Photo by Handlebar Studios
Each time you go to a wedding, meet your friend’s parents for the first time, or find yourself in the break room with your work colleagues, you have an opportunity to strike up an enriching conversation with someone new. In these situations, though, it’s scary to think about things getting awkward, uncomfortable, or downright painful. The best way to avoid this? Simply be the change you want to see in our general approach to small talk.
This can be especially difficult if you consider yourself an introvert, but fear not. The simplest measures can help you rock any party (or grocery store line, or break room hangout). For example, if someone says hi, follow up with a smile and ask the funniest thing they saw that day. Did you forget an umbrella? Make a joke about your drenched hair. Simply showing your humanity and friendliness (and sometimes laughing at yourself) will make you super approachable and easy to talk to. Find more tips on body language and other small measures here.
Ask thoughtful questions
Nothing is worse than the “What do you do? Where are you from?” conversation, and lord knows that events with lots of strangers are chock full of them. Intentions might be perfectly admirable, but more than one of these per day can get exhausting. This TED Ideas article suggests that when you’re getting to know someone, ask them specific questions and give thoughtful, even surprising answers. Why not get weird? You might hit it off with someone you never expected.
Focus on others
Did you just find yourself in the bathroom line with the groom’s aunt Rita? Ask about her favorite memory of him, or a time he said something funny as a child. Ask Rita where she’s from, how far she traveled, and what the most surprising part of the trip has been. Putting the attention on others will make them feel comfortable and the conversation more enjoyable. This one works great if you’re trying to score a date with that attractive someone across the room, too!
If you find yourself looking for more party tricks, these blogs contain countless tips for event etiquette (and lots of pretty pictures to enjoy as well!).