How many opportunities have you missed due to conversations you were afraid to start? Or that you didn't know how to keep going?
In this guide I'll show you how to stop being afraid of small talk, and get good at it.
Improving your small talk game will give you a confidence boost, and create more opportunities for you. This means better relationships, and connections (networking).
Also this method will help you turn boring soul-sucking conversations into interesting ones.
Small talk is a skill that can be easily learned. Let go of the "I'm not a social person" tag you placed on yourself.
The two main reasons people fail at small talk are:
- They are scared to engage in it. They stay on the side lines, or on their phone. Telling themselves some sort of excuse.
- Relying on intuition, or worse talking about the weather, traffic or other meaningless topic.
It doesn't have to be this way. You can have interesting, and meaningful conversation with just about any person.
These conversations will lead to opportunities you wouldn't otherwise get, or making friendships.
Every relationship starts with small talk
Later you can decide if you want to deepen it, keep it at the same level or cut it off, but at least it's your choice.
The FORD small talk framework
Be open to talking with people, realize that you can learn something new and useful from any person.
Be genuinely curious in what the other person is telling you.
Think of a follow up questions or a similar experience you had that you can share. Think how they felt during the experience. "Wow, this must have been really hard/fun/stressful."
Position and posture
Position yourself in a place that people will interact with you or approach you. Don't stand closed handed, have a welcoming mindset.
Take your head out of your phone, don't stand grumpy in the corner.
This is the scariest part. But trust me the worst thing that will happen is that the conversation won't catch. You won't embarrass yourself.
Start with a general "Hi how are you?" OR "How are things at work?" OR "So what brings you here?" OR "How have you been".
Use the context of the location. Waiting to pick up the kids from soccer? Leverage this. "I really like how the coach challenges the kids. Is your kid enjoying it?" OR "What do you think of the coach?" OR "I really like how the kids get used to healthy physical contact here."
Once you engaged you can start steering the conversation in many directions. Below are areas and examples of direction into which you can guide the conversation.
(notice how you're in control? Isn't this cool? 😎)
F.O.R.D areas to talk about
These are areas that you can start a conversation with any person:
Family - Ask about their family ← This my least favorite of the bunch, it's close to "how's the weather?" and it can blow up in your face if there's a crisis. But it's still a good topic to start a discussion, especially with parents.
Occupation - What do you do for a living? What do you like/hate about it? How long have you...? Where? etc.
Recreation - Do you have any hobbies? What do you do in your spare time? This is such a cool hobby! How'd you get into it? Do you do it alone?
Dreams - What are your dreams? What’s the ideal vacation or experience you want to have?
If you had infinite amount of time how would you spend it? Have you had any dreams come true?
These are only the basics
I have a bank of other topics and questions I developed over time, that I can dive into:
- What's your morning routine like? When do yo wake up?
- How do you keep healthy? Diet, Exercise, meditation, etc.
- Inspiration - Do you have a recommendation for a movie/TV show/music/art show?
- They're more, but you got the point...
These are just suggestions of things that work for me.
As you try this, and grow more confident you'll start seeing what areas and questions work for you.
Be systematic, start collecting questions.
If I want to conversation to go deeper, I shift from "small talk" to "Deep Conversations mode" using this combo:
"What's on your mind these days?"
Repeat their answer in your own words, and follow with
“What’s the biggest challenge with [top of mind issue]?”
Repeat their answer in your own words, and follow up with
“What’s stoping you from overcoming/reaching [BIGGEST CHALLENGE]?”
I guarantee that at this point the conversation is pretty interesting.
But you can keep going
How have you tried to overcome this?
If you could talk to anyone in the world about this who would you talk and what would you ask?
* You don't have to go deeper. That's a personal choice. I like doing, but I want you to have the option to do so if you wish.
- Have the right mindset.
- Be in a good position and stand in a welcoming posture.
- Engage with people you want to talk with.
- USE the F.O.R.D framework to get the conversation going.
- Go deeper if you want.
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