“It’s hot outside, isn’t it?”
“Catch the game last night?”
“Man, I hate Mondays, don’t you?”
Hasn’t the human race come to a general consensus that Mondays are no one’s favorite?
Small talk can sometimes seem boring, and for this reason, many have grown to dislike it and even try to avoid it. However, there are many benefits of it, from professional to health-related, which may cause you to make it a bigger part of your life.
The Benefits Of Small Talking
1. It can help you make a good impression
According to linguist Viveka Adelswärd, “Small talk provides us with lots of information, and helps us to ‘read the atmosphere.’ With small talk we probe the human terrain.”
We’re able to test out all sorts of things—the other person’s humor or possible sensitivities, perhaps—to help us make a good impression…without making a faux pas.
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2. It can be good for your career
That woman you’re sitting next to on the bus may not be as much of a stranger as you think.
Chatting her up about the weather could lead to discussing your aspirations in life, which just might lead to a connection that you wouldn’t expect—i.e. “Oh, I know someone in that field who might be able to help you! Let me give you their e-mail address.”
3. It can lead to lasting relationships
Think about your closest friends. Odds are, your relationship started through small-talk; after all, friendships have to start somewhere, right? Chat with someone new and you could make yourself a lifetime friend—or who knows, maybe even a lifetime partner.
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4. It can inspire new ideas
According to Dr. Adelswärd, chatting up a stranger or acquaintance helps us create new thoughts and ideas as we talk—which is why modern focus groups work.
While you speak with someone you’re a little less comfortable with, you can tend to think in new ways, and “suddenly you can hear yourself saying something really interesting and unexpected,” says Adelswärd.
5. It helps you pay attention
In today’s society, we’re constantly staring at our smart phones; after all, we have an entire wealth of knowledge at our fingertips.
However, with our heads buried in our screens, we rarely pay attention to our surroundings and live in the moment. Chatting forces us to put down the iPhone and listen for a change—and it’s nice to unplug for a while and speak with a real person.
6. It helps us problem-solve
Talking small can make some not-so-small changes in your brain.
One study by researchers at the University of Michigan suggested that the social interaction that small talk requires can boost our problem-solving ability because we try to step in the other person’s shoes and try to read the other person’s mind—something we wouldn’t do as much with people we’re comfortable with.
How To Be A Great Small Talker
For some, small talk comes naturally. For others, it can be a source of anxiety. If the latter applies to you, don’t fret—it’s no big deal if you follow these tips.
1. Break the ice
It can seem a little awkward if you jump right into a question like, “Where do you work?” This is why talking about the weather is such a stereotypical question, but you can’t really knock something reliable!
Personally, I have a weakness for good taste in fashion, so I often break the ice with a compliment—a bit of honest flattery never hurts.
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2. Introduce yourself
If you haven’t already, say your name. You can even laugh about it by saying something along the lines of “Oh, sorry, I just loved your watch so much that I completely forgot to introduce myself! I’m ____.”
More than likely, the person you’re speaking to will be charmed and introduce themselves in return.
3. “Where are you from?”
This is where you can start to exchange basic information. Where are you from? Where did you go to school?
Be warm and friendly, and make sure to give a solid amount of information about yourself so your new acquaintance feels comfortable opening up, but strike a good balance—if you speak too much, you’ll risk alienating them.
4. Keep building
Keep in mind interesting points the other person brings up so that if there’s a lull in the conversation, you can ask further (without prying).
For example, “You mentioned earlier you enjoy football—did you catch the game last night?” Just make sure it’s something you have in common; if you didn’t catch the game last night, you’re just making the conversation harder for yourself!
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5. Exchange contact information
If you connected with this person professionally, or if you just really enjoyed their company, don’t let your small talk go to waste!
Give them your phone number or e-mail—or if you’re extra prepared, your business card. Let them know it was a pleasure meeting them and you’re sure you’ll be in contact soon.
Talking about the weather or your favorite sports team might seem unimportant, but small talk can cause some big changes in your life.
Through seemingly idle chit-chat, we can test the waters, make professional connections, make new friends (or a future spouse!), come up with new ideas, unplug, and problem-solve. It’s is not as difficult as it may seem—and by following a few simple steps, you’ll soon be finding yourself reaping the benefits!
Photo by Dell’s Official Flickr Page