I'll be the first to admit it – I hate small talk. Finding random topics to talk about is grueling, and I would much rather have a meaningful conversation. Maybe you feel the same way. But unfortunately, small talk is a part of life. This is how we get to know new people. It might be a hard skill to master, but there are ways to turn small talk into a conversation.
A yes or no question might be the first thing that pops into your mind. Just know that these questions rarely turn into a real conversation. To enjoy a back and forth dialogue, you have to do more and stimulate interest. For example...
To transition from small talk to a conversation, ask questions that invite a story. Rather than ask the person, did you have a good day? You might try, what did you do today? Even if the only person only relaxed or went to work, she'll most likely avoid a one-word answer, but expand and provide details about her day. Maybe she sat through a boring meeting at work, or maybe she had an interesting conversation with a coworker.
Asking a question is an excellent start. However, to keep the conversation going you'll have to listen and then piggyback off a statement she makes. For example, if she sat through a boring work meeting, you can make a joke about boring meetings or relate a personal experience. This establishes a common ground and sparks the other person's interest, and it'll be easier to engage in a back and forth discussion.
Realistically, you might not be able to piggyback off every statement another person makes. No problem. If you know you're going to engage in small talk with people you don't know well, come prepared with relevant topics. This can be anything, such as a relevant news item or an upcoming local event. After the person finishes speaking, acknowledge their statement and then smoothly transition to another topic. If all else fails, talk about the weather. For example, the weather's been nice the past couple of days, how have you been enjoying the break from the cold?
While you'll want to get the other person talking, don't bombard her with questions. The conversation shouldn't feel like an interrogation. So occasionally talk about yourself for a smoother, balanced conversation.
For a conversation to develop, show genuine interest. If it's obvious you're not listening to the other person, or if you're scanning the room looking for someone better to speak with, the other person will notice and she won't engage in conversation.
Don't get too personal with the other person. Use good judgement and avoid touchy topics, such as religion and politics. You don't want to offend the other person, which can stop a conversation in its tracks.
Small talk can be challenging, but you can successfully transition into a conversation. The key is knowing what to say and how to engage the other person. What are other tips for turning small talk into a conversation.
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