This month my inbox has been flooded with some of the best questions I’ve ever received from all of my lovely readers. Together we’ve discussed how to be the best possible intern, debunked roommate tribulations and have even overcome negativity on social media. But just because August may be coming to an end doesn’t mean your questions have to! I love hearing all of your question, comments and ideas regarding LaurenConrad.com. So in today’s Ask Lauren post, I’m shedding light on a topic that most of us could brush up on…how to master the art of small talk.
You might find yourself at a work function, cocktail party or social gathering where small talk will be inevitable. Unfortunately, idle chitchat isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. I certainly don’t consider myself to be a natural, but it’s something I’ve become better at over the years. If you or whomever you’re talking to is struggling to keep the conversation afloat, it’s time to brush up on small talk 101. The 5 tips below will help prepare you to be comfortable walking into small talk situations as well as keep a meaningful conversation going. Let’s get started…
1. Determine your game plan.
Sometimes it takes a little mental preparation before you walk into a crowded room. First and foremost, you should always be ready to make a lasting first impression. Be polite, make eye contact and use that firm handshake you’ve been practicing. It also helps to walk into the situation like it’s a networking opportunity. This will help you set conversation goals and get the most out of the small talk. Make a mental checklist of talking points to help you get your head in the game.
2. Ask (open ended) questions.
The best thing you can do for the conversation at hand is to ask open-ended questions. This type of question allows for more complex answers than just a simple “yes” or “no.” Practice rephrasing questions like “Do you have a favorite restaurant in town?” to “What’s your favorite place to grab a bite to eat in L.A.?” It may take a minute to practice this technique but you’ll see a big difference in your small talk. Remember to always be genuine in your curiosity—whomever you’re talking to will appreciate your willingness to learn and listen! If you’re uninterested in the conversation, they probably are too.
3. Do your research.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been guilty of looking someone in the eye and completely blanking on their name. I’d like to blame the age game, but if you aren’t paying attention when someone first introduces themselves you might run into this problem. If you know you’re going to be in a room with someone important (your company’s CEO, a key speaker, etc.) do your research and try to put the names to faces before you walk into a room. That way you’ll know who they are and what they’re about ahead of time.
If you’re headed to an event or party where you aren’t sure of the guest list, try polishing up on your current events. That way if your conversation falls flat, you’ll always have a backup to rely on.
4. Talk less and listen more.
Being an engaged listener is a huge part of not only small talk, but also successful conversations in general. You always want to make the other person feel valued and show that you’re actually interested in what they have to say. Every so often, repeat a few key points back to the other person to let them know that you’re following along. If the other person is at a loss for what to say, try revealing something about yourself to make them feel more comfortable.
5. Be aware of your body language.
Your nonverbal skills are just as important as your verbal ones when it comes to small talk. There’s no easier way to find out if someone is interested in your conversation than how they hold themselves. Slouching and avoiding eye contact can make the other person feel uncomfortable and unwilling to participate. And as always, don’t pull out your cell phone mid-conversation! Yikes.
Now that you’re equipped to deal with small talk, prepare to practice with everyone you meet. This may not come easy to you but I promise these tips will help alleviate any awkwardness.
Do you have any successful small talk tips?
I’d love to hear them in the comments!