Conversation with other people is unavoidable. Learn to enjoy it.
Small talk skills will help you become a stronger leader, squelch your fear of unfamiliar social situations and boost your confidence.
Step out of your comfort zone by taking a risk and “assuming the burden” of carrying on a conversation.
First, make eye contact, smile, extend your hand and introduce yourself.
Remember people’s names and use them.
Initiate a conversation by making a statement and following it with a question.
Try these conversation starters when you are ready to take the plunge:
“What do you enjoy most about your profession?”
“Describe your most important work experience.
“What was the best job you ever had?”
“What do you think of the movie/restaurant/party?”
When approaching larger parties:
Stand slightly outside the circle but show you are listening to the speaker.
Wait for the circle to open up and look for a chance to join the conversation.
Comment on something you agree with, but don’t come on too strong too fast.
Singles mixers are tough social situations to negotiate, remember these tips:
Enter the room slowly.
Give yourself a moment to soak up your surroundings.
Look around for the approachable person.
Have some icebreakers ready so you can begin a conversation, such as, “I’ve been here before, but it’s never been so crowded,” or “I never know what to say at these affairs, but I would like to meet you.”
Listen to the response and follow up with an appropriate reply.
When you have that first date…
“Leave your cell phone in the car.”
Be “careful what you say.”
“Save your demands for later in the relationship.”
“Try some sensitivity before you blurt out opinions.”
Conversation No-No’s. Beware of being a conversation killer.
“The FBI Agent” – Assails the other person with an onslaught of questions, in an interrogation, not a conversation.
The “Braggart” or “Braggarita” – Talks endlessly about his or her exploits.
“The One-Upper” – Can’t wait to top someone else’s story. “Did you like Kilamanjaro? I liked Everest more.”
“The Monopolizer” – Talks without letting others have a turn. To avoid becoming a monopolizer, don’t talk for more than five minutes.
“The Interrupter” – Focuses on making his or her point, and is too impatient to let others finish making theirs.
“The Poor Sport” – Refuses to engage in chatting. Answers open-ended questions with show-stopping one-word answers: “Are you enjoying the conference?” “No.”
“The Know-It-All” – Not interested in anyone’s opinions, because he or she has it all figured out.
“The Advisor” – Knows the solution to each problem and offers it without invitation.
Actively listen and “dig deeper” with your questions. Get new acquaintances to talk about themselves.
Use visual and verbal cues to show you are listening.
A meaningful conversation involves give and take, so be willing to talk about yourself.
Prepare for unfamiliar social situations as you would for a job interview.