Small talk – is the most underestimated skill and at the same time the most powerful one. I cannot count how many times I got an advantage just by simply talking to strangers. And it makes me sad to see how many people underrate small talk. Unlike other posts that concentrate on business, I will concentrate on the general benefits of Small talk. Learn how you can become an expert on small talk.
The Magic of Small Talk
Assuming you can talk to strangers, the best thing about small talk is their response. Every time I end a conversation with a stranger, we both come out happier. Seeing a stranger smile is one of the best unexpecting rewards life can give you. And I am pretty sure that their day is lifted, even if it is only for a moment. And sometimes and out of nowhere, you might find a friend or a piece of good advice. I think being able to small talk with can open you many doors and chances.
If you may know I was shy when I was a teenager. I was the opposite of outgoing. Furthermore, I was afraid of embarrassing myself and making mistakes. The love of small talk began on the train. When I sat next to an elderly woman. After I picked up her newspaper, we talked for a while. She asked me about where I live and what ethnic group I belonged to. After responding, I asked her where she is going and how long she lived in Berlin.
We talked a lot, laughed a lot, and even made jokes. When I get off the train, she hugged me and gave me a bit of advice for life. “Thien, you are young. Live your life, savor every moment, and live without regret. And stay healthy… Goodbye, it was a pleasure.” I thanked her and told her to stay healthy as well.
Until today I remember this moment. Not only did I make a friend, I learned that there are many great people out there. And most importantly, how small talk can make your life bright as the sun. I hope she is healthy and lives happily.
Online Apps and Social Media ruin everything
After this life-changing event, I became less and less shy. I talked to many strangers just for fun. Sometimes, I make a new friend. At the other time, I got a free drink. Sometimes, I got another story to tell. And sometimes, I receive some of the best advices from strangers.
And yet, I am confused that many people do not see it that way. When I used Dating-Apps, for research purposes, of course, I encounter a strict “Small-Talk”-Rule from some women. Ignoring this rule, I tried to be myself even online. And it did not go well. There was no response or even worse an unmatch. So, I asked some friends about my approach. They told me that I was boring. My text messages had no substance and were generally boring.
What I did at many parties did not work on Dating-Apps. So, I tried to analyze the problem. And I found it quickly. Online people cannot see my charm and my overall positive body language. They can only receive information and emotions from text messages. Plain and way too straightforward. If your charm depends on your face and body language, as I do, dating apps are not for you.
If you hate Dating-Apps or any other kinds of online software to connect with people, learn these tips for easy small talk.
Tips – Becoming the Expert of Small Talk
1. Become the Expert of Small Talk – What you should be aware of:
Before you start talking to strangers, here are some things you should have before you start a conversation.
The Right Attitude
The most crucial lesson to be good at small talk is the right attitude. And this attitude is to not expect at all. You do not find a One-night-Stand, a business partner, or some advantage over small talk. small talk is more innocent, simpler.
When you talk to a stranger with an intention, you will confront yourself with several problems. First, your body language and voices shift immediately to someone who wants to sell something bad or you make yourself suspicious. I saw this many times with my friends. They started to talk to a girl to have a girlfriend. All the things that they said were creepy and sound desperate. Moreover, it sounds unnatural. It may also let them seem that they are forced to talk to them. Not a good approach.
A tip for beginners, start without an expectation. And you will be more natural, and as a result more charming.
Be honest. Be honest about who you are. Do not shift your personality to the person in front of you. Ask your questions about what you want to know. And not what you might think they want to talk about. Also, be honest about what you like and do not like. Do not be afraid to stop the conversation if you find something unpleasant about the person. To summarized, honesty is the attribute you should have to be good at small talk.
Don’t start to sell
When you start to like this person, romantically or businesswise, do not start to sell yourself. I saw many people doing these mistakes. They start to sell the reasons why you should like them or the benefits of your product. However, in the world of small talk, these topics are prohibited. There is no room and it is not the right time. Also, it makes you seem desperate and a push-over. Guess what? No one likes it.
2. Become the Expert of Small Talk – The right questions:
You have the right attitude to start. But, what should you talk about? Here are some ideas and tips to follow.
Watch out for what they are currently doing
The first thing to start off talking to strangers is observing what they do and ask about it. At my local Starbucks, I once asked a girl what she was studying. Because I looked over for a glimpse and saw something interesting. She studied economics and learned about marketing. It was interesting because I was dealing with marketing for my online shop as well. So, I asked her without a hello or introducing myself: “How far is your study going?”
We talked naturally and she even taught me some new theories. Since then, every time we met, we greed each other and silently do our stuff. This can be used in other areas as well. In restaurants, you can ask how the food taste. At parties, you can ask what drink they usually drink. Those small, innocent questions are great kick-off questions for small talk.
Do not ask: “What do you do for a living?”
When you are in the middle of small talk never ask what they do for a living. Since there are two types of people: Those who love to talk about their job and go on and on about it. And those who are ashamed of their job, hate it or do not have one. You can dodge this tricky situation by asking: “And, what keeps you busy these days?” With this question, you can let them decide what they are going to talk about.
I made this mistake when I asked what they do for a living. As a result, the opposite person asked me condemningly: “You Asians are only interested in money right?”
Be aware of Details
Every time someone talks about their life, they reveal one piece of their lives a bit more. And here you need to pay attention. Because you can build your questions on the information you are given. Many people are mistaken that a conversation consists of taking a turn to ask and to answer. But this is not a conversation, it is an interview. So, after you ask a question, ask a second question base on this previous one.
For example, if you asked ‘Where did you grow up?”, then a good follow-up question might be: ‘How this place shaped you?’
Listen, listen carefully. The supreme rule when making small talk is: Enter the conversation assuming that you have something to learn. Either learning more about this person or the topic you are talking about does not matter.
People might forget what they are talking to you, but they will never forget how they felt in your presence.
Ask questions about what they are interested in
Everyone likes to talk about themselves. As a consequence, we forgot to listen. But a conversation is never a presentation about you. Do not advertise your topic. Be the person who is interested in the other person’s topics. Remember:
Everyone you’ll ever meet knows something that you don’t – Bill Nye
Spontaneous questions and Similarities
Last Sunday, I visited a friend in my neighborhood. Because she moved here recently, I came to help out. When I was at the doorstep, I rang and before my friend could open the door for me, one of the neighbors already did it. It was an Asian dude. Without thinking, I asked him: “Do you visit her, too?” I assumed he is a friend of her because he is Asian… I’m a racist lol.
Well, he denied it and we chat a bit about how long we live in this neighborhood and the age of our neighbors. We instantly connected because of our similar backgrounds. Both are the 2nd Generation of Vietnamese living in Germany. Furthermore, we understood each other so well that he invited me to his soccer session in the summer. I guess I got a new buddy.
Becoming an Expert in Small talk is similar to being drunk. You do not think a lot, you talk about the things that pop off in your mind. In these three minutes of small talk, I connected, via similarities, with another person. And this is one of the beautiful things about small talk. Making new friends easily.
Ask for advice
If you are still too shy to use the previous tips, ask people for advice. People love giving advice. With this in mind, it should be rather easy to start a conversation: ‘I want to buy a smartphone (book, cocktail, food). But, I can’t decide which one.’ Most people will happily open up. Thank them and they will feel like a hero saving your day. The psychology behind this: if you ask for advice, you create intimacy. And, intimacy makes it difficult to reject. Therefore, start simply by asking a person for advice.
Follow these rules and you become the expert on small talk.
With the increasing popularity of technologies, many of us forgot the small beauties of our world. And one of them is small talk. As mentioned above, many people underestimate or even hate small talk. One of the reasons I can imagine is that small talk can be boring. In particular, when those people only ask general questions like ‘How are you?’, ‘How was your day’. And the other reason, people want to get down to business quickly. They do not want any small talk. Instead, they want deep conversations directly from the start.
But, small talk is like the trailer to a movie, an appetizer for a course, and foreplay for sex. Fundamental. Small talk is all about the questions: What am I dealing with? In the first place, it is your personal fun zone and ground for research. After the small talk, it is up to you how you continue. But never forget, keep it simple and do it because of enjoyment. Then you become the expert on small talk.