Small Talk. It denies new friends, costs a job and kills the mood on a date. Is it any wonder why people hate it? But without it, how do we start a cold conversation with people we don’t know? Looking for the shared interest and passion is how we can take any conversation to a deeper level.
For many people, small talk is a coping mechanism. Going with what they know is a safe topic means they don’t have to feel anxious about possibly offending someone or over sharing personal details. Unfortunately, the lack of creativity and personal touch turns off a lot of people since it does nothing to build a relationship beyond just being acquainted. Small talk gives the impression of disinterest, a lack of desire to invest in someone, and being talked at instead of sharing in a conversation.
The scary part of a conversation is trying to balance being interesting without being too personal. It’s easy to get caught up in the mindset that we have to be entertaining, but it’s far more natural to explore shared interests. The easiest way take a conversation deeper is to look for what’s interesting to them and what we find interesting about them.
The most interesting thing about anyone is their passions. Besides just directly asking “what’s your passion?” or “what do you enjoy?”, we can ask about public passions. Such as career/education, family, dreams, or fandoms. Fandoms are what people are a fan of, which can be anything from movies, games, sports, hobbies, etc. What we’re looking for is what lights their passion, and ours, because that’s where we’ll find the deep conversation and learn about each other.
To take a conversation deeper, we can also start by offering up one of our own interests, passions, or unique experiences to show that we’re willing to share and are offering a safe place in this conversation. If they want to know more, they will bite and ask questions as opposed to us searching blindly with our questions. When we find a shared interest we can turn those questions around and let our curiosity guide the conversation.
We may have to offer up a few of our own interests before we get a bite. The key is to find something that holds a shared interest for both parties. It’s possible that they won’t bite, and that doesn’t necessarily mean we did anything wrong. Perhaps they just weren’t in the right headspace for a conversation. The important thing is to respect that, refrain from letting that hold us back from our next conversation, and trust in our kind intentions.
Instead of labeling someone’s small talk as dull, we should make the effort to invite them to a deeper level of conversation. This is one way we can influence the conversation and change an ok conversation into a memorable one. With several billions of people on this planet chances are good we’ll get a number of opportunities to practice. For those that would like to work on learning to manage small talk, let’s start a conversation on what support I offer. Until then it’s always a good time to go out there and spark a new conversation.
Want more? Look for my article on The Most Valuable Skill Set to Master: Meeting People.