Have you ever seen an acquaintance in a store and beelined for the door to avoid engaging in meaningless conversation? Don’t lie to yourself -- most of us have been there before!! It happens, sometimes we are rushing around, not feeling or looking our best or are simply not in the mood for small talk. If you ask around many people will admit that engaging in small talk is not on their list of favorable things to do and avoidance (like in the example above) is a rare solution. On the other hand, individuals who suffer from anxiety will often go great lengths to avoid the dreaded “small talk.” If you find yourself avoiding small talk you should brush up your skills for handling it -- because YOU CAN!
Tips for Overcoming Small Talk
Prepare: Preparing and coming up with a plan can help you relax. Debra Fine, lecturer and author of The Fine Art of Small Talk suggests coming up with two or three things you can talk about in case the conversation runs dry. Know your crowd and take some time to think about the people you will be engaging in conversation with -- What are their interests? What do you have in common? Are you up to date on things going on in the world? As always, keep in mind that although coming up with a plan can be helpful -- life does not always go according to plan!
Find your Balance: Remember that small talk is about talking and listening. Be attentive and respond directly to what is being said. This is a great way to form a connection with someone -- which is often the point of small talk!
Accept the Awkwardness: Everybody experiences an awkward conversation every now and then! Small talk is a two-way street and it’s okay to not vibe with everybody. Not all conversations are flawless but at the very least give yourself credit for trying.
Don’t Dread the Silence: Silence in conversation happens all the time and is not something to be afraid of. If the person you are talking to is giving you the cues that they would like to continue the conversation, then silence can be a good time to change the topic. Everybody responds at their own pace -- make sure you give the other person enough time to respond. Stay relaxed and keep in mind that silence is no big deal!
Do It: You got this, face your fear and stop avoiding small talk. Be confident in yourself. The more you do it the easier it will become. After all, practice makes better.
End It: Small talk can be quick! When it’s time to move on it’s always a good idea to say things like “It was really nice talking to you”, “I’m so glad we could catch up” or “I have to run now but it was great seeing you”. Kindness goes a long way and that is what people remember!
You can't always hide from small talk, however, engaging in those “meaningless conversations” can greatly benefit your relationships. If avoiding small talk is getting in the way of your daily functioning or you think you may have Social Anxiety Disorder, then you may want to consider finding a Wake Forest anxiety therapist that can help. You can overcome your fear of small talk -- you got this!