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How to Make Small Talk Without Feeling Awkward: 14 Tips That Can Help

Being a good conversationalist is the key to building both friendships and relationships. So it’s a crucial life skill to learn how to make small talk.

how to make small talk

The universally dreaded by-product of long car trips and work parties, it is hard to go a day without finding yourself making small talk with someone you hardly know. If you know how to make small talk, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble *and unnecessary awkwardness*!

While most interactions with strangers or colleagues aren’t expected to be heart-to-hearts, there has to be something to talk about besides the weather, right? Being a master at making conversations is a more meaningful life skill than you realize. Not only will it make you more interesting to talk to, but you can also attract people with this skill!

Why is it important to learn how to make small talk?

We’ve all done small talk, and we’re pretty sure of this. If anything, small talk is our go-to conversation starters when talking to someone. However, small talk can also be such a nightmare when you’re not good at it.

We all want to skip the awkward part of small talk and go straight into meaningful topics, but you can’t get to that point without mastering small talk first. When you know how to make small talk, this means you can talk to anyone *even your crush*! It benefits you when trying to get someone to notice you and befriending someone.

Also, this skill makes you a more interesting and charismatic person to talk to. Now, who doesn’t want to talk to someone like that?

How to make small talk easily

Here’s the thing – while it may be impossible to escape small talk altogether, it is possible to change how you feel about it. By doing so, you can change these short interactions with those you meet into a chance to make a connection and learn about the people around you.

These ten tips and tricks will prove invaluable in many situations, no matter how shy you are. If you put these into practice, you may find that people actually start to consider you as one of the most friendly and outgoing people they know!

1. Focus on the other person

Here’s something that is almost universally true, people love to talk about themselves. While they may not be comfortable baring their soul to a stranger, most people will be more than happy to talk about how they feel about a situation, what they’re in the middle of doing, or where they’re headed.

Parents and grandparents love to talk about their children, university students love to talk about what they are studying, and many people enjoy discussing what they do for a living.

So if you find it generally awkward to master the skill of small talk, shift the focus from yourself to them. Ask them questions and keep the conversation going. [Read: 3 steps to keep a conversation going and 8 things to remember in your conversation]

2. Remember details *including names*

Often, the people we make small talk with are people we see every day for a short period. One of the best ways to make these meetings more of a connection without necessarily having longer conversations is to remember small details about the person.

Remembering details makes you an incredible listener, and people love someone attentive to detail. It means that you remembered them enough for the significant details to stick.

Learning names can be daunting, but once you know a couple of facts about someone (e.g., Reggie really likes baseball and just adopted a golden retriever), you’ll be surprised how quickly you begin to remember names. [Read: How to network at a party and look cool doing it!]

3. Offer some information about yourself

As much as you should keep the focus of your conversation on the person you are talking to, no one wants to talk to a complete stranger. For this reason, you should also offer up some fast facts about yourself. Remember that conversations are a two-week street, so it shouldn’t be just them doing the opening up.

Let them get to know you and take it from there. Also, you never know; you might find something in common and bond over that similarity! So if you want to know how to make small talk, tell them something about yourself.

4. Don’t over-share

As much as we said to offer some information about yourself, this doesn’t mean you should overshare either. You don’t want to reveal all your secrets right on that first interaction with them.

Offering some information about yourself is essential, but offering too much information *or the wrong kind of information!* can kill a conversation quicker than almost anything else. Keep facts about yourself short and sweet, and don’t venture into any hot topics when you’re just making small talk.

They don’t need to know all your exes or family drama right off the bat. No matter your goal with this person, whether you’re building a friendship or just making conversation, keep the important information to yourself *at least for the meantime*. [Read: 20 signs you’re a people pleaser and don’t know it!]

5. Know when silence is appropriate

While small talk is the norm for most parts of our lives, there are situations where small talk just isn’t appropriate – elevator rides or commuter trains being prime examples. Even if learning how to make small talk is an important life skill, you don’t have to use it on every stranger you come across with.

There are just scenarios where you don’t need to force a conversation, and that’s okay! It’s vital to watch out for these social cues, as you do not want to make those around you uncomfortable.

6. Put away your phone

This is a crucial tip for how to make small talk if you want to do it right. It’s etiquette not to be distracted with your phone when talking to someone. It shows that you’re interested in knowing them and in having a conversation with them.

But if you’re always on your phone, they’ll feel neglected and ignored. They won’t want to endure a conversation with you if this is the case. So put away your phone and focus on talking to them, nothing else. That is if you want to leave a positive impression.

7. Balance listening and speaking

Remember what we said about conversations being a two-way street? Mastering the art of making small talk is finding the perfect balance between listening and speaking. If you listen too much, they’ll feel like they’re the only one contributing to the conversation.

But if you talk too much, you’ll be seen as selfish and inconsiderate. So finding the balance is so crucial in being a good conversationalist.

8. Match their energy

Similar to texting, matching their energy is just as crucial in learning how to make small talk. There’s nothing worse than talking to someone who has a dull and dry energy.

So if the person you’re talking to is very upbeat and enthusiastic, you need to match that without making it seem forced or like you’re mocking them. What matters is that you keep up with their tone of conversation and make it seem you enjoy talking to them.

9. Keep things light

The fact that you’re here reading this feature means you should keep things light. After all, that’s what small talk is mostly about. You can’t skip steps and begin asking them about their past relationships or how their family is like.

Keep it light and casual, and you can even make them laugh! It keeps the conversation simple and light at the same time. This also means staying away from negative and heavy topics, even if you’re having a particularly tough week.

10. Compliment them

Compliments work wonders in making small talk, which is precisely why you should use this to your advantage. Tell them how great they look that day or if you already know the basic things about them, you can compliment their passion or personality mid-conversation.

They’ll appreciate this coming from you and it’ll also catch them off guard. More importantly, they’re a great ice-breaker when you’re at a loss for what to say.

Small talk starters in different scenarios

Whether you realize it or not, there are a few places where small talk is almost always certain. And if know how to deal with these situations, you’ll find that you can twist a few words and incorporate small talk into any other scenario.

Here are a few good general tips, along with specific situations where the rules differ slightly. [Read: 15 easy conversation starters to use with someone you like]

Scenario #1: Around the water cooler

Small talk can be difficult with co-workers. After all, you see them every day but don’t have the time or the professional ability to become the best of friends.

In this case, try to pick up on one or two things that are important to your co-worker, like a sports team or a home renovation project that you can discuss in slightly more detail than you would in an ordinary small talk conversation.

Additionally, with co-workers, it can be essential to listen for clues where more significant life events are taking place – appropriate responses to a death in the family or a big win for their child are definitely not out-of-place in this situation. [Read: 8 tips to be good friends with coworkers without overstepping the boundaries]

Scenario #2: At the coffee shop

At this point, your barista has your coffee order and name memorized. Surely that means that you share a connection deep enough for a longer chat.

Unfortunately, in this situation *and in several others where you come into contact with those doing you a service as part of their job* his attention to detail is what makes him good at his job – not an invitation for a heart-to-heart. So while the coffee shop is generally a good setting to make small talk, it doesn’t apply for a barista.

Sure, it could work with a stranger, but this is with the assumption they’re not busy reading a book or finishing a deadline.

Scenario #3: At a bar

Bars are magical places where, if the music’s quiet enough for talking, you may find that the rule to not over-share doesn’t apply as strictly.

In these sort of situations, where people are looking for more of a human connection than they would be at work or in a coffee shop, feel free to open up a bit more *although it’s still vital that you gauge other people’s comfort levels with the subject matter!*

After all, there’s a reason why people often go to bars to meet someone romantically. So you don’t have to worry too much when learning how to make small talk in a bar setting! [Read: Easy ways to be funny and make people love your company]

Scenario #4: Traveling

Traveling is one of the trickiest situations to gauge – some people love nothing more than making best friends with the person sitting next to them on the plane, while others would instead just put their headphones on and fall asleep. To test the waters, it’s easy to ask a simple question. “Why are you traveling to _____” is a great starter.

If your seat-mate responds with a single word and a roll of their eyes, it’s probably best for you to start flipping through the inflight entertainment. Most people generally would find it annoying for a complete stranger to start talking to them on a plane ride, where they just want to rest and get a moment of peace.

So you need to tread the waters lightly when learning how to make small talk when traveling. [Read: The 12 types of humor and how it affects your conversations and your relationships]

So, how to make small talk?

Small talk can be frightening, but very few people actually have it all figured out. By using these tips and tricks, you will be able to fake confidence in your own abilities so that others can’t tell you’re nervous.

And slowly, you’ll begin to believe it yourself! Before long, you’ll be on a first-name basis with everyone you cross paths with, and you will have set the stage for a lot of exciting stories and interactions. [Read: 18 insightful reasons why you have difficulty making friends]

So have you tried these tips in learning how to make small talk? If not, what else are you waiting for? Set your conversation skills to the test and start connecting with a stranger!

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Briallyn_Smith
Briallyn Smith
Briallyn is a student by day, and a student by night too. Currently living in the middle of nowhere in Canada, with a love for beautiful people, long walks, all...
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