How to master the art of small talk
Small talk often starts with pointless questions such as "How are you?" According to research, these are three of the most useless words in the world of communication as the person asking is least interested in the response and the person responding hardly ever tells the truth. So, what can make small talk interesting enough to lead to an actual conversation?
Ask follow up questions
The key to an ongoing conversation is to demonstrate to the responder that you are genuinely interested to know about them. Following the A.C.T criteria is often a good way to go about this. This means asking a question that has authenticity, and connection and gives people a taste of your own personality. e.g., What are you looking forward to this week?
Moving beyond the hourly update
This means moving beyond mundane topics such as the news, weather, sports, or traffic. Unless you know that the person you are talking to is genuinely interested in a particular sport, or piece of news, it is a cliché topic and quite a distasteful icebreaker.
Pick a cue from your surroundings
Look at the things people surround themselves with. It could be a quirky painting on the wall, a book they are reading, a picture on their desk, and so on. Personal items and hobbies make great conversation starters and lead to unique follow up questions.
Share some personal news
If you've done something or had something interesting happen to you over the weekend, share it. Opening up about something personal, such as what your child did, or what you cooked for a friend's potluck will have others doing the same, and you can get a meaningful and seamless conversation flowing in no time.
Don't leave your conversation to chance. Jump into the discussion early, because you may otherwise risk your comment being taken by someone else. If you are with more talkative or naturally conversant people, chances are, you will get lost in the cross-talk and miss your chance to shine.
Work on your non-verbal cues
It's not just what you say, but how you say it. Consistent eye contact, and welcoming, attentive gestures such as nods of encouragement, and smiles never go out of fashion. Amazingly, working smiles into telephone conversations can make them successful too. A smile lends a warm tone to your voice, making the other person instantly feel better, even from across the cable.
Make a smooth pivot
Once you have an actual conversation running, it will be easier to segue into the real topic. As you have already eased into each other's company, the pivot into a more meaningful discussion will come naturally and help make the conversation more insightful and confident.
Take the step
For introverts, this will be a very well thought-out, often painstaking, and a possibly over-analysed step. However difficult it may be, it is important to pluck up your courage and go for it. Starting a conversation will help people remember you — remaining silent will make you forgettable and unremarkable.