Small talk can be awkward for many, at the very least. Most of us were not educated in this fine art, but rather we learned it by trial and error amid all our insecurities and past experiences. It certainly does not come naturally to many of us whether we are outgoing or introverted. All of us could benefit from some extra practice in the art of small talk.

Whether you consider yourself a wallflower or a friendly outgoing type, there are certain unwritten rules of conduct when it comes to socializing effectively and pleasantly. Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate uncomfortable social situations with greater confidence.

1. Get Out Of Your Head

Many of us tend to live inside our head creating scenarios, fears, expectations. We imagine negative outcomes. We make assumptions about what people will think of us. Small talk situations can fill some people with tremendous fear – fear of saying something stupid or of making a bad impression. But we really need to get out of our heads and into reality. the reality is that most people are insecure and don’t want to goof up. Some people say that small talk is just pointless superficial chatter (Guilty here – I used to think that way). The reality is that small talk can be a foundation for building deeper and more meaningful relationships. So the antidote to living among our negative thoughts is to not think about them at all and focus on being other-centered.

2. Turn It Into A Game

We can make a game out if anything and games can relieve the stress of potentially nerve-wracking situations. If the very idea of having to engage in small talk makes you break out in a cold sweat, why not change the way you think about it? Why not set mini-goals for yourself to reach during the conversation, For example, you might see how many names and interesting facts you can remember about each person.  Or you could set yourself the goal of meeting a certain number of people. You could challenge yourself to commit to 1 hour of small talk before making your exit to the restrooms.  Turning it all into a game will take your focus off your fears and onto meeting your objectives.

3. Make The First Move

I hear you. this s a daunting task. But go ahead and make the first move. After all, someone has to, otherwise, you all just stand there in awkward silence. Introduce yourself. Say hello. I’ll bet that if you do that, the others will suddenly fell relieved that someone took the first step to break the ice. It is hard to start talking to people you barely know and most people are usually waiting for someone to say something interesting or funny.  Ask general non -invasive questions about jobs, family, and hobbies. You can’t go wrong with these topics since people like to talk about what they care about.

4. Don’t Hide In Someone Else’s Shadow

Hiding in the shadow of someone else will not help you to shine. People won’t notice you or be willing to speak to you and, certainly, this is not the way to build up your confidence. If you want to overcome your fears, you need to do it by flying solo. You may have accompanied a friend, your partner or colleague into unfamiliar territory, but you do not have to remain a butterfly on the wall.

5. Be Prepared With Questions

Having questions ready can help you feel prepared for any situation. They can break the ice and get people talking. And they can give you opportunities to learn more about the people you are with. Also, when you are asking questions, you don’t actually have to talk much because you can let the other person or people talk while you listen. Doing this can take the pressure off of your shoulders.  As you listen to others talk, you can build your own comfort level since the focus is not on you but on others. The best small talkers are those who can find interesting bits of information about anyone. And, since most people like to talk about themselves, they will be happy to oblige.

6. Be Interested /Listen

Following up from number 5 is tip number 6: Be interested and listen. People love for others to listen to them talk. And when they can talk about what the care about most while you listen, they will absolutely find you to be a great conversationalist even if you actually say very little. So ask them questions about themselves and then listen with genuine interest. Make sure you use open-ended questions rather than questions that only require a yes or no answer. Pick up on what they are saying and draw them out with more pertinent questions. The overall idea here is to be an enthralled audience to others, Believe me, they will love you for it.

7. Be Real

Nothing makes a worse impression than someone who tries to be what they are not.  Some people even put on an act just to compensate for their lack of confidence. For example, if you are naturally reserved, don’t try to come across as a bubbly, outgoing extrovert just to impress. You will only come across as awkward and phony. Trying to be what you are not in order to impress or compensate will ultimately impress no one. Just be yourself, the real deal, warts and all.

8. Find Things To Compliment

Find nice things to say, but don’t flatter for the sake of impressing. It won’t work. Saying something nice that is genuine, specific and appropriate to the context is better than trying to score brownie points. The best way to find something to say is by first listening to the other person and finding out what interests them, perhaps a sport or a hobby. This s a natural lead-in to finding something kind to highlight them. Remember that context is everything. If you are meeting a business contact for the first time, it might not be best to tell them that you like their new haircut. Read the context and adjust your compliments to the situation.

9. Don’t Overstay Your Welcome

One of the reasons some people do not like small talk is that they are not sure when to end the conversation. All conversations and especially small talk, do have an endpoint, but it can be tricky to find the sweet spot between continuing and ending the conversation. Some people continue an expired conversation either because they are unable to read the cues from the other person or out of a desire to continue talking for whatever reason. The safest bet is to keep the conversation short and be the first one to say something like: “It was very nice to meet you”. People will respect the fact that you didn’t overstay your welcome and you will not come across as a time-hogger. People appreciate this graceful exit and sometimes don,t know how to tell you that they are finished speaking with you.

10. Connect People

Are there people that you know that don’t know each other? Is there someone standing all alone in a corner with no one to talk to? Why not introduce people you know and get them talking with one another. Once they are talking the pressure is off you. Perhaps the person off by himself is feeling awkward and insecure. Why not turn this “social thing” into a personal development project. Why not go over to this person, who might be feeling just as uncomfortable as you, and introduce yourself. A friendly hello doesn’t hurt anyone and may just be what the other person was hoping for.

11. Keep Your Expectations Realistic

When we are in new social contexts either for business or just social occasions in general, it is always a little uncomfortable. We often create scenarios in our heads, expectations we have about how everything will turn out. We create our own personal movie. Maybe we imagine that we will meet all kinds of business contacts or our new best friend. Alternatively, we may go in with our feelings of dread, imagining the worst. The reality is that social situations are just that – social situations and nothing more. they are just an opportunity to meet and talk with people with no agenda. Just enjoy the moment, meet new people and learn new things. The bonus is that you will have the opportunity to hone your social skills.

12. Don’t Monopolize The Conversation

Another tricky area is knowing how much to talk. Some people have no awareness of how much they talk or how much space they take up in a conversation. The others may nd their heads politely and look like they are listening, but chances are they will be less likely to want to have another conversation with someone who monopolizes (even inadvertently). the conversation. A good rule of thumb is to speak for about 20 seconds at a time and resist talking about your own favorite subjects to avoid talking too much.  Once again, the best conversationalist is a good listener. Go with the flow of the conversation, but do not become the centerpiece.

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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, traveling, learning, and pursuing a debt-free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life.  You can connect with her through