To the company party, or maybe a friend’s wedding, or a community group outing—whatever it is, it’s on your calendar. All great chances to meet new people, right?
But, it may bring more anxiety than excitement for some as such events may require engaging in small talks. Some may fear having to start such conversations where you have to meet unfamiliar faces and are not comfortable with starting small talks.
Small talk are frequently associated with meaningless and trivial conversations. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Studies have shown that those who have engaged in meaningful conversation are happier and more fulfilled, and small talks can open such doors. However, real conversations may be harder with people we are unfamiliar with, so here are some tips to ease the stress of small talk and create a quality conversation.
1. Get your mind right.
If you spend the week anticipating and worrying because you know you will feel uncomfortable, you’ve set yourself up for failure. Remember why you are going—to celebrate a friend on his or her special day, to meet others who share your interest or connect with your co-workers.
2. Take responsibility for meeting others.
Don’t wait for others to approach you. Say hello first. When you expect others to make the first move, you’ll be disappointed. And the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be.
3. Have your “go-to” questions ready.
Starting a conversation with a new person can be hard. Try, “How do you know _____?” “What is keeping you busy these days?” or “What brought you to this area?” It doesn’t have to be complicated, just something to get you started if you you’re new acquaintances.
4. Be interested. Listen more than you talk.
Asking questions is the secret ingredient to interesting conversations. Stay away from yes/no questions. You can naturally start with easy questions that feel natural, but listen for an interesting comment to explore and build upon.
As an example for how your questions might flow:
- How do you know Felicia?
- I didn’t realise you were a graphic designer. What kind of design do you do?
- Why did you decide to get into graphic design?
Within a few questions, you can move to more substance and a real conversation.
5. Be yourself!
No one likes the fake networker. In the interest of being more outgoing, don’t be someone you aren’t. Putting out effort doesn’t mean being fake.
6. Compliment and shift.
Find something that you can genuinely compliment the other person on and then shift to a question so it isn’t awkward. Everyone loves a nice compliment.
7. Don’t be the sidekick.
Rather than being the shadow of the one person you already know, branch out. Meet others on your own.
8. Plan a graceful exit.
Every conversation runs its course, but a natural end is hard. Just say, “It’s been great to meet you, and I hope you have the best vacation next week.” Excuse yourself to do something else and move on.
9. Don’t expect too much.
Not every get-together will result in new friends. That’s OK. You still accomplished your goal of going when it was easier not to—you were there supporting a friend or a co-worker. And that is enough.
10. Get in the habit.
Don’t constrain this habit to social events. Say hello to the person next to you on the plane before you grab your headphones. Talk to your waiter. Ask your Uber driver about his day. The habit of saying hello and listening is a muscle you can develop by working on it every day.
Try some small talk. You might be surprised where it takes you.