Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Art of Small Talk

Everyone has to make small talk at one time or another. If you tell me that you don't have to, then I have a newsflash for you. You are that person that everyone calls weird/anti-social/psychopathic. Okay?

I am the first to admit, small talk can be painfully boring. Where I have lived (Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado), the number one topic of small talk is weather. You can almost guarantee that it will come up. It's b.o.r.i.n.g. But... I've learned to talk about it and do it well. Why? Because that is what people feel comfortable talking about, that is what everyone has in common, and that is what people find interesting. Making people comfortable, being relatable, and being enjoyable is kind of the point of social interaction.

You find many situations where small talk is necessary. From the informal chit chat with the cashier to the lively banter at a business function. You will use it with people you don't know at all and with people you know intimately.

Several years ago, one of my favorite people in the world gave me the best advice on how to make small talk. Matt, if you have met him, is the master at this. He can talk to anyone. And everyone he talks to walks away happy and as if they have just made a lifelong friend. He knows how to achieve all of the objectives of social interaction - making people comfortable, being relatable, and being enjoyable - every time. 

When the huz and I moved to Colorado, we lived with Matt for a few months while we looked for a place. At this time we all 3 worked at the same company. We were headed out to a happy hour with other co-workers, when he shared his tip. Now, while the 3 of us were very close, the people we were meeting were not necessarily in our immediate circle,  so our main topics of conversation (usually the people not in our circle) were off limits. (Note: partly kidding on that). On the drive, Matt said, "Okay, everyone think of 3 things we can talk about".

A huge lightbulb went off! This was all about preparation! I can do THAT!

So, we all came up with ideas. They were things like: a recent vacation, a merger in the industry, a new restaurant in town, our recent move, a TV show that we liked, and... the weather.

It was brilliant! There was never a lull in the conversation. They were topics that people had opinions on. And we didn't need to use all of them. I've found that EVERY TIME I've used this technique. Once people are comfortable, relating with each other, and interested- the conversation moves itself.

I wouldn't be QueenB if I didn't have my own addition to the art of small talk. So, I also suggest that you take a minute on the way to an event and do the following: figure out who will be there and make sure you know their names, if they have spouses coming try to figure out their names as well, and last, try to remember something recent they might want to talk about. Some examples are- they got a new dog, they went on a trip, they got a new job, their kid was in a play.

Using this technique will make your life easier and make people like you. Unless you are just naturally weird/anti-social/psychopathic...

...QueenB Says


  1. Helpful and cute post, QB. I'm gonna prepare better. ; )

  2. Right on! I remember Matt preparing me for meetings like this when I worked with him. It is one of my favorite things about him. And your addition is key! Thanks, QueenB!

  3. You are correct about the weather talk. My hubby is the master of small talk - everyone wants to talk to him. I have fallen into a rut because he is so good, however, your post is very helpful! Thanks for the tips!! And do you ever want to say, "Why didn't I think of that?!" We prepare for everything else, why not small talk?

  4. I also married someone who is great at small talk, he hates it, but he is good at it. I had to be able to match him!

  5. I usually feel pretty comfortable in the area of small talk but have to admit I occasionally come up empty handed. The '3 things' suggestion is brilliant...adding to my repertoire of small talk items as I write this. Thanks!