There is nothing I hate more, then small talk. My friends know this, thankfully, but it doesn’t mean I can avoid it. Small talk is everywhere, haunting us with the weather and close ended statements and my personal favourite “how good is Friday hey”. I like talking to people, not just filling the air with noise. Also, I kind of ask meaningful questions for a living and it’s hard to snap out of that.
I wrote about the introvert’s guide to gig going, and I thought maybe I’d continue with the series as there are apparently a lot of us. This is for that party when you don’t know anyone, or you’re at a bar by yourself, or really anywhere by yourself. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about being rude, everyone should be able to engage in polite conversation when they need to, it’s important to socialise after all. This is more about the art of conversation, or being comfortable with a lack of conversation when there’s actually no need to have one.
Don’t talk about the Weather. Ever.
Unless the storm of 2007 is back reincarnated, and the Pasha Bulka 2.0 lands on Nobbys, or it’s snowing in December, don’t revert back to the weather. When we’re either bored, nervous or a combination of the two, we automatically revert back to a tangible sense. We can feel and see our immediate environment, and it’s something we don’t have to think about. It is the number one conversation killer. Unless of course, the subject of your conversation has a story about how they rescued eight husky puppies from the throws of the Alaskan winter, because otherwise there’s no where to go from there.
Be actively and genuinely interested in the person you’re engaging with.
One of my close mates is a bar tender, a very good bar tender. Part of the reason why he’s such a good bar tender is because he is an incredible people person. But this is more then asking you about how busy your day was, or what your poison is, he genuinely is interested in talking to… you. There’s no engagement for the sake of engaging and he has this incredible ability to make you feel comfortable enough to let your guard down just that little bit. When you’re talking to someone, engage with them, not around them.
Listen twice, speak once and be comfortable with silence.
It’s only human nature to want to jump right in and say something right away. To comment, opinionate or translate the thoughts running around in our brain. But being an active listener is actually a skill you need to practice. We can all stand still, nodding our heads, meanwhile our brain is going through the list of talking points we’re just dying to get out in the open. As they say, silence is golden. It’s ok to not fill the air with a million words. I can definitely understand how hard of a skill this is and I am still very very awful at it. But… I’m getting better. A few delightful gaps between your ideas is exactly what encourages good conversation. Thoughts move at their own pace afterall.
Be unashamedly passionate.
I have a very sarcastic tone of voice, and its gets me into trouble a lot. Because in my mind I’m being absolutely genuine, but I can often come across as a heartless sociopath void of all emotion. But when we’re talking about something we’re passionate about, our whole body changes. Those around us get a rush of that second hand excitement. It does not matter what you’re passionate about, if you’re passionate about it, it matters.
Have a go-to anecdote.
Everyone loves, a good yarn. It gives the other person in the conversation time to get to know you, and it usually shifts the conversation towards something topical and interesting and usually pretty funny. It’s ok to laugh at yourself sometimes, actually it’s important. I thought about sharing my go to anecdote but then thought better of it, I use it a lot and it would be a dead give away that I actually follow my own advice.
If all else fails. Just say “oh absolutely”, and nod and smile.
I’m kidding, probably don’t do that. But if you’re talking to an extrovert they will ask you questions and lead the conversation regardless, so sometimes it’s actually pretty effective.