something stupid. People who struggle with social anxiety frequently worry about what to say, so letting the other person talk more is a great way to help reduce your anxiety about talking to strangers.

#5 - Ask your small talk partner for advice

Everybody loves to give advice. Once you learn a little bit about a person, you can figure out a way to ask them for advice on something they seem knowledgeable about. Even if you don't really need advice on the particular topic, asking for advice and receiving it well will help the other person feel good about themselves, and, by extension, feel better about you. Do they love to read? Ask for their advice on what you should read next. Are they a general contractor? Ask them about the benefits of different types of countertops. Sometimes getting beyond the typical work, weather, and where are you from small talk topics into something deeper can help. Asking strangers for advice on a particular matter you have been struggling with can be a great way to help other people open up to you in return. Small talk becomes more interesting when it isn't so small. Asking a person for advice opens them up in a way that can expand a conversation into something much deeper than the typical talking points. This can be a great way to help the other person open up to you and contribute more to the conversation in a way that is comfortable for them also.

#6 - Pay attention to your body language

The way you hold yourself while engaged in small talk says a lot about how you're thinking and feeling. If you have your arms and legs crossed, you will look unapproachable. Be sure to sit or stand with an open stance, facing the person you are talking to. Try not to fiddle with your hands. This may take some practice. It's a good idea to practice some stances and facial expressions in your mirror to see if you look the way you think you look. Maybe, if you're being objective, the wink you think looks sexy actually looks creepy. Perhaps the crossed leg stance you use to look skinnier actually looks like you're in desperate need of the restroom. You can also go to a public place and study the body language of people walking by for practice. Do they seem angry? Happy? Worried? Try listening to music with earbuds to drown out what and how they are speaking to really try to guess how they are feeling based on their body language. The next time you watch a movie, focus on the body language of the actors. How are their body and face expressing their emotions? You can try this at home with the movie on mute, especially if it's one you've seen before. You will have the context to know the plot of the story, but without the dialogue, you can concentrate on studying the body language of people and learning how to hold yourself in public to look as approachable and friendly as possible.

#7 - Go beyond the basics

Going beyond the usual topics will make for much more interesting small talk for both you and the guy or girl you are talking to. The more unusual the small talk topics, the better. What better way to engage somebody than to ask them a question that makes them have to stop and think because they've never been asked that question before? Try things like: -How did you get interested in your favorite hobby? -What's the best meal you've ever experienced? -If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Who would you take with you? -What are some of your goals? Do you have any plans on how you might achieve your goals? -What did you want to be when you grew up? -Tell me about an experience that has shaped who you are as a person today.

#8 - Make your small talk have a purpose

Why are you engaged in small talk with the girl or guy opposite you? Are you trying to make a business contact? Are you trying to make a friend? Are you looking for somebody to date or hook up with? Knowing your goal and your reason for engaging in small talk with the other person will help direct the topics of conversation that you choose. For example, you will probably want to spend more time talking about business than complicated relationships if you are trying to make a business contact. But talking about small details of your job may bore somebody you are trying to impress romantically unless you insert the passion you have for your job and entice your conversation partner to speak about their passion as well. Still, it's always a good idea to get a well-rounded idea of a person regardless of the reason why. The woman you meet at a business mixer may still want to talk about her 2 kids. The guy you are attracted to may actually be fascinated by the small details of your job. You never know until you test out the waters of the conversation with varying small talk topics.

#9 - Watch their body language

How is the girl or guy opposite you holding themselves? Are they leaning into you and hanging on every word you say? Are they leaning away from you and hesitant to make eye contact? Just as your body language informs others about your emotional state and confidence, reading the body language of your conversational partner can help you understand whether or not they are interested in you and even guide the topics of conversation. Do they lose eye contact when you talk about work but smile when you talk about your dog? Use that as a cue to guide the conversation. If a person looks really uncomfortable talking to you, it may be best to politely dismiss yourself. If you think you can get a nervous or shy person out of their shell, you can try, but be sure to pay attention to your own body language and watch for any changes in theirs. A person with their arms crossed tightly across themselves who doesn't want to maintain eye contact after talking to you for more than a few minutes probably isn't interested and you should just move on.

#10 - Make sure the small talk is balanced between you and the person you're talking to

Just as you want to make sure to listen to the person opposite you and not talk too much, you also don't want to force them to carry the burden of the entire conversation all by themselves. Talk when appropriate, but not for too long. A conversation should be like a well-matched volleyball match with the ball being bounced over the net about the same amount from both sides. Try not to talk for more than a minute before tossing the ball back into their court. If they seem really interested in your long story, based on their body language, then you can continue on for a few minutes, but it's still best to toss the ball back into their court as often as you can. On the other hand, as much as people like to talk about themselves, most people don't feel comfortable hogging the entire conversation, so it's important to open up about yourself as well. Being vulnerable is a good thing. If the other person shares something deeply personal, it's a good idea to respond with something equally personal. Having deep, personal conversations with people you've just met may be scary, but it is so much more satisfying than the usual small talk banter about weather and work.

Practice makes perfect!

Still not feeling very confident about your ability to have a conversation with a stranger? Keep reading and practicing these secrets, and it will get easier. You can even take these steps one at a time if 10 is too overwhelming all at once. Take time to practice deep breathing to calm yourself down before talking to somebody. Once you feel like you've mastered that, move on to another item on the list. One item at a time, you will be able to talk to just about anybody and have meaningful conversations that don't feel like torture. If your anxiety still gets the best of you, there is no shame in seeking help via therapy and/or medication. Life is too short to be ruled by fear and anxiety.