Small talk – you either have it or you don’t. The gift of the gab doesn’t come naturally to everyone but there’s no denying that it’s an essential part of both your personal and professional life. When it comes to your work life, it means that being good at the small talk could be the key to building connections and being noticed. If you work for a large organisation, it can be difficult to stand out, but by saying the right things at the right time (like whilst waiting for the kettle to boil with your senior in the same room) could lead to ultimately furthering your career.
With that in mind, here are five ways to be better at small talk:
Stay up to date with the current news
When it comes to nailing the small talk, it’s all about what you know – not who you know in this case. Not only will educating yourself on current events, news, and popular culture give you some interesting conversation starters, you’ll also be able to impress the listener with your knowledge. There’s nothing worse than sitting there and having no idea what people are talking about in the canteen of the work place. Make the conversation light and easy and steer clear of politics as you may spark a debate that you cannot finish. We’ve heard enough about BREXIT to last a lifetime.
If keeping up to date with the news is not your thing, then why not talk about the latest Netflix series or release at the cinema?
Don’t fake it
If you have to fake interest in the conversation, then stop it. Stop it now.
What you hear during the lunch break, standing around the kettle etc may not be the most interesting thing you’ve ever heard but the key is to stop boring chat in its track and ask open ended questions or find common ground between the two of you.
Spending more time listening than you do talking is also a great way to show you genuinely care about what the person has to say. The same goes for demonstrating positive body language, through nodding, smiling, and maintaining eye contact. This will then turn a comment or a one liner into an actual conversation that you can build on. Be sure to avoid bringing the conversation back round to yourself. It isn’t a competition of who did it better.
In order to overcome the small talk hurdle, you need to pretend you’re talking to an old friend.
Rather than just introducing yourself, you can slip straight into natural conversation, avoiding all the dull stuff like what’s your name and where you come from.
Avoid the weather
Yes it’s cold. It’s called Winter. Rather than talking about how cold it is or has been the last few weeks, skip the track and move on. It’s important to remember that if you have encountered the person before then try to drop into conversation things that you remember about that person. For example, they may have just moved house so ask them how it’s going. It’ll demonstrate that you’re a good listener and ultimately a good person to have around.
Keep it clean
Just like all conversations, you need to keep it clean, especially in the workplace. Don’t dive head first into the deep and meaningful life chats nor open the can of worms about relationship issues, religious views and politics.
It’s important to keep the conversation positive if you’re in the workplace. You may be dying to vent about a customer or colleague, but you never know who may be in ear shot.