As a self-proclaimed social butterfly, it crushes my spirit when people say they hate small talk or become paralyzed with fear and insecurity while in a casual social setting. You see, I love small talk! Whether you refer to it as small talk or chit-chat, this is an essential part of every day life and leads to BIG talk, and that's where things get good! Big talk lands you the job, the second chance, the friend, and for my single folks, maybe even the first date!
With a name like Donalda, I've had a built-in conversation starter all my life. Yes, small talk, or simply starting a conversation can come easy to some, but I've discovered that there is a great majority that struggle with this, causing a lot of missed opportunities for some great social exchanges. It doesn't mean you are socially awkward or standoffish, what it does mean is that if you want to do better in this department for social and professional reasons, you have to be better prepared for social interactions.
How to prepare?
Know your audience.
If you are attending an event it’s not a bad idea to ask the host or hostess what type of crowd it will be. This allows you to mentally prepare for the type of topics that would interest anyone you encounter. If you are meeting up with a group of brainiacs, bringing up the last episode of the Khardashians may not go well. It’s even better if you know the names of the people there.
Have a "go to" phrase or topic.
Please fight the urge to be robotic but coming onto a social scene with a well-rehearsed phrase takes the uncertainty out of the encounter and may increase your confidence. Many choose the weather, traffic, or sports.
Yes, it does make perfect! As batty as it sounds, for any events that trigger your anxiety, practice your introduction to others, body language and tone of voice in a mirror. Take note of how you look and sound. Believe it or not, when you’re finally in the actual situation it will make your engagement and interaction appear more natural and it will come easier to you.
Great conversation starters:
People love to talk about themselves! Don't get too personal, but don't be too shallow either. "How long was your commute here?" "What do you think of the food?”
Talk about something that you are comfortable and/or confident talking about.
If you initiate the conversation, this is very easy to do since you have initial control over the conversation. Because you are comfortable or eager about the subject you may end up cutting folks off or talking too much. Do self-checks during the conversation to make sure you aren’t overdoing it.
Compliment the other person on something . . . anything.
Because of my affinity for bling, I will almost always talk about jewelry the other person has on. What you are wearing, or what they are wearing could be a great conversation starter. My Think Outside the Box ring always makes a statement and strikes up a conversation, and of course, if I'm wearing my Conversation Starter necklace and earrings, I'm sure to get a good conversation brewing.
Believe it or not, a simple "Hi, how are you?" can lead to another person feeling comfortable enough to start talking.
What NOT to do!
Avoid Yes or No questions
Open-ended questions like, “How do you know the host?” or “Working on anything exciting lately?” require the other person to stop and think and then engage in a conversation with you, rather than just saying yes or no to mindless questions.
Don’t ask a zillion questions.
Remember it’s not a job interview. You’re trying to be cool, memorable and fun, not annoying and nosey!
Do not ignore social cues.
This comes with practice and/or research. Become aware of when people just are not interested in talking, or when they want to end a conversation. If someone is not maintaining eye contact, they have their arms crossed, or are looking intently at their phone, skip them, they are not worth your time anyway!
What are some conversation starters that work for you?