Small talk is a part of our everyday lives, whether it’s in the salon, at the supermarket or in the office. And many lasting relationships are built on it. So why is it sometimes so hard? We can be desperate to fill that awkward silence and resort to talking about the weather or staring at our phones.
There are a few simple steps to help you master small talk this year, it only takes a little bit of confidence.
1. Stop your internal monologue
Everybody’s internal monologue usually tells them the same things. “Everybody’s looking at me, they’re laughing at me, my skirt is too short, I look stupid from this angle…”
We tend to focus on all the negative things and all the insecurities we have, which makes talking to someone seem so much more intense. Take a breath and focus on someone else, stopping your thoughts from holding you back is the first step towards being confident when talking to people you don’t know.
2. Know what other people want
Particularly at an event, you need to know that people want to be made to feel important. “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” said Dale Carnegie in his bestselling book How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s true, all you need to know is that questions are the gateways to great conversations.
Have you ever noticed that every hairdresser ever asks you if you’re going away on holiday? It’s a go-to trusted conversation starter. At this time of year asking about plans for the holidays is a great way to get to know people, and keep the conversation flowing. Just remember to share your own experiences too, too much questioning can feel like an interrogation.
3. Learn the FORE technique
If you’re ever stuck, the FORE technique is how you’ll get good conversation flowing. It stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, Education. Questions about any of these will save you from awkward silences and make you look like a master of small talk!
4. Actually listen
If you’ve stopped your negative thoughts about yourself and started a successful conversation, the next hurdle to overcome is listening.
While people are talking we tend to only think about what we’re going to say next. If we’re talking to someone we don’t know, we’re more likely to panic about our next sentence than we are with friends or family, but it’s better to quiet your mind and actually listen to what the person is saying. This will give you some ideas of what to say naturally, and you can react to what they’ve said.
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