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Inspiration

How to Make Small Talk With Anybody

With weddings, graduations, open houses and other social events coming this summer, it’s in every girl’s best interest to learn the art of conversation. This is easier said than done—especially for the introverts among us! But regardless of personality type, conversation can be difficult. Small talk—those shallow conversations we have with strangers and acquaintances—is everyone’s least favorite pastime. But it’s also essential to building relationships! The foundation we lay in small talk shows us which relationships have potential for depth and pursuit.

Today we’ve broken down some small-talk ideas for different situations and people. As you read this, keep in mind that the heart of good manners and conversation is selflessness. When we are focused on ourselves, we become insecure and paranoid about what people think about us. But when we focus on others, we are naturally better at conversation and less concerned about how we’re perceived.

   

Making small talk with… a college student

It’s common at graduations to run into older siblings and friends of the graduate. Whether you’re talking to someone who is headed to school or currently attending, here are a few things you can ask to continue a conversation:

“What school are you attending? How did you choose that university?”

“What’s your major? What do you enjoy most about that program?”

“Where are you headed in the fall?”

“You’re attending community college? Me too! Are you going for anything in particular? Where will you transfer to?”

As they answer, use that answer to build another question. Don’t be afraid of pauses! That doesn’t mean the conversation is failing. It means you’re both thinking about the next step.

  

Making small talk with… a young mom

As you get older, you’ll start having friends and acquaintances who get married and have children, perhaps before you do. This doesn’t mean you won’t have anything to talk about. Here are some questions you can ask a young mom or pregnant acquaintance:

“How did you choose your baby’s name?”

“What’s your favorite part about having a [baby/toddler/three-year-old]?”

“What activities and events are great for kids in this area? I’m babysitting this summer!”

   

Making small talk with… a guy you like

Here’s where it gets tricky. When you run into that mutual friend at a wedding and your heart does flip-flops, how do you talk to him without looking ridiculous? First, remember that he’s human just like you. You have nothing to prove. Second, you can never go wrong with questions—in any situation. Just use what information you know about the person or the environment you’re in to build a question.

“How do you know the [graduate/groom/bride/host]?”

“How was your [significant event] last weekend?”

“What scholarships are you applying for this summer?”

  

Try not to use close-ended questions, e.g., “Did you have a good semester?” This applies to all people you talk to—when you use yes-or-no questions, you create a stopping point for the conversation. Unless they follow up with a question, you’re in for an awkward pause. Stick with open-ended questions (how, what, why, where). But also do NOT fear the awkward pause! It happens to everyone. The mind takes approximately 15 seconds to formulate a thought. Give people (and yourself) that time.

  

How to gracefully leave a conversation

Perhaps you’ve asked the questions and had a good conversation—but aren’t sure how to get out of it. Things are starting to peter out and you sense a big pause coming soon. This is when you say something like, “Well, it was great to see you and learn more about your summer plans! I need to [grab something to eat/check in with my boyfriend/talk to the bride] before she leaves. Have a good night!”

It’s that simple. Take time to practice, give yourself grace and remember this is a lifelong skill! You will use the art of conversation no matter where you go.

 

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4 Comments

  1. CarolineRae

    Posted by CarolineRae on June 3, 2018 at 13:55

    I needed this 🙂

  2. PrayerWarrior

    Posted by PrayerWarrior on May 25, 2018 at 05:52

    I really loved this post but there are so many more conversation starters I’d love to get ideas on-
    ~Like the sweet old lady at church
    ~someone about to get married (when you aren’t)
    ~people in a vastly different career field
    ~new coworkers
    ~a complete stranger
    ~homeless people (they really sometimes just want someone to talk to)

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by Scilla on May 31, 2018 at 10:36

      @PrayerWarrior yes! These are great people to want to talk to. I don’t have a ton of points, but maybe I could help with a few. I’m also assuming all these people are friends at church, but they might not be.

      ~Like the sweet old lady at church – I’ve had the privilege of going on a few missions trips with a woman in her 70s from my church, and that sparked a wonderful friendship. I think you can find out what ministry she is a part of, and try to serve with her (sorry if that sounds stalkerish). Also, you can just introduce yourself – “Hi, my name is ____, and I don’t think I’ve met you before. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Usually, she might ask you a question to get to know you better, but if not, pray for her and that week, and the next Sunday at church, say good morning and address her by name. This will help her feel known, and hopefully spark a friendship over time. 🙂
      ~someone about to get married (when you aren’t) – “Congratulations! I’m so excited for you. Can I see the ring? How did he propose? What was her reaction/was she surprised? I don’t think I ever heard the story of how you two met. Was it here at church/work/school?”
      ~people in a vastly different career field – “I don’t know very much about your field. What is it that you do? How’d you start working there? Do you enjoy your work? What’s something you hope will develop in the field, or something you’re interested in pursuing in that field?”
      ~new coworkers – It sometimes helps if you have something to train them on. I would recommend saying hello, and addressing them by their first name for the first few days/weeks even. It’s overwhelming to be in a new work environment, so sometimes grabbing a meal or coffee can seem like another task on the list. Offer to grab lunch with them at a later time, or ask if they’ve enjoyed what they’ve learned on the job. Make yourself available for questions if they should arise.
      ~a complete stranger – harder, since it usually really depends on the setting, how many people are around us, why I want to talk to them. If my goal is to evangelize, I usually address our setting or something they’re holding (ie. child, groceries, etc.).*
      ~homeless people (they really sometimes just want someone to talk to) – “Hello sir/ma’am. I wanted to offer you a cup of coffee and breakfast/lunch at McDonalds.” Then you can ask them about their story. Is there any way you think you might get help? Or invite them to your church.*

      The last two I would caution to not go alone. Any setting can present danger, but we just want to exercise wisdom with how we approach a person we do not know. Pray about this, and look to join an outreach ministry at your church that might help you grow in communicating with someone who’s a stranger (like evangelism, serving at the shelter, etc.)

      Hope this helps!