Initiating Small Talk

We have all been there… smack in the middle of a situation when we’ve had to come up with something to say to someone we didn’t know very well or perhaps not at all. It might have been an attempt to fill the silence during a long elevator ride with a complete stranger…  or to chat with a friend of a friend while standing in line at your local grocery store… or to feel less conspicuous while you wait for your friends to arrive at a party.

Small talk creates a path from silence to conversation. It usually takes place between two people who are not familiar with each other’s lives. Some people enjoy small talk. For others, it is anxiety provoking. Some folks have a real knack for coming up with great topics for small talk, while other people’s minds go completely blank when they even attempt it.

The best way to prepare yourself for a situation that requires a little small talk is to come up with topics you feel comfortable discussing with people who you may not know, may never meet again, or may end up becoming a new friend once you get to know each other. It’s usually best to keep small talk light and breezy rather than heavy or emotional.

The next time you need to come up with some small talk, keep the following topic suggestions in mind.

A few small talk suggestions…

  • The weather. It may be an obvious choice, but weather is a topic everyone can relate to and discuss easily. It could be today’s sunshine, yesterday’s downpour, or the dip in temperature expected next week.

  • Vacations. Most people like to talk about and hear about vacations. You can easily ask people if they have been away recently or if they have a trip coming up. Keep the conversation going by asking more questions about the destination. You can draw the dialogue out even further by sharing information about a vacation of your own.

  • Hometowns. Everyone grew up somewhere. Very often, that somewhere is not the place where they are living now. Ask people where they grew up and you are bound to get a response that can be embellished upon. How long did they live in their hometown? Do they have family there? How did they end up living in their current location?

  • Forms of entertainment. The range is huge and the topics can be taken in countless directions. You can discuss books, movies, television, sports, hobbies, etc. Ask people if they’ve read a good book lately. Then ask if they prefer reading an actual book or using an electronic reader. Ask about the last good movie they saw and their favorite film of all time. Share opinions about watching a movie in the theater vs. watching one at home. Ask if someone follows any local sports teams and what the person thought of the outcome of the recent “big” game.

  • Family. Everyone has family or did at some point. The subject can get a little “iffy,” however, if it gets too personal. Some people do not want to be asked if they are married or if they have children. You are probably on safe ground, however, if you ask if someone grew up in a large or small family. Even if the person was an only child, there will probably be things you can ask that will lead into a conversation. Once you get started on the subject of family, people may offer up additional information about their family, like if they have a spouse, children, or grandchildren.

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