Although making small talk is the best way to advance your social network, many people have a terrible phobia about speaking when engaging in conversation.
Some feel awkward, and many others find making small talk intimidating, but it doesn't need to be that way if you follow a few simple tactics.
Perhaps you are using these few steps and don't even know it, but focusing on improving each of them will help you learn and succeed at making better small talk.
Teach Yourself to Ask Questions
People often dismiss asking too many questions. No one wants to come off as intrusive or nosey. Knowing the types of questions you should ask is one of the keys. Pick up on something interesting about the person.
People love to talk about themselves, and here is when you need to help them do it. Pick up on a unique trait your fellow communicator displays and ask questions that prove you are interested, not nosey. You may want to comment in a complementary fashion and then ask about the trait.
Remember always to ask more questions than you answer. Also, remember the person you are speaking with may struggle to make small talk like you. Asking them questions is an excellent way for both of you to continue the art of making small talk.
Listen to What They Say
At first, you may catch yourself listening for the opportunity to make a statement about what someone just said instead of listening to what they said. Understand that this isn't listening as much as it is waiting for the opportunity to speak.
One of the best ways to make small talk is to learn to speak only when compelled to do so. To do this, you need to listen to what your fellow communicator has to say.
Talking over them or commenting on something they said ten minutes ago will probably stall the flow of conversation worse than not saying anything at all. When you do comment, make the question or comment relatable.
People, yourself included, will often open up and be happy to converse when they know the topic, especially when the subject happens to be about them.
Take Time to Understand Current Events
If your conversational skills have broken down to the extent you and your fellow conversationist are speaking about the weather, then you are not doing it right.
Oscar Wilde was known to have written that "conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative." If you don't want to provide daily meteorological reports, then spend time each day informing yourself on things happening in the world around you.
Understanding everything happening doesn't mean you need to be a jack or jill of all trades and a master at none. It would help if you got a good grasp of the events of the day and can relate the facts and information to stimulate further conversation.
Be Genuine During Conversation
Interestingly enough, most people can spot disingenuous flattery or fraudulent interest in a topic rather quickly. Despite your best attempts to disguise your disinterest, your facial expressions of boredom will betray you.
To prevent this, repeat your fellow conversationist's name back when you comment on something they just said. First, this use of their name puts them at ease and helps establish a connection. Second, and just as important, it proves you were listening and care about what they said.
The Awkward Pause
Continuous communication is not communication; it is babble. Understand that a pause in conversation is not awkward unless you make it that way.
Conversation lapses are normal and will happen several times throughout communication. Each of your fellow communicators will stop and think about what they want to ask or say next. These mini-pauses are part of the art of making small talk.
It would be best if you practiced patience during these intermittent lapses. You will need time to come up with a few more topics of conversation, and so will your fellow communicators. Learn to get comfortable with these lapses and take the time to think.
It is a Habit
Learning how to make small talk is a habit, and the more you practice it remembering each of the steps, the better you will get.
At first, you may find yourself standing in a crowd searching for the exit sign, but stick it out and practice each of these steps, and you will soon realize you are having fun.
The next thing you will realize is just how much your social network has grown. You may not ever become the life of the party, but over time you will know almost everyone at the party.