How to master small talk as an introvert
Small talk for introverts can be painful. However, have you ever noticed how many conversations just begin with these 3 words: “How are you?”. Have you ever wondered if it was just a polite gesture or if the person really wanted to know?
I was shocked when in my teens I discovered the harsh truth. It’s a convention, something people ask but doesn’t really want to know the truth, they just expect you to say: I’m fine thanks, and you. A professor of mine just told me that, blunt and in my face. That’s how I knew.
Good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. If you want to change that, you can, just by changing the way you do small talk and you ask simple questions. Let’s see together how. Here are 7 rules to handle small talk as an introvert.
7 tips to master the art of small talk for shy people
1. Make small talk more meaningful
According to Harvard researchers who did a study back in 2017, the key to interesting and effective small talk are follow-up questions.
In a series of experiments, researchers analyzed more than 300 online conversations and found that those who were asked more meaningful follow-up questions found the other person much more likeable. And they did the test in the dating world, where you really want to make an impression!
Researchers explained their findings as follows: “When people are instructed to ask more questions, they are perceived as higher in responsiveness, an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation and care.”
2. Pick the first question accurately
If you find yourself often in a work or school meeting, you probably noticed that they start with small talk. This is a normal human behaviour that allows people to connect before getting to business.
As an introvert, in this context you can follow the A.C.T. criteria to start your meeting making a good impression:
A – for authenticity. Ask things you genuinely want to know.
C – for connection. Establish a connection with your audience.
T – for the topic. Pick a topic of discussion which will make them understand who you are and why they should be speaking with you more often.
Some examples can be:
- What are your objectives for the week?
- Are you looking forward to that event?
Try to avoid, if possible, anything relating to news, except if you know it is something that really interests you, your boss or your colleagues.
3. Be in the moment: Listen and Observe
Relationships are not built in a day, we need to acknowledge that. But you can still find relevant information for your small talk in things that happen while you are in the meeting or in the call. Was something said that you can relate and expand on? Is there anything in the meeting room that could be conversation material? Use it!
You know that something big is going on in the company and the people you are speaking with will be affected. Instead of asking them “How are you”, be more specific and ask something in the line of: “How hard/easy is it for you to adjust to this change”.
You will be surprised, this will lead to a much deeper discussion. It never would’ve happened if you didn’t ask.
4. Don’t be afraid to share your good news
Did something meaningful happen in your life? Say so. Majority of people actually want to know more about others. An example could be: your son did his first concert or your pet had surgery and all went well. It’s always better to share positive news.
If you’re new to a company and leading a team, for example, start your first meeting by going around the room and asking each person to say one interesting thing that recently happened in their lives. As a result of that momentary sharing, you’ve allowed everyone to feel more personally and genuinely connected with each other.
5. Talk when you have something to say
Whether you’re meeting in person or dialing in for a conference call, talk. And do it as soon as you have something to say (without interrupting others, of course).
This way you will avoid that someone else says what you wanted to say and you will make sure you have your spot in the conservation, without losing it to more talkative individuals. As they say: Two birds with a stone!
6. Non-verbal communication matters!
Our unconscious brain picks up on the tone of voice, gestures and eye contact while we listen to other people. And this adds up in the way we perceive and remember other people.
I have 2 quick tips for you to make sure you take care of non-verbal communication as well.
- On the phone, SMILE while you speak. It will resonate in your voice and put the other person at ease without he even realises.
- For in-person meetings, keep eye contact with the person who is speaking. This way he will know you are listening.
It’s not just what you say, but how you say it, that will help others connect with you.
7. Stop thinking about it, do it!
As an introvert myself, I understand how difficult it can be to engage in small talk. But if you will use the simple techniques I shared with you today, I promise that you will turn those meaningless questions you hate so much into deep conversations you will look forward to. And that’s what makes the difference and makes you remembered for.
Let me know how you get along in the comments below!