How To Make Small Talk More Interesting By Using These 5 Foolproof Tips From A Therapist
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.
1. Get A Little Deep In The Conversation Right From The Start
According to counselor and relationship expert David Bennett, the difference between small talk and a genuinely engaging conversation could be a matter of how the conversation gets directed. "Small talk is usually 'small' because it’s not genuine or honest," he tells Elite Daily. "I tell my clients to attempt to connect with someone when making small talk by asking deeper questions and giving answers that reflect their authentic selves."
Realizing that everyone probably has more to say and share than they are being asked in a small-talk conversation, Bennett says, can be the first step in moving past the surface-level BS.
2. Be Positive The Whole Way Through
In other words, you don't have to just stand there, awkwardly sipping your drink and nodding along to the conversation. Give the experience a little life! A little energy! A little pizazz! "Most people barely put effort into small talk, and it shows," Bennett tells Elite Daily. "Instead of viewing it as a chore, try to be warm and present to the person you’re engaging. These are two important elements of being charismatic."
And who doesn't like talking to someone with a little charisma?
3. Ask Questions — And Then Ask MORE Questions
When it comes to small talk, Bennett says, there's typically a “how are you?” that's almost always followed by “good" — then the conversation just, you know, lulls. "One reason small talk is viewed as irrelevant is that it's often just routine, with routine questions and answers," he tells Elite Daily. In other words, it doesn’t make an impact on either of you in any sense of the word, and it's almost robotic in nature. People ask the usual questions, followed by the usual answers.
Instead, to make this kind of small talk more interesting, Bennett suggests asking questions that can lead to more questions, like where someone is from and what it was like to grow up there, or if they have siblings, or if they have any interesting hobbies. Seriously, just keep asking more and more questions whenever you feel the conversation getting stale. It works like a charm.
4. Change Your Attitude About The Conversation
If you tell yourself that chatting with people you don't know is the pits, well, it will probably continue to be the pits. "Just changing your attitude and how you present yourself to the person you’re talking to can have a big impact on how you make small talk," Bennett tells Elite Daily.
And really, it can all start with something as simple as a smile.
5. Respond To A Generic Question With A Not-At-All-Generic Answer
According to Bennett, taking the conversation on an unexpected turn can also be an effective game-changer for elevating a boring, routine conversation.
If you're not quite sure what that means, Bennett has a great example: "I sometimes respond 'horrible' when people ask how my day is going," he tells Elite Daily. "I follow up with 'I’m just kidding,' but an answer like that immediately breaks the boring small talk routine, and after that, a real conversation can begin."