It’s game time. You have to mentally prepare yourself for these things. Small talk ain’t easy. In fact, for some of us it’s like pulling teeth. And around the holidays it’s small talk galore, whether at a work party, client function, or even a neighborhood shindig. But a little social know-how can help you chat up a storm like a pro.
1. Know your template.
Often having a set a standard questions in the back of your mind can be helpful when a conversation isn’t easy to start. How are things going? What are your plans for the holidays? Where are you from again? This will hopefully give you something to work with because as people answer questions, you can either find more questions to ask or uncover a commonality.
2. Don’t go too deep.
We all want to avoid shallow talk but at the same time, don’t take the conversation to places that it shouldn’t go like religion, politics, or awkwardly personal information. Save that stuff for your good friends. You likely don’t know a lot about someone with whom you’re having a small talk conversation so it’s hard to know what could be offensive.
3. Don’t be a hater.
Small talk doesn’t have to be a negative thing. If you have a lot in common with someone small talk can lead to something more like a good friendship or even a romantic prospect, so don’t be a Grinch about it.
4. Do a little homework.
It’s much harder to have something to say to someone if you don’t know anything about them. That’s why when my husband and I are headed to a holiday party we’ll remind each other of who we’re going to see before we get there. Go in ready.
5. Look people in the eyes.
Looking around at a party makes people feel unimportant. Avoid it at all costs. Maintain eye contact whenever you’re holding a conversation.
6. Mind the closer.
When it’s time to leave the chat, express gratitude for the conversation and have a realistic excuse to move on.
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Image: Matt Ryall