Hannah on…Getting Better at Small Talk

Hannah explains a bit about what small talk is and why it can be difficult for some people, along with some tips for your small talk skills.

What is small talk?

Small talk plays a big part in making a first impression.

Small talk is usually the first conversation you have with a person you’ve just met.

If you struggle with small talk, it can be much harder to make new connections.

Why small talk is difficult

Small talk is light-hearted. It’s never deep, personal discussions. This can make it difficult because the conversation seems unimportant and superficial.

Small talk can be awkward. If you’re shy, you can start to feel self-conscious. And if you’re feeling anxious, you’re less likely to open up and join in the conversation.

Sometimes it can also be hard to think of what to say. Or you don’t know what the “right” thing to say is.

You can’t think of anything to add to the conversion so you just sit there in silence.

Whether it’s a conversation between two people or in a large group setting, if you struggle with making eye contact or have anxiety, then the conversation can actually feel very intense.

Lots of people hate small talk and really struggle with it. That’s not a bad thing. Being better at small talk doesn’t make you a more interesting person. But it can make it easier to make friends.

Nine ways to get better at small talk

Because lots of people struggle with small talk, there are already loads of resources out there to help people get better at it. Here are some tips and general recommendations:

1. Take the focus off of you

Ask open-ended questions. That means questions the other person can’t just say yes or no to.

Remember, people like to talk about themselves and may find it easier.

2. Come prepared

Some questions are usually a given. Such as, "how are you?", "What have you been up to?" or " Are you doing anything this weekend?"

Have a think about what you could say beforehand.

3. Practice active listening

Active listening is picking up on what the other person is saying and reflecting that back to them in your reply.

If they mention a recent achievement or hard situation saying "that’s great!” or “that sucks” shows that you’re listening.

People feel valued when they feel heard.

4. Find common ground

If you can, try and find something you have in common.

You could talk about school, work, TV, music… something you can both relate to or a topic you find interesting.

5. Try not to overthink it

Easier said than done. But don’t beat yourself up afterwards for saying too much, not enough or the “wrong” thing.

Be kind to yourself.

6. Bring others in 

If you’re in a group setting and someone else hasn’t said anything for a while, ask them a question and be interested in their answer.

It’s great to feel included and appreciated.

7. Be open-minded and curious 

You might learn something new, get a great new TV show recommendation or have just made the first step towards making a new friend.

8. Reward yourself

Once you’ve done something you found hard, you should always take the time to pat yourself on the back and feel proud of yourself.

Better yet, have a plan of something you could do to celebrate. It could be something as small as buying yourself a chocolate bar or watching your favourite TV show.

9. Give it time

Getting better at something you struggle with isn’t easy.

Practice makes perfect.

More information

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Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.