10 Ways to Get Better at Small Talk

Katie Sweeney

Whether you’re on a first date, at a work event, or simply socializing with friends of a friend, making small talk with someone you have just met is not the easiest thing to do. However, there are ways to master small talk. In a recent Business Insider story, author Shana Lebowitz discusses how you can get better at it. Even when you have nothing in common or there is an awkward pause, with her helpful tips, you’ll be able to respond intelligently. Here are 10 ways you can be better at small talk.

  1. Demonstrate interest in your conversation partner. Let them share more information than you do.
  2. Ask open-ended questions. These will lead to more conversational paths.
  3. Allow your conversation partner to teach you. If they work in a field you aren’t familiar with, ask them to explain it to you.
  4. Read the news. When an abrupt silence halts the conversation, bring up something newsworthy.
  5. Share anecdotes and relate to what your conversation partner is telling you.
  6. Practice the FORM technique. FORM stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Money. When you can’t think of something to talk about ask about their family, move on from there. Money doesn’t stand for how much they make, it’s more about the economy in general: “Can you believe how expensive rent is these days?”
  7. Be honest.
  8. Copy good conversationalists. Listen to talk show hosts, newscasters, and comedians. Emulate how they keep the conversation flowing. 
  9. Boost your conversation partner’s self-esteem. Flatter people and you will capture their interest.  
  10. Practice with everyone you meet. Whether it’s your Uber driver or the doorman at work, make small talk with everyone. It’s like everything else: The more you practice something, the better you become at it.

My favorite way to get conversations flowing at a dinner party is with TableTopics conversation starters.

What are your small-talk tips?

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