If you’re uncomfortable making small talk, but realize you need to get better at it, consider practicing small talk on people who are “safe.”
Who’s “safe?” It’s not your boss’s boss, the new client, the interviewer, or your blind date. Take your small talk baby steps with the cab driver, the person behind you in line, the hotel bellman, or the salesperson at a store. In other words, people who aren’t in control of your future and that you’ll probably never see again.
So what should you do? Ask questions, which is the secret to successful small talk anyway. Ask the cabbie how long he’s lived here, his favorite sights in town, or what the weather forecast is for tomorrow. Ask the person in line where they found that jacket or where to find a Starbuck’s. Even if you already know the answers, ask them anyway!
And don’t just say, “thank you.” Comment on some aspect of what they said, then ask another question! “Wow, 28 degrees! I hope we don’t have a blizzard tomorrow. How does your city do with big snowstorms?” Or “That’s a beautiful jacket. I’ve been looking for something similar. Say, do you know anyone who does good alterations in the area?”
You don’t have to talk forever. In fact, keep an eye on their body language to pick up any signals that they’d like to stop talking.
The point is to practice small talk when you’ve nothing to lose. Ask questions, listen, comment, and ask another. Do it now before you find yourself face-to-face with Mr. or Ms. Bigshot!
© Jill Bremer 2019