How can I learn the art of small talk?

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  1. Billie Kelpin profile image82
    Billie Kelpinposted 9 years ago

    How can I learn the art of small talk?

    Long ago, in my 20s, I realized that I cannot do small talk.  I really don't know how...serously.  In a family video this Thanksgiving, I realized what happens because I can't DO small talk. The whole family talks right over me because they're not much interested in talking about NPR's Ira Flatow's recent discussion on gene therapy or the psycho-socio aspects of the movie "The Judge". I don't watch daytime TV that might have current references.  I don't like talking about new products that are out. Help!  My relationships are suffering. How can I learn to do this?

  2. profile image0
    savvydatingposted 9 years ago

    I don't know whether you will relate to my situation, but I had a difficult time doing small talk for many years. Somewhere along the line, I decided that I was only allowed to talk about "serious" topics. And so I didn't talk much, and I also didn't make friends. I mentioned this to someone who is close to me once, who was also quite adept at making friends and maintaining friendships. After I confessed, he told me straight up, "Of course it's OK to talk about everyday, inconsequential things. That's what people do. It's no big deal!"  And so, I allowed myself to talk about anything---my favorite TV show, a movie I like, pretty much whatever struck me as everyday, but interesting, at least to me. It was liberating. I'm still a serous thinker, but, "Oh boy," I've learned to "do" small talk, and furthermore, I've discovered that not only is it truly OK, it's also fun!  wink 
    By the way, my friend can also do serious talk. Yay!

    1. Billie Kelpin profile image82
      Billie Kelpinposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Savvy, you might have something there.  I might have learned that somewhere along the way, I taught that to myself like I taught myself not to watch TV during the day.  I only allow myself to listen to npr or Pacifica radio where I learn something :{

  3. profile image0
    Kathleen Kerswigposted 9 years ago

    Over the years, I have learned to practice small talk by asking people to tell me more about themselves. This helps me to relate to them as they tell me about their story. Then the conversation moves forward nicely in most cases. I will say it took practice though. At first I felt awkward but I began to realize that others appreciated the opportunity to talk about their lives and I got to practice active listening. When I actively listen to others, I always hear something that I can relate to. Blessings! You can do this! ~ KK

    1. Billie Kelpin profile image82
      Billie Kelpinposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Kathleen, Thank you!  I'm trying that more and more.  I'll try harder. Your friends must feel very respected because that's what we all want, I guess.  Someone to listen to our lives and really hear what we're trying to say.

  4. C.V.Rajan profile image59
    C.V.Rajanposted 9 years ago

    Over-talkative people have a weakness -- they are not sensitive enough to read the "real" reactions in the faces of listeners. So, the skill one has to develop is to observe listeners' facial, bodily and verbal reactions to gauge how keen they are to listen.

    If that sensitivity is developed, we can naturally cut short our talking when there is no "real" (not artificial done out of courtesy) receptivity.

    Talkers are more and listeners are too few in this world. If you become a good listener, then people will show more interest in you.

    1. Billie Kelpin profile image82
      Billie Kelpinposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      CV, Interesting and helpful approach.  Having been near-sighted and not very visually observant all my life, I tend NOT to notice people's facial expressions.  I can't even tell you if they wore glasses or not after talking to them-I'm going to try.

  5. Rae-LeighDawn profile image62
    Rae-LeighDawnposted 9 years ago

    Try remembering that all relationships and friendships begin without knowing each other. Unless you have never had a friend you HAD to have had small talk at some point in your life. If you are doing an activity you can talk about the activity. If you are at an event you can talk about the event. Be honest and convey your true feelings and thoughts and conversation will naturally flow and if it doesn't...well then move on to someone else smile

    1. Billie Kelpin profile image82
      Billie Kelpinposted 9 years agoin reply to this

      Rae-LeighDawn, I like the talking about the activity a person is presently doing.  I often am thinking about 92 other things than what I'm doing.  Discussing the present is a good strategy. Thanks

  6. JayeWisdom profile image89
    JayeWisdomposted 9 years ago

    I was shy when young and small talk never came easily to me, even though my work required that I attend many events where that type of interaction was essential. In essence, I feel your pain!

    That said, a book by James K. Van Fleet, "Lifetime Conversation Guide", that I bought about 25 years ago offers very helpful advice about how to talk to others--even strangers. This book is still so relevant that it's been reprinted and can be found on in paperback format.

    One key bit of advice that always stuck with me is the importance of being a good listener, which doesn't mean to simply sit there with a vacant look on your face and never open your mouth to say anything. However, if you listen intently, purposefully and occasionally ask a question ("What did you do then?") or just prod the speaker with a word ("And...?), you'll endear yourself to those with whom you come in contact, and the conversation will continue.

    Because--face it--people who are very good at small talk just want to hear themselves speak anyway!  (I write that jokingly, but there's often more than a bit of truth in it.) By providing the talkers with a GOOD audience, you've done your bit toward socializing. You don't have to know all the pop references if you continue to coax other speakers to do the talking.

    The only downside is this can be a bit tiring if you're stuck in the same conversational group very long. (It begins to feel like work if you aren't enjoying yourself.) The trick is to mingle and share your listening skills with everyone in the room! The bonus for you is that you may learn all sorts of things in one evening.


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