Small talk, it's ironic how there's really nothing 'small' about making small talk. It requires a level of intellectual exertion to maintain and keep from becoming boring. A good number of people dread it, but the reality is that it is a skill everyone eventually needs to develop. This is because small talk, to a large extent, is the pillar of social interactions.
Jumia Travel, the leading online travel agency, shares 7 ways to help you make interesting small talk.
Make the Person Feel Comfortable
Before you initiate small talk with a person(s), make the person(s) feel comfortable. The best way to do this is to have an 'open stance', and direct your body towards the person without overdoing or being forceful or stiff about it. Give a friendly greeting, smile and politely introduce yourself to the person.
Make eye contact with the person, and if the person isn't comfortable with eye contact, tailor your mien to make the person feel like you are giving him/her attention, even without making much eye contact. You should also remember to maintain the right distance from the person and not lean in too close to the person. Respect the person's personal space, and don't seem too eager to talk. Everything should be done in moderation.
Small Compliments Can Go a Long Way
After politely introducing yourself, another way you can make the person even more comfortable is to give small compliments, here and there, to the person. Compliments have a way of disarming people and helping them relax and feel more comfortable.
Simple compliments that wouldn't come off as being flirtatious or offensive are fine. Simple compliments done in moderation so as not to make the other person uncomfortable are fine. But be careful with this however, not everyone likes compliments. For some, it makes them uncomfortable, and for some others it makes them defensive. You should therefore, be sensitive to the reaction of the other person and use your discretion when giving these compliments.
Pay Attention and Be Sensitive To the Direction of the Conversation
To make great conversation and small talk, you should be attentive and focus on the conversation without letting your mind wander. Peradventure, your mind does wander, politely ask the person to reiterate what has just been said. You should be careful not to request for this too often, after a while it becomes cliché and upsetting to the one having to reiterate repeatedly.
Initially, try to keep the conversation light, fun and positive. Loosen up and be ready to smile, exclaim and laugh over things, even over things you might not necessarily find funny but are ideal for you to react to in that context. In the process, if the other person(s) gets comfortable and decides to share things, more or less on a deeper level, with you, you should be open to hear it.
Be a listening ear and a shoulder for them to lean on. If you by chance connect with that person(s) on this deep level, you can share your stories and experiences too. However, if you do not, simply give opinions you might have about the issue and if you are in a counseling mood, give advice. But be as open as you can with this advice, so you are not blamed if anything goes wrong because of your advice.
Find a Common Ground
Once introductions are over, the small talk begins but that is nothing to worry about. Simply, begin by exploring subjects or things that you and the person(s) might relate to. When you find a common ground, you can then use this to establish a connection.
For example, if you are at a book signing and want to start small talk with someone, a good way to begin is to ask questions and share experiences on writing and literature. At this juncture, the person can either respond by sharing his/her own experiences or confess that they are just there for the food! In that case, you laugh at the joke and use that to begin another conversation on the person's likely love for food!
Try Not To Ask Too Many Questions; Instead Share Your Experiences Or Stories
Asking too many questions when trying to make small talk can make the whole thing seem like an interview instead of a conversation; to avoid this, you should ask fewer questions and share more experiences or stories you have about that subject. Try to avoid sharing too many facts, figures and information about the subject of the conversation, as that might make the conversation boring.
Know When It's Time to End the Conversation
Remember that it's a conversation, not a consultation. You should remain sensitive and know when enough has been said and exchanged. At this juncture, when you sense the conversation is coming to a lull, you can politely end with an offer to call the person(s) or see each other again. The person(s) can either ask for your contact details or share theirs with you. You then say goodbye to the person(s) nicely and go your separate ways.
Not Everyone is Ready For a Conversation, Don't Force It
If you try to make small talk with a person(s), and no matter how hard you try they refuse to loosen up and open up to you, don't force it. It isn't your fault that they don't want to talk, and you should see it this way and move on to another person who is willing and ready to talk.
If your attempt to make small talk with a person is not forthcoming, and the person remains rigid in their responses - sharing little or no information, politely end the conversation when you sense the next lull and move on to another person. But be careful not to overdo this, moving from one person to another in a social gathering should be done in moderation so as not to draw unnecessary attention to yourself.