It’s not a secret : we like to get together. Any excuse for a party, we’ll be there to celebrate. With friends, family and even strangers (who won’t be strangers for long), we’re always up for good food and good conversation. But the latter? In a post-pandemic world, where we’re *still* getting used to in-person parties and cutting out Zoom get-togethers, this isn’t always easy to achieve. Fortunately, the Internet is full of little tips that go far beyond talking about the weather.
The social subtlety of getting-to-know-you discussions is back in force. And while small talk has always been a skill to master, it can seem even more intimidating in our digital-first society. In a season of so many intimate meetings, professional events, and coffee catch-ups, we’ll heed every little conversation tip we can get. What if you’re feeling a little intimidated? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
7 Small Talk Tips for Easy, Authentic Conversation
After hearing so many clients express anxiety about the return of office banter, John Bowespeech therapy coach and author of I Have Something to Say: Mastering the Art of Public Speaking in the Age of Disconnectwas inspired to share a some tips with CNBC to help obtain the the conversation flows effortlessly once again. However, the award-winning journalist is more interested in meaningful connection than perfect speaking skills. So instead of practical advice to talk about, Bowe offers conversational pitfalls to avoid.
The funny thing about office chatter, of course, is how universal its challenges seem. Check out some of our favorite Bowe small talk tips, especially suited to everyday meetings.
Consider your entry
Of all the little conversation tips, this might be our favorite. (And honestly, the one we need the most.) When mingling at a party or even just in a common space, knowing how to seamlessly jump into a conversation already in progress can be intimidating, but timing is everything .
“First, wait for a lull. Then, once you have someone’s attention and, ideally, receive a non-verbal green light, this is your chance,” Bowe written for CNBC. “Also keep distance in mind; Don’t stand too close or too far away. You want to be heard. You don’t want to scream or appear scary.
Don’t get into controversial topics
It’s important to be able to have stimulating conversations, but when it comes to a light chat with someone you still know, consider sticking to something you know you all share both.
“If you turn to (controversial) topics later, so much the better. But to start, aim for something simple and within reach that you and the other person can observe together,” Bowe writes.
Don’t talk about yourself, but don’t talk about it All About them
There’s nothing worse than leaving a conversation worried you’ve left a bad impression. Did I ask them enough questions? Did I just make all this talk about myself? Naturally, if you’re nervous about commandeering the chat, you risk putting too much pressure on the other person. A little mantra of discussion tips to keep in mind: the best conversations are those that are balanced.
“No one likes to feel like they’re being questioned, so if you feel the questions aren’t welcome, back off. Instead, tell a story, give an opinion, or take the burden of performance off them,” says Bowe.
Don’t rule out small talk completely
It’s easy to dismiss informal speech as too trivial or insincere. Having a disdain for small talk can practically become a personality trait. But polite conversations about seemingly unimportant things can lead to something much bigger.
“Every relationship you enjoy started somewhere, with a first conversation,” notes Bowe. “Was it deep?” Did you cure cancer? No, but you made a real connection.
This article was originally published on August 30, 2021 and has since been updated.