Small talk can be a big challenge, but a little preparation and confidence is all you need.
STEP 1: Practice. Start a small talk with everyone you come across: cashiers, waiters, people you’re queing with, neighbors, colleagues and kids. Chat with folks unlike yourself, from seniors to teens to tourists. This would also help you to improve your English conversation skills.
STEP 2: Read everything: cookbooks, newspapers, story books, magazines, reviews, product inserts, maps, signs and catalogs. Everything is a source of information that you can used in your small talk..
STEP 3: Force yourself to get into small talk situations, like doctors’ waiting rooms, parties and office meetings. Accept invitations, or host your own gathering. This would create the environment to help you practise your small talk.
STEP 4: Immerse yourself in culture, both high and low. Television, music, sports, fashion, art and poetry are great sources of chat. If you can’t stand Shakespeare, that too is a good topic for talk.
STEP 5: Start a blog. Write down funny stories you hear, beautiful things you see, quotes, observations, shopping lists and calls you made. Any interesting stories would be a good topic for your small talk.
STEP 6: Talk to yourself in the mirror. Make a random list of topics and see what you have to say on the subjects. Malaysian football, the El Nino, the recent flood in Johor, Chinese New Year celebration, shoes, cars … the more varied your list, the better.
STEP 7: Expand your horizons. Go home a new way. Try sushi. Play pinball. Go online. Paint a watercolor. Bake a cake. Try something new every day.
STEP 8: Be a better listener. Did your boss just say she suffers from migraines? Did your doctor just have twins? These are opportunities for making small talk. People love it when you start talking about them and their family.
STEP 9: Work on confidence, overcoming shyness and any feelings of stage fright. Remember, the more you know, the more you know you can talk about.
Tips & Warnings
- Be yourself. You just need to be confidence and some sense of humour would go a long way. Something that comes from you is more sincere.
- Remember, you never have to do it alone.
- Avoid talking on sensitive issues that might offend the other party.
- Keep a few exit lines in mind too. For example, “Thanks for the wonderful chat, but I must make believe I’m interested in everybody else. Tee hee.”
- Keep your fellow chatterers in mind; naughty stories and loose language will be frowned upon in many circles.