When Small Talk Doesn’t Work

Have you ever been in this situation…

An acquaintance that you haven’t seen in awhile smiles and approaches you. In less than 60 seconds you’ve caught up on all of the basic points of conversation and the small talk starts dwindling.

Question: What do you do when the conversation starts to feel awkward, artificial, or stilted?

Answer: Move past the small talk and get to something that really matters. Here are three ideas from 11 Laws of Likability.

  1. Be you: The basics of The Law of Authenticity are… be yourself! Be genuine! When you’re making small talk you’re typically reaching. Instead of looking for what might be a good conversation topic, be yourself. When you’re comfortable in your own skin, you’re bound to have a better and deeper conversation.
  2. Be Curious: Leverage The Law of Curiosity and ask a question you actually want to know the answer to and want to talk about. That will play on a real exchange rather than a forced one. Listen and continue to probe along with sharing your perspective for a great conversation.
  3. Be Specific: Try to remember something specific about the person. Whether it was a project you worked on together, something about their personal life, or a common connection you had, draw on that to refresh the connection and conversation. When you find that connection point mood memory starts to kick in.

Whatever you try, when you are authentic, it helps to lower the barriers and be transparent with the person. It’s ok to ask the person to remind you of their partner’s name or bring up that tough boss you had years ago. Show the other person that you are open and might not remember everything, but feel comfortable enough with them to reestablish that connection. It is authentic and shows you are trying.

Next time you bump into someone, extend yourself a bit, take a risk, and be vulnerable and see how far you get. It might lead to a deeper connection you weren’t expecting.

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