Make the Brave Decision to Make Small Talk - Bravester

More small talk please.

In a world with more loneliness and isolation, I say we need more small talk. This is a brave decision you can make because we need to do something to help this world full of loneliness and isolation.

When I will talk small talk, I promise I won’t ask you about the weather (a pointless conversation) or what do you do (a scaling conversation). I am just going to intentionally let you know that you matter somehow through small talk.

You say you hate small talk. I’m going to say you hate the wrong kind of small talk and I have something better to offer you. Please consider this possibility…to help this world full of loneliness and isolation.

Intentionally do these things:
  • Retrain your thinking that small talk is an opportunity, not an annoyance.
  • Whatever room you are entering, you be the warm light. Place your eyes on people; a smile on your face; your face not in your phone; a look of curiosity on your face; a look of anticipation that there is something for you in this place.
  • Decide to avoid predictable superficiality. This is your brave decision to make.
Now you are ready to engage in small talk with someone.
  • Notice and then wonder and then ask a good question. Asking about their dog is more interesting than asking about the weather. But even asking about the dog might too simple of a question. Look at the branding on their water bottle or coffee mug. That might give you a question. Are they wearing a t-shirt from a location or event? That might give you a good question. Do you see the notice, then wonder, then question pattern?
  • Come up with a good question, not a closed question. This one takes some practice. You may accidentally in the awkwardness of a new situation ask a closed question. So what. There is always next time.
  • Be an active listener. This means you are not planning on what you will say next. You will have to trust yourself more to allow the person to be the talker of the conversation because you are more interested in the person you’re talking to than talking about yourself. Besides, something the person said may lead you to a next question. You might miss that if your head is full of thinking about what you might say about yourself.
  • Small talk is not transactional. Take that assumption out before you even start.
  • Allow people to have a conversation on their terms. Not your expectations.
  • Be curious. You may never see this person again. You are not forming a BFF friendship. But you may learn something. You are definitely letting this person know that they matter. In this world of loneliness and isolation, mattering makes a difference.
  • Do not presuppose you are going to get stuck in small talk. Small talk always has potential, especially if you decide to give it potential.
  • Silence is not unbearable. Allow silence to have space.
  • Don’t make it weird. Keep it warm and introductory with no ulterior motives. The person may not trust you no matter what. The goal is to leave the small talk conversation with the person thinking “maybe I matter.” Or, “maybe I can trust humankind.”
  • Share the real you. Not the masked you. Give this person who you may never see again the dignity of seeing you. You are pretty awesome. You letting someone else know that they matter shows that awesome you care about people which is why you are awesome.
Here are some slightly braver challenges. You are asked to try at least one:
  • Make eye contact with a stranger.
  • Give a compliment to an acquaintance or a stranger.
  • Spark a short conversation with this random starter: Someone asks how you are. Here’s your opportunity to start something. Instead of answering “I’m fine,”, respond with a 1-10 rating. Then ask the other person to rate how they are feeling. That little bit is conversation enough. This may open to another more pointed question, a shallow question or you both just walk away.
  • Prepare 5 good questions to always have at the ready. This helps to do it ahead of time. I’m an extrovert and this “have ready” idea helps me.
  • Throw a party of mixed friends. Maybe 5 people. Maybe more. Once the party starts, give everyone two question cards and ask them to mix with everyone by asking these questions. Some question suggestions are:
  1. When and what have you collected during your life?
  2. Which do you like better—sunrise or sunset?  Why?
  3. If you were hiking down a path and it came to a Y, would you take the well-traveled path or the overgrown path?
  4. What Crayola Crayon color would you choose to describe God?
  5. If you had $100 to give away to one organization, who would you give it to and why?

I think you can do this–and not hate it–and make this world a slightly better place.

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