Have you ever found yourself racking your brain for something interesting to say when you first meet someone only to find yourself completely tongue tied? You stand there speechless with a dry, parched throat, your tongue sitting like an alien object in your mouth. If the object of small talk is to make the other person feel comfortable, why is it so hard?
The first step to mastering small talk is to remember that it’s not what you say that matters but how you make the other person feel. Small talk should be about making the other person feel comfortable so give them a chance to share a bit about themselves and learn a little about you.
Top 11 tips to keep the conversation alive
1. Be interested as well as interesting.
It’s easy to get so caught up with the impression you’re making and the other person’s impression of you; (do they like me, do they think that I’m interesting, am I too ugly, fat, skinny, do I have food in my teeth? Substitute your own internal dialogue here), that it’s a surprise you actually hear a word they say.
Relax, remember it’s not about you. An interested person is an interesting person. Be curious, ask open ended questions and find out what they are really passionate about. Use all of your senses to really pick up on what they are communicating.
Giving your total undivided attention will automatically draw people to you.
2. Be genuine.
Be genuinely interested about the other person, allow yourself to connect and really listen to what they have to say. But don’t forget to also be genuine about you who are, about your interests, what you find fascinating and what’s important to you. There’s no value in engaging in a deep discussion about spiders or the mating habits of alligators, unless it is going to heat things up for at least one of you. It’s amazing how much you can find out about someone and whether or not you’re compatible by asking a few innocent questions.
3. Find some common ground.
Want to make them feel as though they already know you? Birds of a feather flock together. We’re simply more attracted to people who are like us, so find some common ground early on. Make them feel you’re similar by using empathetic sounds like ‘mmm,’ nodding, smiling, and using words like ‘I understand,’ ‘I’d feel the same way’ or ‘Me too.’
There’s nothing worse than giving up your personality to try to make someone love you but highlight the points you have in common. If they’re an outdoorsy type then talk about how much you love the Botanical Gardens, (or if you haven’t been outside since you were five), how much you loved going camping as a child.
How do you find the common ground when you have nothing in common? You don’t need to love the same things to appreciate their passion for life. Simply show an interest and get them to share their knowledge. You’ll be shining the spotlight on them and they’ll love you for it.
4. Answer questions.
This particularly applies to men. Guys, we know that most women like to talk, perhaps sometimes a little too much, but they don’t want to feel as though they’re talking to a brick wall. One of the biggest complaints women made about men is that men don’t bother to reply or give short one word answers, making it hard to maintain an interesting conversation.
5. Go fishing, (for clues that is).
Finding out what makes someone tick is easy, just ask leading questions, sit back and take note, remembering the finer details.
6. Be positive and confident.
Don’t get bogged down in the negative and tell them how much you hate your job. Confidence is attractive. We want a partner who has their life together and not someone who’s falling apart at the seams.
7. Give details.
Keeping up small talk can be painfully difficult when you’re hit with those attraction nerves, so give them a helping hand by giving details. Answering ‘nothing much’ when someone asks you what you got up to on the weekend isn’t a great launching pad for a stimulating conversation. Don’t make extracting information like pulling out teeth, give them details so that the conversation has somewhere to go.
8. Remember details and use them.
Remembering the little things goes a long way to helping establish rapport. It shows the one you’re with that you’re really listening and makes them feel valued. Want to earn some extra brownie points? When making introductions give as many details as possible.
9. Find out what arouses their passion.
Most people harbour secret passions or things that they’re proud of, dropping subtle hints in everyday conversation, waiting for someone to pick up on their cues and delve deeper. Give them the chance to share their passions and give them the admiration that they’re craving, and you’ll go straight to the top of their list.
Just take your cue from the positive changes in their physiology.
10. Use the seven Ws
Remember to use the seven Ws to show interest – who, what, why, when, where, which and wow.
Extract from Katia Loisel and Paul Morris Segal’s book How To Get The Man You Want / How To Get The Woman You Want.