It’s 2 AM. You’re sitting in the passenger seat of an Uber. You’ve definitely seen better days, or rather, nights. As you fold, unfold, and fold your arms again, desperately trying to make the world stop spinning, the silence between you and old mate grows thick and uncomfortable. Small talk, you decide, is the antidote. As your mouth opens, out tumbles utter turkey:
“bEeN dOiNg uBeR lOnG, mAtE?“
There comes a time when you must face the reality – not every conversation you engage in will be one of grand existential truths. Sometimes, it’s destined to be more bite-sized in scale. And that’s perfectly fine. But how does one carry on in this casual brand of verbal exchanges without making oneself cringe with disgust literally the minute after it has ended?
Here’s how you can master the vital art of small talk.
5 Ways To Nail Small Talk
Lead with a declaration
As with most conversations between strangers, it needs to start with that ripping-off-the-bandaid moment. Questions are generally good tools to further the chat – and a, “Hey, how’s it going?” never really goes wrong.
Anything outside that carries some risk when it’s the lead. By being the first to offer, you may face the possibility of receiving fuck-all to nothing and watch as the momentum falls flat. The more efficient alternative is to lead with a statement that provokes questions from the other party/parties. Make a comment about the situation you’re both in. Recall something a mutual friend said.
Most people are just waiting to be offered an opening when it comes to idle talk. Be the one with the initiative to give it up.
Probe further with questions
As previously mentioned, questions are generally good tools to further small talk. The key is to be selective with what you ask. Don’t just ask for the sake of asking. Back your curiosity with at least a shred of sincerity. Actually make yourself search for something within the other person. And the beauty of it is, you can just keep following it up with more questions.
“Not too soul-draining?“
“No, not right now.“
“Any big projects coming up?“
It’s really that easy.
Find a common thread
This is when you get the opportunity to elevate from forced intimacy into something more. Find the common interest, the common hate, just the common anything. Then begin to open yourself up a larger portion of the conversation. This is where it can thrive, and you’ll find yourself navigating through the networks of speech a lot easier.
Learn to be comfortable with silence
It’s important to be comfortable with silence. Why? When people get uncomfortable and become desperate to fill the silence, they start letting the spaghetti fall out of their pockets and end up saying some proper dumb shit (speaking from a wealth of experience). Don’t make yourself leap over hurdles to keep the life of the back and forth going. Which leads us to the final point, and arguably the most vital lesson…
Know when to leave it
Recognise when a conversation is dead. Move on. Leave it. Unless you’re paying $150/hr through your health insurance or they’ve shown you a warrant, you don’t have to say dick about dick. Just walk away, and try again with the next stooge.
Class dismissed – now back it up with this conversational trick to help get what you want.