Picture this: You're at a party, talking to someone about the summer heat, or some random news story, or where this person got their shoes, and things seem totally normal on the outside. But on the inside, all you hear in your head is this: "Get me the hell out of here, now." Making chit-chat with strangers is one of those notoriously awkward, but ever-present realities of being a functioning, well-rounded adult. So yes, that means, whether you like it or not, it's worth the effort to learn how to make small talk more interesting, so that it's not something you completely dread every single time it comes up — and trust me, once you're a real adult, with a real job, and real bills to pay, small talk is a daily part of life, so you may as well try to be good at it.
And, listen, small talk isn't just some bogus part of adulthood that doesn't serve any real purpose. In fact, there's research to support the idea that consistently having these new social interactions actually makes you smarter and expands your brain. According to a 2010 study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, having these social interactions on a regular basis teaches you how to consider other people's perspectives, and as a result, encourages "cognitive boosts" in your own brain. So the next time you're totally dreading being at a dinner party with a bunch of people you don't know, think about what it could be doing for your precious noggin.
Plus, think about it this way: It's likely that many of your friendships or romantic partnerships began with awkward, small conversations. You never know where a casual chat is going to end up, or what kind of relationship might come from it. So when you're dreading that moment when you find yourself next to a stranger by the punch bowl at your cousin Tim's graduation party, there's always that possibility that you're about to make a new best friend. Here are a few ways to make that small talk a bit more interesting.