4 Tricks to Be Better at Small Talk

If you’re not a self-described people person but your calendar is packed with holiday socials, have no fear. It's possible to survive all your parties this season with success, even with all the inevitable dreaded small talk. Well+Good reached out to life coach and co-president of The Handel Group's HG Life division, Laurie Gerber, to round up the best tips for breaking the ice at any social occasion.

"People think that 'meeting people' is something you're either good or bad at," she says. "But what we've found is that socializing is a learnable skill. Communicating well is something you can practice and develop; most people just haven't thought of it that way." So if you'd like to get a leg up when it comes to mingling, study up on these tricks before your next soirée and navigate the situation with ease.

Just say hi. Initiating a conversation is tough for anyone, not just introverts. If you take the initiative to make the first contact, others will be grateful they didn't have to. You can start with a simple hi, and introduce yourself. Likely you'll both be relieved to have someone to talk to and will slip into a conversation with ease. Have a few introductory questions in mind in case your conversation partner needs a little coaxing.

Ask deep-dive questions. Take standard conversation starters to the next level. Instead of asking what they do for a living, ask them what they enjoy most about their job. "The best way to drive a flowing conversation is to ask a question that elicits more than a one- or two-word response," suggests Gerber. 

Be a great listener. As important as it is to have something to say, it's even more important to be a great listener. "Listening is an act of deep respect; you are giving the other person value," Gerber notes, which can guarantee you end up being a popular party guest. 

Make a tactful exit. Always have an exit strategy so you can be sure to make your rounds (or get out of a conversation you're not enjoying it). Refreshing your drink or excusing yourself to go to the restroom are both valid reasons to step away. Then close the conversation with Gerber's preferred line: "Thank you for this lovely chat. Best of luck with XYZ."

Head to the comments to share your time-tested tips for mingling with strangers at parties.