For anyone that knows me personally, you know that I tend to be more shy in social settings. I LOVE to plan and throw a good party, but I've always struggled with small talk. Small talk has never been something that has come easily for me, and so, most of the time, I avoid it completely. It's been a bit of a road block in life at times, because people view me as cold, rude or shut down when that couldn't be more opposite of the person I am. Really, I tend to be extremely self-conscious in a small group setting, but I've learned to get better about it as I've gotten older, and wiser (at least I tell myself that).
So for those of you like me who tend to be more of a wallflower, there are little tricks I've picked up over the years that have helped my one on one conversations with strangers or people I don't know as well become easier and more natural. By practicing these strategies, I have been able to be more comfortable and confident in social interactions at parties, and even in business interactions as well.
Conversation Tip: A successful conversation puts the emphasis on your conversation partner. It’s also a highly effective way to sell products and services.
Make a good first impression. People make a lot of conclusions about you before you ever speak. Conveying the message that you’re friendly, confident, and relevant provides a huge advantage. People will naturally want to engage with you and will listen to what you have to say.
Conversation Tips: Stand or sit up straight. Put on your most confident smile. Look people in the eye.
Pay attention. Everyone wants to matter and feel important. By giving your conversation partner your full attention, you can accomplish that easily. Avoid looking at your watch, your phone, or scanning the room.
Conversation Tip: Keep your attention focused on the other person.
Avoid worrying about what you’ll say next. This could easily fall under the previous point, but I think deserves its own callout because it's one that has made me stumble in conversation regularly. Many times, I have come across as socially awkward because I'm internally worried about what I'm going to say next and trip over my words or am not fully paying attention to the conversation at hand because of it. When your mind is furiously working to think of something to say, you become fidgety, your eye contact wavers, and your anxiety is obvious, which can make other people uncomfortable.
Conversation Tip: Just listen — the other person will give you plenty of material to move the conversation forward.
Turn the spotlight on the other person. You’ll find that your most successful conversations will be about the other person. People love it when you show an interest in them.
Conversation Tip: Keep turning the conversation toward the other person, their interests and opinions.
Act like a parrot. This may sound like a weird thing to suggest, but it's actually helped me quite a few times when there is an awkward lull in conversation. It helps fill empty space and reminds the person you're speaking with that you're interested in what they have been saying.
Conversation Tip: Something as simple as repeating the last few words of conversation and turning it into a question can help keep the conversation moving. Example: “So, you went to dinner at that new restaurant in town? How was it?”
Always have something interesting to say. Obviously, you will have to add to the conversation yourself. I've found it's always been helpful for me to be prepared with a few things to say. As much as I'm embarrassed to admit this, I've written a few talking points in my notes on my phone because the act of writing helps me to remember. It could be anything from new books I've read, to new food/recipes I've tried, new places I've been, and global/local happenings I should be aware of. I try to have a few things ready in mind so that I don't have to blindly lead the conversation.
Conversation Tips: Watch the news before you head out the door to help provide conversation add-ins that may be relevant. Take mental or physical notes so that you have a story or two prepared.
Expect success. This may also sound a bit silly, but I'm a firm believer that if you think you're going to be horrible at small talk and feel uncomfortable and awkward, it will happen. Your expectations and results match more often than not, which is why I believe it's so important to go into a conversation expecting it to be a good one.
Conversation Tip: Believe that you’re someone people want to talk to and that you have interesting things to say, because you are and you do.
Give one sincere compliment. People love compliments, as long as you avoid coming on too strong or making people feel uncomfortable. If I'm standing next to someone and there's some awkward silence that's pushing for conversation, I always like to lead with a compliment.
Conversation Tip: Compliment the other person's clothing, shoes or accessory. It makes the other person feel good, and it creates an opening for more conversation.
The most important lesson I've learned over the years is that you don't have to be a social extrovert in order to be a successful conversationalist. I think most people enjoy talking with me as an introvert, because I'm perfectly comfortable letting others have the spotlight to talk about themselves.
Using these tips have helped me feel so much more comfortable at events, especially in social and business settings, which helps lower stress and anxiety for me, and allows me to enjoy where I am, what I'm doing and who I'm with. I hope they do the same for you! 💕
Feel free to leave a comment if you have a tip of your own to add. I'd love to hear what works for you!