MORE THAN JUST IDLE CHITCHAT: A GUIDE ON HOW TO WIN AT SMALL TALKS
So you’re in a bar finally after a long week. All you can think of right now is the chilled glass of beer in front of you. A sip and ah… oh so refreshing. You go for another sip but just at that moment, someone slaps your back so hard that you feel your lungs collapse. Then your ears fall victim to a very loud hello. Your nose is next as it gets plagued by a humid breath laced with vodka.
Then you see the guy. He is certainly elated to see you, but you can’t say the same for yourself. You realize that it’s that one guy you were with in the 7th grade and that bit about him borrowing your pen only to never return it. You don’t even know his name. So you get into a pointless conversation with him which mostly comprises of you saying “yeah”.
But first, why would you even bother to? Well, chances are that you’ll eventually get an invitation you can’t avoid and have to go through the whole ordeal of being in a crowd where you know no one. So, it’s nice to latch onto someone rather than hang by the drinks table looking down on your phone.
Small talk can be mistaken for a trivial and mindless conversation. But see it like this, the guy you’re best friends with at the moment started with a hello and an inquiry about the weather. Small talks don’t have to be intellectually stimulating conversations, but is a starting point for such conversations. The game of dialogue is a stairway and this is the first step. You can’t just walk up to someone and hit them with a “What is life and why are we here?”
Now, there a few things you need to keep in mind before you take this first step. And remember: approach, and be approachable.
LEAD THE CONVERSATION:
Muster your courage and walk up to the person, and it’s good to keep in mind that they’re as anxious as you are. So when you have said your hi’s and exchanged names, you need to act as the host. It is you who approached, not the other person.
Being active in leading the conversation means asking questions and answering them. But you need to do it in a way that does not dwindle down after a how-are-you and a what-do-you-do. To do this, lay the questions in a way that is a conversation, not an interview. So direct the conversation towards something around you. Such as:
- The bride looks beautiful.
- I love this song.
- It’s kinda warm today.
As unnecessary as this sounds, this is your segway into the conversation. Then, hit them about something about yourself after they reply:
- She’s actually a cousin of mine.
- I like how upbeat the drums are in it.
- I should not have worn this sweater, it’s way too hot.
Their answer will not vary more than “oh” at this point so you need encourage them to take part in the conversation:
- Are you on the groom’s side?
- Have you heard more of them?
- You seem to be fine, what are you wearing?
You’re not going to be best friends by just doing the above. Chances are high that a silence will follow after you say “ah” to their reply to your question. So before the crickets start to croak and the tumbleweed starts to roll, hit them with a comment:
- I am.
Ah, that explains why I have never seen you around.
- Not really, but I do like it as well.
You should check them out and they’re really cool.
- Just a shirt, nothing fancy.
Wow. How’d you even predict what the weather is gonna be like?
As you can see, you can mix comments and questions. However, you need to find the balance between them. Just comments will make it a one sided conversation; just questions will make it an interrogation.
We just said that questions are to be used sparingly. However, they are the key element that drives the conversation, and allows you to know what you have in common with the other person. So, at first, rely on easy questions that can be answered in one or two words. Then, basing on their reply, follow up with a question that lets them clarify their answer.
- So are you guys like brothers?
You can say that.
What was it like growing up with him?
- You like rock?
Ah. And what made you like this song?
- So are you a meteorologist?
Cool. What’s a usual work-day like?
The trick here is to keep the questions as open ended as possible. For instance, the go to question would be, “how many brothers or sisters do you have?” This’ll earn you no more than a number. So instead of that, say, “tell me more about your family.”
By doing the above you will effectively turn the conversation towards them and talking about oneself is something everyone loves. From here on, you want to listen to them carefully. They may love to talk about themselves, but will only continue to do so if you pay attention. Doing so will also put you in a position to generate more questions. Ask them and proceed with a nice to and fro.
With just one song everyone has heard of, Gotye is really somebody that we used to know; much like that guy you used to sit next to in college. Catching up with such acquaintances brings up some peculiar things to keep in mind. You may have a very fuzzy memory of what they used to do, and probably clueless about what they are up to now. So use this as an excuse to talk and pass the time.
- When you’re not sure if they’re still dating the same person: What’s up with you and *insert name*?
- When you don’t know what they do for work: What have you been busy with these days?
- When you know they went somewhere, but not what for: What brought you out to *insert place* recently?
- Exchange business cards
- Exchange emails
- Wait for the conversation to end and ask someone for their name
- At the end, introduce yourself again and chances are they’ll introduce themselves again
- Introduce someone to them and they will likely introduce themselves to the third person with their name
- Be inventive and tell them something like: It’s impossible to say one’s name in a different accent. (They may try it and succeed and you may know their name now, but you’ll be proven wrong and made to look bad. Proceed at your own risk.)
- Ask them how they spell their name (Won’t be a good idea if their name is Ram or something simple like that, but you’ll be knowing their name. A nice trade off right?)
- Just be honest and apologize, and then ask what their name is. (Don’t try to be smart and say something like “Ah. I knew that. Was just confused.” You’re at fault here; don’t try to cover it up.)
Talk to someone who is alone:
Don’t talk to them if they’re engaged with themselves, like if they’re on their phone.
Talk to them if they’re looking around and not really doing anything.
- Give out compliments:
Don’t give compliments on looks; you’ll come off as a creep.
Give compliments on what they’re wearing.
- Pointing out something:
Don’t point out that they have lost or put on weight; many are self-conscious about such things.
Point out tattoos and how rad they look on them.
- Wear something interesting:
Don’t wear something that is too loud, like neon socks; they’ll think you’re childish.
Wear something that will fetch you compliments, like a nice watch or a lapel pin.
- Shake hands:
Don’t care about how it’s said that people of regard never extend their hand first.
Extend your hand first to let the other person know you’re friendly.
Words: Nirveek PPJ Shah| Photos: Gaurav Xhompate Sunuwar|
Models: Rupesh Shrestha, Rupil Joshi