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How to Master Small Talk

by Michael Leonard on September 07, 2021

Your ability to small talk effectively can have a massive impact on your life and business. Sadly, so many people stumble with words or use the same old clichés that everyone is used to hearing. This leads to missed opportunities that you might not get the chance at again.

But when you learn how to differentiate yourself from every other person, you are bound to make an impression on people. This can lead to all kinds of opportunities in both your life and business or career.

Here are 10 ways to master small-talk so you can stand out and leave a lasting impression.

 

1. Educate Yourself

As I’m sure you know, there isn’t much worse in small talk than not having anything to say.

So, how do you avoid that weird situation in the first place?

Make it a habit to inform yourself of news and events each day.

Before heading to work, make it a point to skim the news, check up on your favorite websites, or read newsletters from people you follow. This will help eliminate any doubts or fears about not having anything to say and make starting a conversation easy.

 

2. Flash a Smile For a Good First Impression

If you want to start a conversation with someone, flash a smile first.

According to Psychology Today, “A nice smile certainly enhances personal attractiveness. People who smile are often seen as trustworthy, approachable, and willing to engage in friendly conversation.”

But don’t make your smile too big, as the same article said that too big of a grin can make you look naive. Instead, aim for a subtle smile with a bit of upturn in the curvature of your mouth for a strong first impression.

 

3. Upgrade Your Physical Appearance

As much as some people wish it wasn’t true, your physical appearance is one of the first things people notice about you.

According to this psychology article, “Research tells us it only takes the duration of an eye blink to size up another person in terms of attractiveness and trustworthiness. Over the next three seconds, we form a more “complete” conclusion about a new acquaintance relating to their presumed personality and competence.”

Before small talk occurs, communication happens nonverbally. Your overall look, smell, appearance, and body language speak volumes. These are also things that you can control too.

Check out some of these articles to help you improve your appearance:

 

 4. Ask The Right Questions


To master small-talk, you need to start asking better questions. As Tony Robbins said, “The quality of your life is determined by the quality of questions you ask.”

When meeting new people, don’t ask the same old questions that everyone else does. These include questions like:

  • Where are you from?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • Can you believe this weather?


They usually lead to boring answers that will likely never lead to a lasting impression. The key is to ask different questions like:

  • What’s the best thing in your life?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What are you working on that excites you?


By asking different questions, you will catch others off guard (in a good way) and spark a conversation.

 

5. Listen, Listen, Listen

The next step to small talk is to make sure to listen to their answers!

As Carl Rogers said, “We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet, listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.”

Don’t be waiting to say the next thing, instead listen and then react appropriately. Too many people are eager to say something witty, funny or interesting that they completely tune out the other person.

When you listen more intently and stay present in the conversation, it’s easier to ask better follow-up questions. This will likely lead to a better conversation that will transform small talk into a meaningful conversation.

 

6. Find Common Ground

The key with small talk is to find common ground, so the conversation goes from casual to more in-depth. If you both are from the same town, both love a specific sport, or have the same type of dog, it will make it easy to keep the conversation moving forward.

How do you find common ground with total strangers?

Observe them and then ask questions.

For example, if someone is wearing a sports logo on their shirt, you could bring up the town or sports team if you’re a fan. If you see someone with a pair of shoes you like, compliment them, and then spark up a conversation about how much you love them too.

 

7. Share Openly About Yourself

When you do speak, how you act and respond plays a vital role in how the conversation continues. If you use cookie- cutter answers, you will likely get them in return.

You give what you get in life.

So instead of answering with generic statements like “I’m doing good” or “No complaints” answer questions differently.

Here are a few examples of answering standard questions differently:

When someone gives you a generic question like “How it’s going” answer with different words like; fantastic, brilliant, extraordinary, amazing, or something else. Then, the other person is likely to be more intrigued by your energy and want to keep the conversation going.

If someone asks you about work, but your job is something you’re passionate about, change it up. Instead of saying “It’s fine” or “Living the dream” say something like “Work is good but I’m super passionate about it (insert hobby or side hustle).” This will completely turn the conversation from mundane office talk into passion projects that light you up. It might also find common ground with them and keep the conversation going.

 

8. Live Your Life

A lot of people want to provide better answers, but don't always have the ammo for a good conversation.

So how do you provide better answers?

Live your life!

Instead of going through the motions of your life, get out of your comfort zone and actually live it. As Oscar Wilde said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.”

Read books, listen to podcasts, create memories on the weekends, get outdoors, meet people, and constantly put new information in your mind. The more experiences you have, the easier it will be to relate with people and find common ground.

 

9. Don’t Get Discouraged

Let’s face it, no one is batting 1000 when it comes to having conversations with total strangers. Some people might be having a bad day, others might not want to talk to strangers, or maybe your game is just off that day.

But that’s okay though. Not everyone you speak with will be an absolute life-changing conversation. There will be some awkward silences, likely strange answers, and other things that you just can’t predict.

As long as you have the right attitude, you can’t let those situations get you down. Stay focused, stay consistent, and keep a positive attitude to give yourself the best chances to succeed.

 

10. Engage in Small Talk Regularly

Finally, to become a master of small talk, you need to do it as often as possible. Like anything in life, the more you do it, the easier it will feel, regardless of who you are talking to.

Sure, sometimes you will fail miserably and blow the conversion. But other times you will knock it out of the park and maybe welcome someone new into your life.

This isn’t possible though if you don’t get out in the world and put these tips into practice. As the great Michael Jordan once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

You can even set a goal if you want to for a certain amount of interactions each day. Whether it’s the barista, a technician at your house, or a total stranger on the street, give it a shot.


Remember, communication is an art, it’s not something that you will master overnight. But these tips should help you cultivate better relationships and make a better impression on anyone that you meet. Hopefully, better small talk will lead to more opportunities in your personal and professional life.

Don’t forget, you only get one first impression, so it’s up to you to make sure you even get the chance for small talk. Then, once the conversation starts, listen intently, share openly, and see where the conversation goes.

As Paul J. Meyer said, “Communication - the human connection - is the key to personal and career success.”

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