In a land before time, before UberEats and internet banking; there was very little you could to do avoid small talk and general chit chat.
My conversationalist ability is generally dependent on a few critical factors: if I’ve eaten lately, how late it is and how open I’m feeling. On a good day with well-planned meals, I’ll tell you my life story.
The reality is, I’m not always going to be ‘on’ and neither will you. I have had to learn to be a mostly functioning member of society in social situations. To help us, I’ve vividly recalled many awkward interactions to save you from the same fate. I’ve asked my fictional friends from Parks and Rec for a few pointers too. I suggest you read along with a snack (as I have written with many on hand).
#1 Show Genuine Interest
Small talk doesn’t have to be shit talk. Often the hardest part is making the effort to learn more about the person you’re speaking to. It’s not only about being genuine in the things you say but also offering information to keep the conversation going i.e. “Are you often in this area? I went to a great restaurant last week just around the corner”.
Parks and Rec Ice Breaker: That is the coolest sentence I have ever heard somebody talk. – Andy Dwyer
#2 Share Your Actual Opinion
I have read and heard so many times about sticking to neutral topics to keep the conversation flowing. I think this is fairly dependent on the scenario you find yourself in. Perhaps you need to be more considered at work. Otherwise, use the time to learn to formulate and present your point of a view. I admit, I don’t find it easy to disagree with someone I’ve just met but with a little practice, I’m learning that you don’t always have to be the ‘Yes’ person. You will grow, you’ll probably cringe and have a great story to share later. Be considerate but also don’t be afraid to be honest and share your thoughts. That’s what makes for a good conversationalist.
Parks and Rec Ice Breaker: Sometimes when you make an omelette, you’ve gotta break a few eggs. What’s the alternative? No omelettes at all? Who wants to live in that kind of world? Maybe birds. Then all their babies would live. – Leslie Knope
#3 Use It As An Opportunity To Learn Something New
This can work in pleasant and not so pleasant situations. I’m the conversationalist with strangers at bus stops (don’t even) but have doubted myself when I’m speaking to someone who knows more on a topic than I do i.e. my dentist, my mechanic and anyone whose coffee order requires more than three words. This doubt is pretty ridiculous – of course you and I will always meet people who know more about certain topics than we do.
Try this instead. Relax, be honest and open to learning something new. There will always be people in life you disagree with. The sooner you become open to taking something constructive away from your disagreements, the easier it will be to keep doing this. Who knows – you may even find things in common. Consider it a muscle you want to strengthen. No one has nailed a set of chin ups without first training.
Parks and Rec Ice Breaker: I think that Comic Sans always screams fun! – Jerry Gergich
#4 Raise Topics That You Actually Want To Talk About
I know, and you know, that you’ve been outside and seen that it’s a beautiful day. Unless you’re a meteorologist, you’re going to bore yourself. Think about the last thing that you googled – can you bring that up somehow? Are you in an area where there’s great food? Does the person have any holidays planned? Depending on the level you’re trying to get to know the person, you can delve quite deeply with genuine interest (see point 1). A good conversationalist knows a laugh never goes astray.
Parks and Rec Ice Breaker: Why would anyone ever eat anything besides breakfast food? – Leslie Knope
#5 Listen Like You Mean It
This is an art in itself. Attention is the key difference between hearing and listening. Letting someone else speak without preparing to respond can be a lot harder than you think. Give yourself (and whoever you’re speaking to) the space to articulate themselves, even if it means a bit of silence. Give yourself the space to practice active listening and note when it becomes difficult: maybe it’s changing your gym playlist or listening to a new radio station on the way home.
Parks and Rec Ice Breaker: Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing. – Ron Swanson
Image Sources: E! Online, Rebloggy, Esquire, Huffington Post, Swanson Quotes