While it is unlikely that you despise people, it is possible that this is the message you are delivering. People who enjoy small talk frequently find it difficult to understand those who do not.
Fortunately, there are a few conversational tricks that can help you avoid awkward silences and establish a quick rapport with everybody you meet.
1. Everyone has at least one book in them. Ask about it.
At least one book is in everyone’s possession.
Everyone, according to the old adage, has at least one good book in their possession. “Everyone thinks they have at least one good novel in them,” perhaps we can add it to the list. People love to talk about themselves in any case, and science backs this up.
Self-disclosure, like food or money, rewards the pleasure regions of the brain, according to neuroscientists. Most people will tell you a story if given the chance.
See if you can find out what they want to talk about the most, and then let them. They will be predisposed to like you since you will be rewarding their pleasure centers.
2. Ask lots of questions.
Questions are excellent, especially when you have nothing to say. A question might help encourage someone else into talking about themselves or telling you a story by demonstrating interest. Questioning is also an excellent nonjudgmental alternative to giving an opinion.
Instead of getting into a dispute with someone who says something you find insulting, ask them why they feel the way they do. They’ll undoubtedly appreciate the chance to explain themselves, and you could even learn something.
3. Mirror behavior.
This one works well, but only if you follow the instructions for the letter. Beyond that, the end result is disturbing and repulsive. It’s all about mirroring and making it appear like a coincidence when it comes to building rapport.
If someone is quiet and reserved, reciprocate by being quiet and reserved. Imitate their exuberant and passionate demeanor if they are effusive and enthusiastic. Use a similar manner of speech if you identify their speech pattern.
They will believe that you are naturally on the same wavelength and have comparable personalities if you do a good job with just enough divergences while still coming across as genuine.
4. If you zone out, repeat the last few words the other person said, but as a question.
Replicate the last few words stated by the other person, but in the form of an inquiry.
Let’s say you’ve been zoning out while someone is giving you their opinion on the state of the economy in the United States. You just get “…. have no concept what they’re doing.”
You might not know who they’re talking about or what they’re talking about, but you can sympathize by saying, “No idea what they’re doing?”
The other person will suppose you’re just interested in learning more about their theory. You’ve got an opportunity to catch up while still sounding like you’ve been paying attention.
This is also useful if you’re listening but don’t agree with or care about what the other person is saying.
Hostage negotiators, by the way, employ this strategy to great effect.
5. Be positive about other people.
If you’re going to talk about other individuals, be careful what you say. You don’t have to be overly optimistic, and you don’t want to come out as naive, but seeking for the positive and intelligently remarking on it is far wiser than commenting on the negative. Why? There are two causes for this, both of which are related to transference.
To begin with, when you moan about others, the person listening may assume that they will be the next to lose your respect and that you would judge them badly. Second, they might link your concerns to you and project your problems back at you.
This is a well-known problem during job interviews. It’s why, no matter what happened, you should never speak ill of a former employer.
Even if it was a horrific disaster, you always want to highlight the positive aspects and share what you learned to help you go forward. If you gripe about your previous job, the recruiting manager may assume that you feel the same way about her, or that you are the one who is complaining.
6. Provide limited but specific details.
Nothing is more annoying than being asked, “How are you?” over and over. When someone inquires, “How are you?” “How are you doing?” you ask. “Good,” they say. Then you both awkwardly stare at each other.
The talk is usually already on its way downhill, if not totally done, at that time. Such encounters waste everyone’s time, even yours.
Dare to be specific in your response. Focus on something specific, relatable, and finite rather than on broad overarching good or terrible things. For example, you could say, “Good.” I went for a trek last weekend and had a terrific time, how about you?” This helps you appear less of a cipher and may help you strike up a discussion.
The other person may want to talk about hiking, and then you can escape the “How are you?” loop and potentially move on to more meaningful interaction.
7. Give someone a compliment.
The simplest tricks are sometimes the most effective! Everyone enjoys being told that they are attractive, intelligent, and fascinating.
Even if you don’t feel that way, telling someone you appreciate their hair, something they’re wearing, or the way they expressed something isn’t difficult.
Most individuals could use a bit more affirmation, and they will appreciate it if you provide it to them.
8. Try being honest.
If you’re talking to a potential employer, a coworker, a landlord, a neighbor, or anyone else who you need to like in order to get by without stress or drama, the recommendations above are great.
But what about chance encounters with strangers who could become friends? If you never take a chance, you’ll be stuck in small-talk land for the rest of your life.
Friendship is always based on a greater level of understanding. Our friends are the folks with whom we feel at ease on a level that we would never feel with strangers.
So, if you don’t need someone to enjoy the persona you put on for the rest of the world, but you think someone might like the real you, go for it! After all, these are situations where there is “nothing to lose.”
Give an honest answer to a question—or ask a question you’d rather not ask. Say something out of the ordinary that you wouldn’t normally say in a small talk situation. You may be shocked by the outcome.
You can end up with something far more valuable than a new acquaintance. You might make a new buddy as a result of this!