If you have never mastered the art of conversing, then you can probably settle for mastering the art of making small talk. This is a necessity in any social or professional setting - and making small talk is the lesser evil - when you compare it to suffering a long, drawn out and awkward silence.
Gathering enough courage to actually approach someone will be a lot easier if you use the art of making small talk. Now, if the thought of uttering the first word and making small talk is enough to give you a sweaty palm, then you need to know how to get over these fears and insecurities. Here are some tips that you can keep in mind when making small talk:
1. If you hate the idea of making small talk, get comfort in the thought that lots of other people hate it, too. You can motivate yourself by thinking that breaking an awkward silence is up to you and you need to make the first move and make small talk. It may be easier said than done, but once you get started, the next time would prove to be a lot easier. First, you need to muster the courage to go out of your way and start making small talk. A casual greeting or comment is a great way to start.
2. Making small talk is a way to connect with other people, so you need to make sure to go out of your way to make the other person feel as comfortable as possible. If you have no idea about what you should talk about, choose neutral and general points of interest.
The weather and traffic may be worn-out subjects, but they are a surefire way of starting off a conversation. From there, you can move on to more general points of interest like the movies, music, concerts, a book that you have just read, news, current events, a popular TV show - the possibilities are endless.
3. Remember that you should keep things short and casual. When making small talk, casual is the key word. In any given situation, whether you are talking with a neighbor, the grocer, the bartender, or somebody from work - making small talk is the way of connecting with them in a very basic, social way. Be nice, remain polite, know your boundaries and do not be overly intrusive when fishing for things to talk about or searching for a common ground.
You would not reveal your innermost secrets to a total stranger, so you need to broaden your knowledge of common topics to kick things off. Getting to know the other person in a casual level and finding common points of interest are two of the most basic goals in engaging in small talk. If you refuse to respond to the slightest opening that another person would like to have a conversation with you, then you are denying yourself the chance to enhance your personal and professional relationships with other people.
4. Be sensitive, polite and responsive to the reactions of other people - as well as the situation - when making small talk. To be able to survive any given situation, you need to learn how to adapt to any given situation. When have just joined a group that is already in the middle of a conversation, try to avoid any comments that may offend or that is extremely irrelevant to the topic at hand. When you are with a large number of people, try to listen more than you talk and do not attempt to hog the conversation.
Engaging in conversation is a social necessity and you may just find yourself enjoying the process if you know the small talk topics to talk about, the proper approach to take, how to keep the conversation flowing - and finally, how to make a graceful exit.
Peter Murphy is a peak performance expert. He recently produced a very popular free report: 10 Simple Steps to Developing Communication Confidence. Apply now because it is available only at: