Small talk has had such a bad reputation among introverts. If you happen to read articles about debunking introvert myths, you’d find yourself reading something along the lines of “introverts do not like small talk….”
The Small Talk
Well, it’s basically true. Most of us do not see the point in talking about the weather when it’s so obvious. Even one of my favorite authors, Susan Cain, says “It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.”
As wonderful and as “permissive” that statement sounds, I feel that we should make the effort to practice the art of small talk, and how to turn it into a real conversation, every now and then.
Doing this, maybe we can even learn to begin using small talk to our advantage. This may help address one of the most common and unfortunate issues introverts face: difficulty in making new friends.
Contrary to popular belief, there are many of us who do want and like new friends (but that’s for another post). Some try their very best to attend social gatherings to meet new people only to get tongue-tied at the end, resulting in frustration.
The problem is not that we are shy; the problem is that we do not know what to talk about, thus the awkward silence.
The Awkward Silence
Most of my introverted readers probably remember experiencing all those awkward silences when we cannot think of anything to say to another person. In fact, one of the probable reasons why we avoid parties and meeting new people is to avoid these awkward silences and embarrassing ourselves in the process.
This is an unfortunate situation we will try prevent using some simple tips.
The Ways Out
One word: Preparation.
Start, and prepare, with the obvious.
We all know it. What do you think about the weather? How are you doing? How are Mary and the kids? What’s up with you? Ready your answers and insert something you are interested in them, for example, a favorite movie. “Mary’s doing great. We watched The Avengers the other day and it was fantastic. Have you seen it?”
Take it from Google trends.
Isn’t Google trends amazing? All you have to do is click it and you’ll see what everyone is searching for that day. Be like Google trends in a way. Know what’s the latest general information out there that has the potential to come up in conversations. Be ready to contribute a little something to help get the conversation moving.
Most of us like this task, don’t we? Newspapers, magazines, books, and blogs and other online resources are great sources for potential topics for conversations. Look for the unusual and the interesting stuff that you can enjoy and share with others. Here’s one site I visit daily. Maybe you can find it useful too.
Use social networking to your advantage.
If you don’t like being active on social media sites, that’s ok. But it would help if you have an account to Facebook, especially if most of the people you want to avoid having awkward silences with love to update their statuses every second. Knowing about their “OMG, we got tickets to the playoffs!” can help turn small talk into a conversation.
If you’re an introvert and you love sports and actually play one or two, consider yourself lucky. You can practically inject sports talk into conversations especially during certain times of the year. But if you’re non-sporty like me, read on it. You don’t have to know all the details and you don’t have to pretend that you do. I usually just go, “Oh I heard the Miami Heat won.” Then the other person takes his cue from that.
Awareness of everything.
Let’s use our strength, which is listening. Listen for bits about past experiences, hobbies, and other interests that the other person may give such as “At least its warmer here compared to Boston” or “My dog doesn’t really like cold weather.”
You can then ask questions related to those information. It’s not just verbal cues too. If you see the other person wearing a certain piece of clothing (with a school or company logo) or jewelry (with a popular insignia) and you know about it, you can comment on that too.
Body language and facial expressions matter.
Smile and just relax your facial muscles, especially those around your mouth, because it lights up your face and radiates positivity. Lean forward a little to show interest and to encourage the other person to engage in a conversation. Sometimes, we do not notice that the way we behave affects the people respond to us, encouraging the myth that introverts are rude.
Practice these tips regularly and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation nor cringe at small talk that is about to come. Soon enough you will be “natural” at it. Remember to take time to recharge and rest before you go out and practice small talk so you can be “in the game” as they say. These worked with others like myself and they can work with you.
The purpose of the tips is not to change the way we introverts are. But I realized that as much as we want others to make effort to understand our introversion, we should also work on the things that can help us grow and create meaningful relationships with others, one of which just happen to be engaging in small talks once in a while.
We do not need to be alone all the time, right?
Have you ever found yourself in “awkward silence” situations? How did you feel and what did you do? Share you experiences below. Maybe they can help other introverts.