1. People & Relationships

Mistakes People Make With Small Talk

How to Find a Connection Through Conversation

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Small Talk at a Party

Two new friends making small talk at a party.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Small talk is an important part of meeting new friends, but only if you use it right. There can be some missed opportunities to connect on a real level with someone new if you make one of these common mistakes.

Failure to Recognize When the Conversation Has Moved On to a New Topic

Sometimes when other people are talking, we instantly think of a story we want to share also. The trouble is, another person might bring up something that changes the conversation to a completely new topic. Talking with people is often like the wind, you've got to pay attention to see where it takes you next. If you're just waiting until you can share your tidbit, however, you'll look silly adding to a topic that has already passed.

Instead, go with the flow. If you wanted to share something and the time has passed, shrug it off and keep up with the current direction of conversation. You'll probably find something new you can share that fits perfectly into the vibe of the current topic.

Another strategy is to remember the point, but bring it up much later with someone. For example, the next time you see your new friend you could say, "Remember when we were talking about skydiving the other day? I didn't get a chance to share this, but I also just tried it last month. What an experience!"

You can use a "missed" story to kick start a future conversation if you do it right.

Missing Out on "Big Talk" Opportunities

The whole point of small talk is to find a possible "in" toward deeper conversation. The art of small talk involves listening and recognizing clues toward opportunities that get into a topic more intensely. It's these types of conversations that will allow you to get to know someone and really figure out if you can bond with them.

Some folks just keep mentioning small talk subjects, even when it's clear that their new friend wants to chat more about a specific subject. Remember, small talk isn't about filling time, it's about looking for clues that can lead you somewhere else conversationally.

Talking Too Much

Making small talk is one way you figure out what you have in common with someone else. But if you spend the entire time just talking about yourself, you'll miss the opportunity to establish a connection with a possible new friend. What's more, you may just turn the person off altogether. That means they'll silently rule you out as someone they want to get to know better.

Using Small Talk as a Way to Share Political or Religious Opinions

Don't get me wrong, I think one of the best parts of friendship is finding out what makes your pals tick, and that includes their opinions. But when you first meet someone, you should stick to more neutral conversational ground. This means avoiding topics that you know will make someone angry or cause a debate.

Not Keeping Up On the News

Very often people use items in the news as a way to start chatting with another person. If you're clueless as to what is happening, however, you'll be left out. A good strategy is to browse some of your favorite news sites like:

Spend a few minutes on these sites before you go to a party and you'll at least have the gist of what people are talking about. I also post a list of small talk news items weekly on my blog. If you can catch just a few details of a certain story, you'll be that much more ahead when it comes to chatting with someone.

You can even say, "I saw that on the news today but didn't get a chance to fully absorb the story. What's going on with that?" This will allow someone to share their knowledge with you. As a result, they'll feel closer to you and your chances for establishing a bond will increase.

Not Recognizing Small Talk as a Valuable Resource

Introverts typically hate the thought of small talk. But never underestimate how important it is in establishing new relationships. If you're someone that doesn't see the point, chances are you haven't been successful in using it as a bridge toward more meaningful conversation.

Before you blow off small talk as unnecessary, give it a try at the next party you go to and see if you're able to connect with someone new. You might be surprised at how powerful it is. The more proficient you are at small talk, the better your chances of connecting with a new friend.

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