“The weather is great today….Do you like…the weather?”
Small talk has had a bad rep for as long as I can remember. It’s often considered irrelevant, surface level conversation, used to pass the time and/or fill the air of an awkward silence. Examples of small talk include; ‘how’s it going?’, ‘where do you work?’ ‘nice day isn’t it?’ – questions that are often met with a one word answer.
The beauty of engaging in small talk, which we often miss, is the possibility of it leading to a meaningful conversation or new connection, you would have otherwise missed.
According to data, small talk is actually a BIG thing.
74 percent of single Americans said small talk is worthwhile – 45 percent of singles said because it helps break the ice, and 31 percent because it helps get basic information about someone.
Engaging in small talk is much easier said than done, but all it takes, is a little practice.
Oftentimes, when I hop into the elevator on my way up to work, I’ll glance over at the person next to me, looking for an opportunity to connect with them. Unfortunately, they have their head down looking at their phone. I know for a fact, they don’t even have cell reception, (because we are in the elevator) and instead of having a face-to-face conversation with a real person, they’d rather keep staring down at their home screen.
Why do we do this? Perhaps we’re totally unaware we’re doing it, too shy to engage, or are more stimulated by our bright screens.
My immediate assumption is this person doesn’t want to be bothered, so I get off at my floor and carry on with my day. Opportunity missed.
I’ve most certainly been guilty of the above, and most likely you have as well. We are all missing opportunities to learn from and connect with people on a daily basis.
Even though someone has their head down in their phone, remember a whopping 74 percent of Americans DO want to engage in small talk. Perhaps you’re stuck on what to say to a stranger, or maybe you are in fact waiting for an important text to come through, either way, make an effort to be present with the person directly in front of you, even if it’s just ‘hello’.
Here are some tips to get you started on how to chit-chat:
- Take off your headphones and enjoy the scenery when you transit to and from work. This way you are open to a possible interaction with someone next to you on the train home. If you can’t do this every day, try it once or twice a week to start.
- Reference something about the person – people enjoy talking about themselves, so give them a reason to! Perhaps they have a book in their hand – “Oh I just finished that book, are you liking it so far?”
- Ask simple questions – For example, “Coming home from work? How was your day today?
If you’re not met with the most enthusiastic of answers; know that you’ve tried and that it’s okay to move on. It’s important to read your audience. If the response is extremely positive, you can follow up with another question or continue on a tangent. Hopefully you find yourself in an engaging conversation that has left you feeling energized, excited or inspired!
*Data from Plenty of Fish Conversation Nation Study.