We know that small talk is something that is inherently common in our day-to-day interactions. However, let’s explore how we can move past these formal conversations and make a real connection with a fellow human being.
All of us have fallen into the endless loop of “How are you?” And “What’s new?”. We have been conditioned to a point where if someone gives out additional details while answering these questions, we feel a bit uncomfortable.
Personally, when friends ask me how am I doing, I’ll often give them a few details about my work and leisure time and talk about life. A good conversation is a skill and you have to practice it to become better at it. There are certain ‘hooks’ in a conversation which you can use to ensure that you get more value from your chit-chat. Let me give you an example:
Person 1: How are you?
Person 2: I’m good
Person 1: …
You need to give the other person some material to work with. Now let’s look at the above conversations with hooks in place. They are highlighted in bold to make it easier for you to spot them.
Person 1: How are you?
Person 2: I’m good. Trying to be more productive. Work is kinda tiring, but I am getting ahead in my career, so that’s a plus. I’m thinking of taking guitar lessons in my free time and reduce the time I spend on social media. The other day, I was waiting at the bank and saw a kid who was playing with a toy. It reminded me of how happiness lies in the simplest things in life.
From here on, the person can ask questions on his/her career or maybe discuss their efforts to stay productive. They can also discuss their own hobbies and how guitar/piano/ anything is their favorite instrument. Additionally, the last hook in the above example can lead to a sizeable conversation about life and happiness.
This was just a random example, to put it into practice, talk about things that are going on in your life. Put at least 2-3 hooks in your conversations and see how much more meaningful your interactions become.
If you are looking to talk to strangers, a little bit of small talk is inevitable, though you can ask a couple of questions which strike your curiosity. An article of jewelry, the color of their backpack or an interesting tattoo and the story of how they got it.
Do note that asking too many questions might make you seem a bit too interrogative, so try and strike a balance.
Another habit that a lot of people fall into is that they forget to acknowledge the other person when they are talking. A slight head nod or “yes”, “I can understand”, “that’s true”, will greatly up your conversation game and it shows the other person that you are actively listening. Instead of starting your own monologue on a particular topic or how you relate to it, try asking a couple of follow up questions on what they were talking about. This will help you understand the other person better and make them feel heard.
On the other hand, a lot of people are terrified about uncomfortable silences, where both the parties are simply waiting for the other person to talk. The strongest connections are the ones where these silent moments are cherished. Awkward silences are inevitable in a conversation and one should practice becoming more comfortable with them. It takes off the pressure of filling the conversation with empty words and allows you to talk about things that actually matter.
The last tip I’d say is to listen. People love talking about themselves and they often forget how important it is to let the other person voice their thoughts. Active listening is a difficult skill to master, but it will give you a lot of hooks which you can use to continue the conversation.
What are the conversation troubles that you experience? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll create a post addressing your concern.