For many, the thought of making small talk with strangers scares them silly. According to Gretchen Rubin in a LinkedIn post, “Small talk can be a big problem.” Indeed, some people are so terrified at the prospect of keeping the verbal ball in play, they’d rather stay home.
Never fear. With a little practice, anyone can learn to work a room gracefully.
In her article, “The 10 Big Rules of Small Talk,” Jennifer Tung writes, “conversing with strangers can be awkward, stilted, even painful. But there is an art to it, and it can be mastered.” She quotes Bernardo J. Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University, who says, “A golden rule is that you don’t have to be brilliant – just nice.”
Making small talk means keeping it light. Stay away from controversial topics or subjects that are too personal. Listen more than you speak, and ask questions to get the other person talking.
You can always comment on the weather or something you heard on the news. But when you open with a statement that leads to a good question, you’ve got it made. For example, you might say: “I met our hosts in grade school. How do you know them?” Here are three questions you might use to chat with a stranger.
- How did you meet our hosts?
- What’s keeping you busy these days?
- Do you have plans for a holiday soon?
So join the conversation. Making small talk is really no big deal.