Do you know someone who can strike up a conversation with everybody they meet?

Their conversations look effortless, they often get free drinks at the bar, and they

Make best friends any time they go out.

How do these people do it?

Are they some type of social mutants? Or are they just “naturals” when it comes to talking to people?

They may be gifted, but they don’t have some coveted secret. Instead, they’ve just mastered the art of small talk: that oh-so-elusive skill that many people claim to hate.

While a lot of small talk is based only on the fact that you’re standing next to someone and have to say something, the real goal is to find a common ground to spark up a conversation.

It’s Not a Chit-chat

First you need to realize that small talk is NOT a pointless chit-chat and claim to only be interested in “real” conversation. How do you get to the point of having a deeper conversation with someone in the first place?

Someone you just met would be weirded out if you just walked up to them and asked “What do you think happens after you die?”

Conversation is a Ladder

With small talk serving as the first few rungs. You can’t leap-frog up the ladder. That would be like trying to sprint before warming up or cooking a steak without defrosting it.

Now let’s look at a few things you can do to get that conversation rolling a little quicker. Sharing small details is a really good way to spark interest in a subject and start up a real conversation.

Instead of responding to a simple question like, “How’s it going?” with “Good, what about you?” expand your answer with a detail about your day.

For instance, you might say, “Good, I spent the morning playing basketball with friends and I’m feeling great!”

When you share that little piece of your story, you’ll get one of the two responses: a question about “how it was” or if disinterested, “Oh cool.”

If they reciprocate your excitement, you have an in and can continue the conversation. If they don’t seem interested, try revealing another detail until something sticks.

You can also start with a small compliment. Just a simple, “I love your watch, where did you get it?” can get you into a fun conversation about watch shopping.

Even if the compliment doesn’t lead anywhere, it will still make the person feel more appreciated before you start discussing other subjects.

You can also use this move, to introduce yourself to someone.

Learn to Ask Relevant Questions

We’re all hard-wired to share information about ourselves, but in order to get to a point where you’re having a real conversation, it’s important to show interest in another person first.

Too often when we’re meeting someone new, we try to fill the dead moments with chatter about ourselves. It’s far better for you to listen first and talk second.

Of course, someone has to start the conversation, but if you and your companion actually listen to each other and not worry about what to say next, things will flow more naturally.

Asking questions is a great way to turn small talk into a conversation.

Just make sure your question is relevant to the topic at hand and not a way to turn the conversation back to you.

When asking a question, make sure it’s not a closed ended. A closed-ended question is answered in a short or single-word answer.

A few examples would be:

“Did you clean the house?” can be answered with a simple: “No”

“Did you speak to John?” can be answered with a simple: “Yes”

Closed-ended questions bring conversations to a halt. They don’t invite people to elaborate, talk about themselves, or give the questioner any information.

On the other hand, an open-ended question requires a full answer using the subject’s own knowledge or feelings. These questions result in an answer with many words.

A few examples would be:

“What happened after I left?”

“How was your day at work?”

“What do you think about the new season of this TV show?”

The main reason to use open-ended questions is to obtain deep, meaningful, and thoughtful answers. Asking questions in this way invites people to open up, because you are showing that you are interested in what they have to say.

So, let’s summarize what you just read:

  • Small talk leads to a deeper conversation
  • Share small details about yourself
  • Give a genuine compliment
  • learn to ask open ended questions