Communication plays a huge role in our life: it helps to learn things, share opinions, set connections etc. One of the well-known communication tools is a small talk. It is commonly used in business, corporate communication, at college and even parties. However, some people take small talks as a painful experience while others consider them useless and boring. Check out our hints on why you should think about making small talk your habit and how to participate in it correctly.
3 Advantages of Small Talks
- Breaking the ice. These are the small talks which usually break the ice among strangers. Typically, it is quite difficult to find common topics of interests for different people who do not know each other. This is why you need to consider starting conversation just about weather, news, or any other things that are going on around.
- It is a nice move. Showing that you are friendly and opened to others will benefit the way you will be treated in this community. When addressing other people warmly, you will show your interest in them and demonstrate that they are important to you.
- Making new connections. A small talk can be a beginning of a big friendship. You cannot get acquainted with a person without talking to them.
Small Talks Rules
- Pay attention to names.
Remember that every person from all over the world likes being addressed by their names. Although people’s names are in the Top-10 list of things we tend to forget, do your best to remember the person’s name when he or she is being introduced to you. It is a good form to address the person by their names in a future conversation, so your interlocutor will certainly be pleased.
- Greeting rules.
You should take into account that people in different countries, places and companies greet each other differently. It can be a hug, handshake, or a kiss. However, you need to know the rules and traditions in order not to make people embarrassed.
- Prepare at home.
Some of us have worse communication skills than others. For such people, small talks “homework” is necessary. In order not to be scared to talk to the strangers and to know what you should ask or tell to them, you have to learn the topics to talk about in advance and try to have similar conversations at home with the members of your family or your friends.
- Ask open questions.
There are different types of questions but, in general, we can divide them into 2 groups: those that can be answered with just “yes” or “no”, and the others that will require the full answer from the person. If you do not want that your talk to appear to be too small and to finish in just 30 seconds, try to ask the questions which will provoke your companion to tell more than just one word or a sentence.
- Do not be afraid of silence.
In some cases, there will be silent gaps in your talk and you should not take them as something unnatural. It is much better to make a pause instead of filling it in with unnecessary words.
- Pay attention to body language.
Facial expressions, gestures and postures of the interlocutors can have a very significant influence on the way their conversation goes. Remember that friendliness and openness are your two main trumps in the game of small talk. So, your words and even intonations will not be enough to make them serve you successfully if you are not smiling or if your arms are crossed.
The distance between you and the person you are talking to also indicates how good your conversation is: if you and your new acquaintance are keeping quite close to each other (though still it is not worth approaching him or her too closely as he/she or you may just feel uncomfortable), it means that the conversation is positive and you both are interested it its continuation.
Besides, paying attention to the gestures and posture of your interlocutor, you can understand whether he/she would like to keep the ball rolling or you should switch to another topic as soon as possible.
- Remember the rule of 20 seconds.
Mark Goulston, who is one of the most prominent psychologists of the 21st century, has come up with the so-called Traffic Light Rule. It is claimed to be suitable for different types of conversations and can help to involve many people into any discussion.
The main principle of this rule is that a speaker has 20 seconds to express his/her opinion or share the news. That is to say, he or she has green light to speak up. During the next 20 seconds, which are considered as the yellow light of the talk, the speaker can still continue the monologue but he/she should remember that his/her time is running out. So, in total, you have about 40 seconds to say what you want. Metaphorically speaking, when your time is over and your light is red, another person joins the conversation and their 40 seconds begin to tick-tock.
The Traffic Light Rule allows everybody to participate in the discussion as well as motivates the int
erlocutors to express their thoughts concisely.
5 Things You Should Definitely Avoid When Having a Small Talk
There is an impressive number of small talk rules that can help you avoid some embarrassing situations not only by explaining what you should do and why you should do this, but also by pointing out what you should never say or do under any circumstances. You see, when there are some tips that can hint you at only what you need to stick to, you forget about things that are highly undesirable for a smooth conversation. You may inadvertently ask an inappropriate question or make a rude gesture, which can gradually or immediately but destroy everything you have created during the whole evening or whenever your small talk is taking place.
Below you will discover a few handy recommendations for making your every talk polite, sensible and just really nice to remember.
1. Avoid Checking Your Phone Every Other Minute
Probably, you have notices that when you are trying to talk and text to two different people at the same time, you usually fail to talk. The thing your companion will definitely dislike most of all is not you giving absolutely irrelevant answers, but you paying absolutely no attention to what he or she is telling you. This can be evaluated as your unwillingness to communicate with this particular person, and hence will offend them.
So, in case you are waiting for an important message to answer, or the message you have already got is really important, you should explain it to the person you are talking to and apologize that you are not listening carefully to him or her at the moment. In any other cases set the mute mode for notifications and do not check them while you are having a conversation. That is it.
2. Avoid Three Main Forever Controversial Topics
These are politics, religion and relationships (especially intimate ones). Unless you all are guys who support one and the same political party, practice one and the same religion and are very close relatives, you should never raise any of these three subjects. If you see your interlocutor for the first time in your life, you can never predict his or her reaction to your opinion.
On the other hand, in case the question containing an obvious provocation is addressed to you, you should answer it politely and smartly, so that your response did not become the reason for a quarrel and did not hurt anybody’s feelings and beliefs.
3. Avoid Asking Very Personal Questions and Comments
It is okay to ask what your new acquaintance did last Sunday when the exhibition of your favorite artist opened at the local museum. But the question about why he/she does not like this artist (or, what is even worse, how it can be that they have never heard about this person) is not very appropriate actually.
Although some sources do advise to say compliments even when you are talking to this or that person for the first time, we recommend that you should not do this. Your friendly and optimistic tone, some common topics and polite ease will be absolutely enough to enjoy your time without compliments which can be regarded as envy or something like that.
4. Avoid Correcting Your Interlocutor’s Speech
Even if your major is English language and literature and even if you have a doctoral degree in it. Not all, or it would be better to say almost no people can stand criticism, even when it concerns their speech. If your interlocutor is either a shy or simply a well-mannered person, they will just thank you and continue talking. However, it is very likely that they will try to finish the conversation with you and just go away.
On the other hand, you may face someone as sharp-tongued as you, whose retort to your criticism will make you feel rather embarrassed. So, just let your small talk flow smoothly. Remember that to err is human.
5. Avoid Pouring out Your Life Story All at Once
Bet, you do not like it when people talk too much about their life problems or, on the contrary, boast of their success. That is why you should never turn into such kind of interlocutor. Of course, you can and even must share some facts of your personal life even with someone you see for the first (and, maybe, the last) time. This can make your small talk a little bit warmer and therefore more comfortable, because usually, when one participant of the conversation touches on some personal issue, other people also add something of this kind. Anyway, you should dose such information wisely and remember about the Traffic Light Rule.