5 tips on how to make small talk successfully

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5 tips on how to make small talk successfully

We all know this situation: You are at a business event and you are forced to talk to someone. Or is at a party where you hardly know anyone or you meet friends of your partner for the first time. All of these situations are awkward and inevitably end in small talk. Especially as an introvert, this can be quite nerve-wracking and exhausting. Let’s face it, deep talk is always more fun than small talk. But sharing the childhood trauma with the customer or work colleague is sometimes (mostly) not appropriate.

We understand that you find small talk uncomfortable. Maybe you feel like you don’t have anything important to say, or you like being alone, prefer to listen, are shy, or are afraid of being rejected or coming off the wrong way. But if you dare, small talk can be the first step to great encounters. It’s sort of the first bridge between two people that can lead to much deeper connections. The well-known psychologist Esther Perel has collected the five best tips on how to make small talk easier on her blog.

Building self-confidence takes practice
Being comfortable with other people takes practice. But before you can be comfortable with strangers, you must first enjoy your own company. Esther Perel recommends looking for YouTube videos that build self-confidence and listening to them with your eyes closed before leaving the house. Confidence is something that happens in the mind. Some have it easy, others can work on it. If the video seems silly to you, you can also ask yourself the following questions and answer them before engaging in small talk:

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What are the things you like about yourself?
what are you good at
What would you like to do better?
What challenges have you mastered and are you proud of yourself?
What is a new challenge that you would like to take on?
Start with what you have in mind
You managed. You showed up to the event feeling more confident. You put yourself in this situation. That’s a first success! But what should you only talk about in small talk? It’s easiest to start with what’s in front of you. Some examples:

If you’re in a museum, talk about the artwork around you.
If you’re at the market, ask if the person knows how to pick the perfect apple.
If you’re in a club, talk about the music.
If you’re at a coffee shop, ask if the person has a favorite item on the menu.
This may all sound very mundane, but it’s a first step to a conversation and the common ground that brought you together. If you sit next to someone on a park bench on a nice day, you can be sure that you both enjoy going to the park and sitting in the sunshine. From there you can ask if he*she prefers to spend a nice day like this, has brought a good book with him or can recommend a good restaurant near the park. And you’re in the middle of a conversation. Easy as that!

If you’re nervous, just say so
Are you at a networking event and feeling incredibly insecure and out of place? Tell exactly the first person you speak to. You will be surprised at the reaction. “Events like this are way out of my comfort zone. I had to force myself to get in, but you’re always supposed to do things that scare you,” I said to a woman at a networking event just this week. She was already telling me about the things that scared her, that she could understand, and we had a wonderful conversation. Honesty is a simple but effective trick.

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Focus on what you have in common
A very banal but successful trick. Find out what you and the person have in common and you have an endless amount of conversation. Did you grow up in similar regions, neither of you from Vienna, do you play an instrument or know the same person? Do you do the same sport? What brought you together? Start with: Where are you from and what do you like to do and work your way up from there. ?

Find out more about what’s new
Sometimes the answers to questions about origins or hobbies may surprise or surprise you. Take the chance to ask and find out more. Challenge yourself. Every question you ask encourages the other person to tell more about themselves. And the more you know, the more points of contact you have. The deeper into the conversation you are, the easier it will be.

But if you’re uncomfortable with the answers, ask yourself these questions:

Do I want to leave the conversation?
Or do I want to use this as an opportunity to challenge myself to learn how this person came to think or behave this way?
Whatever the answer, there is no pressure. It’s just small talk. If you end the call, you haven’t lost.

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