Because small talk is such a BIG deal I have made it my business to learn about it and become proficient enough to use it so as to fit more comfortably into the world around me, having more positive encounters with strangers and business people along with better relationships with close friends. Here are some things that have helped me:Share
- Watch for small talk: For many weeks I intentionally watched for small talk when going on errands, working and spending time with friends. Once I started watching for it I was able to identify it. This helped me to understand what sorts of things were considered small talk.
- Find appealing aspects of small talk: For example, even though I find small talk difficult, I do very much enjoy the predictable repeating pattern – basically, you can count on small talk to be part of most conversations so the pattern repeats with each conversation regardless of the conversation partner.
- Identify the small talk topics: The topics I have identified include the weather, the weekend and compliments. It has been helpful to me to know these topics that usually come at the beginning and sometimes at the end of a conversation are small talk in that I don’t need to pay close attention or remember all the details. This allows me to focus on the more important words that usually follow the small talk in business transactions.
- Writing Scripts Ahead of Time (Endow, 2006, pg. 52): My brain cannot retrieve something it hasn’t stored. Writing Scripts Ahead of Time allows my brain to store the generic small talk fluff words so that I can pull them up and use them without needing to waste the energy it takes to create my portion of each small talk transaction that my brain otherwise reads as novel. I have scripts for the weather with a multiple-choice feature to accommodate current weather events. Here is one small talk weather script I use: “How are you liking this (heat, cold, wind, rain, sunshine)?
- Play acting scripts: It will not work to simply repeat rote small talk scripts. You will come off looking very odd. I have found it helpful to think in terms of play-acting. This allows me to match the information of the script to the real life setting. For example, to a friend I might ask, “So, what’s the scoop on your weekend?” With a business acquaintance I might ask, “Did you have a nice weekend?”
- Build word sandwiches: Whenever I have something important to say I pop up a picture of a sandwich. This shows me that my important words are the filling, but I need to build the sandwich, with the bread being the small talk words. The sandwich pop up reminds me to start and end my important words with small talk. It is amazing how much better people like my ideas when I sandwich the idea in small talk! (Read entire post.)