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Hate “Small Talk?” Here’s How To Flip The Script

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Does this sound like a conversation you’ve had recently?

Person 1: “OMG can you believe how cold it’s been?”

Person 2: “I know, right?”  

Person 1: “I know, right?”  

Person 2: “I know, right?”  

Person 1: “It’s stupid”

Person 2: “I know, right?”  

Person 1: “I know, right?”  

Person 2: “I know, right?”  

Person 1: “And why is this elevator taking so long?”

Person 2: “I know, right?”  

Person 1: “I know, right?”  

Person 2: “I know, right?”  

It’s moments like this that make people hate small talk.  Silence would be more appealing to many.  Others grin and bear it whilst deeply regretting that they forgot their headphones.

Let’s be real. Superfluous chatter to fill awkward silences is painful. BUT, try not to let those situations jade your opinion of all small talk. Small talk is necessary and no matter how much you try to fake looking at your phone or checking your watch, it is unavoidable.  

So how can we make it better?  

I have noticed that most small talk is initiated with a negative statement or complaint.  People refer to how bad the weather is, how much time something is taking to happen, long lines, etc.  We do this because it is safe.  It is safer to point out something you don’t like than it is to talk about something you do like. Why? Because when you share something that you do like you are exposing yourself a little.  And that’s scary!  

But what if we flipped the script?  

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Starting small talk from a positive place allows us to quickly connect with others. Think about it, when was the last time you were recounting a story about someone you met and you said, “So I met someone else who thinks it’s been abnormally cold this winter.”  That doesn’t happen because the moment wasn’t memorable.  

However, I bet you can think of the last time that you randomly met someone who liked something that you also liked.  For example, that guy at the DMV that you sat next for an hour who also loved applesauce!  

Whether your goal on campus is recruitment, networking, or just to meet more people, I encourage you to approach small talk differently.  A stranger and I are not going to go from zero to BFFs in one conversation.  But, if we allow ourselves to be more vulnerable in conversations,   connections will be made and friendships or respect-backed working relationship will form.  

Small talk is only meaningless when we approach it with a negative tone, so flip your small talk script!

James Robilotta is a professional speaker, improv performer, author and entrepreneur. James is a graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington and earned a master’s degree from Clemson University.

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