Idle chit-chat can be a passive measure used to fill a gap between two strangers, but let’s be honest: who really enjoys talking about the weather? If you don’t, chances are your conversation buddy doesn’t either. Small talk seems to find its way in our day-to-day, no matter the industry you find yourself. Make better use of your time (and theirs) to start a conversation with meaning.
Don’t brush off a question and don’t just smile and nod as your counterpart talks. Invest yourself! Ask relevant questions to find out more. If asked about your weekend, respond with more than a bland “It was good.” answer. Really answer! What did you do? Even if you marathoned your latest Netflix guilty pleasure, an honest answer will make your conversation less boring. Listening and engaging with topics brought up will give you the best chance to give this time some meaning.
Do Your Homework
Have a short list of a few topics in your back pocket to reference if you are unsure of how to continue. Knowing you have some fall-backs will give you a confidence boost to keep the conversation going. It’s best to avoid bringing up certain things like controversial or political issues until you know someone a bit better. Stick to light, but still interesting topics like pop culture, cuisine, or other interesting current events.
You’re chatting with a stranger, but you don’t have to treat them like a stranger. Give them a chance, think of them as a friend you’d like to get to know better. Of course, don’t fake pleasantries, that can be spotted a mile away. Be genuine and don’t act like the conversation is an obligation.
Know When It’s Time
Don’t wrap up the conversation just because you don’t want to seem clingy. If your counterpart wants or needs to leave, they’ll let you know. But, maybe you gave it your best shot and it just didn’t work. That’s ok! Sometimes a conversation just doesn’t happen. Pleasantries don’t have a time that designates when a conversation is over, but you needn’t prolong one just for the sake of using up time. Politely excuse yourself and move along.
Small talk can be unavoidable. Use your time strategically to grow, learn, and maybe even make a new friend. Let us know how these tips worked for you in the comments.