As you get a little older, you realize how important it is to make meaningful connections with other people. Reasons vary but, in my experience, entering corporate America and even growing this blog, it’s become apparent that small talk can either make or break a future opportunity or relationship.
But if you’re an introvert like me, you may find small talk to be really annoying and purposeless. As an introvert, you probably don’t mind talking, but you’d prefer to have more thoughtful conversations.
However, sometimes it’s necessary to get through the small talk to get to the meaningful part of the conversation. And many times, we as introverts miss out because we’re not willing to get through the uncomfortable part of the conversation.
I have a few cringy tips and tricks that I’ve used over the past few years to help me level up in professional and social settings. And I call them cringy because that’s what I feel each time I have to use them. But… They’re tried and true and have really helped me to blossom. If you’re a fellow introvert that has trouble with small talk, keep reading.
1. Lean into the conversation.
I say this all the time. Even when it comes to imposter syndrome… just lean into it. Because, what else are you going to do? Put your tail between your legs and surrender to the feeling? No, we don’t do that over here. We lean into the feeling and then we overcome it. You do this by doing the following:
- Recognize that you feel weird and awkward; then acknowledge those feelings.
- Come up with the worst possible outcome in your head; then identify 2-3 ways you can respond to the worst possible outcome.
- If you simply don’t want to engage because you feel like your time will be wasted (this is always the case with me), simply ignore that thought, get over yourself and be open to the opportunity to make a new connection. It’s almost always a good interaction.
2. Don’t overthink it.
Introverts are very introspective and into their own thoughts and feelings. When it comes to mastering small talk, you’ve got to let that go, just for the moment.
It’s okay to acknowledge how you feel, but after you’ve followed the steps above, let it go, don’t overthink the conversation, just let it flow. Overthinking will likely make things much worse than what they are.
3. Say what’s on your mind.
Don’t be afraid to say what you’re thinking. Provided that you’re not thinking of insulting the receiver, just say what you feel. Let’s say you’re at a job fair or networking event for work and a random person approaches you and says, “Hey, what brings you here?” You may be thinking, “I’m here for the same reasons you are, to find a job.” You can just say that.
It may seem like a useless question to ask but it’s their way of trying to connect with you, be open to that. Responding honestly makes you more relatable and likable.
Proper, Orlando, Florida. Black Orlando Tech End of Year Event. Airess, Richelle & Tanya
Mastering Small Talk
4. Take interest in what the other person is saying.
Even if you don’t care, act like you do. Appearing that you could care less could make the interaction extremely awkward. The last thing you want to do is make an uncomfortable conversation worse. Here’s what you do to engage the other person:
- Nod your head as they speak.
- Look directly into their eyes or at the their lips, don’t look away
- Say “right” or “wow” every 5-10 words they speak.
- Laugh at their jokes or even make a joke of your own (It’s better if the joke is really corny, trust me).
5. Don’t be rude or uppity.
Introverts have a reputation of being arrogant, standoffish, and unapproachable. That’s not true for all of us but you know what they say, 1 bad apple can ruin it for the bunch.
It’s okay to carry yourself with extreme confidence but project that confidence in a pleasing way. Confidence is one of the sexiest qualities a person can have, but channel it in a way that comes off welcoming and polite.
6. Become an interviewer to keep the other person talking.
This works best when the person you’re having small talk with is an extrovert. This is because extroverts usually enjoy talking in general whether it’s small talk or a more meaningful conversation.
They are thrilled about being social and have no problem walking up to anyone and sparking a conversation. So, listen carefully to the things they’re saying and before they can finish their thought, ask a question. You repeat this until you’ve found your sweet spot to reciprocate their enthusiasm.
Trust me, you’ll get there. This method tackles two birds at once; you buy yourself some time to warm up to the person, and in doing so, you gain enough information to have a meaningful conversation.
The Key to Mastering Small Talk
7. Avoid gossip and negativity
Gossip and negative conversations are always a bad idea. And you never want your first conversation with a person to be about something shady.
There are also many occasions when you run into a person you know, you may not be friends, but you have some sort of rapport. In either case, if the conversation is not positive, don’t be weird about it, politely dismiss yourself. You can say something like, “Excuse me, I don’t feel comfortable discussing this.”.
They’ll either immediately apologize and change the subject or dismiss themselves. Both are great outcomes.
8. Look and smell like a million dollars.
You can elevate your confidence by prioritizing your physical presentation. A well-groomed appearance not only boosts your self-assurance but also enhances the overall impression you leave on others.
9. Be yourself.
This is the cornerstone of most genuine connections. People can usually pick up on disingenous vibes; the best way to be is yourself. Embrace your introverted qualities and allow your unique personality to shine through in every conversation. Even with small talk, it’s okay to embrace your uncomforatability with it.
10. End the conversation when you feel overwhelmed
Here’s the bottom line, if you feel overwhelmed after pushing past your fears and engaging in small talk, just end the conversation. As long as you’ve followed all the tips and tricks above, you’ve made an honest effort and that’s enough.