7 Ways to Make a Big Impression with Small Talk

Small talk might start out small but master the art (and it is an art!) and who knows where it could end up. There is spectacular potential in those first crazy, awkward minutes of so it’s important to make them count. 

Like many skills, small talk will get better with practice. Here are some tips that will have your small talk making a big impression … and who doesn’t want that:

  1. Start small.

    A comment made in passing is a building block for future conversation and relationships. A greeting, a smile, a compliment as you pass – these all make way for the opportunity to make a connection. A smile turns into a hello, turns into a how are you, turns into a chat turns into lunch turns into … who knows? But how exciting is the potential! Don’t try to figure out what the conversation will look like or where it will end up. Just start. Who knows what you could be starting.

  2. Aim for nice, not briliant.

    You don’t need to be funny, witty or brilliant. You just have to be nice. That’s what people will remember. People generally feel most comfortable talking about themselves – (it’s the topic we know most about) so start with that. Asking questions of, and showing interest in another person will leave an impression of you as sociable, interesting, interested – and all you did was listen. 

  3. Don’t filter.

    Filtering all potential conversation through a critical filter will kill a conversation, so none of that. (Of course, there are a few conversation killers – infectious wounds and your ongoing digestion issues, for example, probably aren’t great ones to kick off with although if that’s worked for you in the past then who am I to judge, right?)  If you have a tendency to overthink what comes out of your mouth, you need to know this: Because of the consideration – overconsideration – that you give to what you say, the words that come from you are likely to be spot on, even insightful, meaningful or funny. So just say it – the world deserves to hear from you. 

  4. What to say.

    Before a social event, catching up on current events and news will equip you with potential substance for conversation. Also try taking the conversation along common paths. ‘How did the person you’re speaking to come to be here? How does she/he ono Do you work together? How long? What do you do? Asking about plans for the weekend or holidays can also open up conversation in unexpected directions. Even if the direction is ‘my parole hearing on Wednesday’, you’ve still learnt some valuable information – and what a conversation that will be. 

  5. Building the conversation.

    Conversations can quickly evolve from one topic to another, often ending up on some sort of common ground. Asking someone if they have anything interesting planned for the weekend can lead to a conversation about a restaurant they’re going to on Saturday night, which happens to be Italian, which reminds you of an Italian restaurant you’re fond which is local to you, which leads to a conversation about where you each live, and the things you like or don’t like about living there, which leads to … you get the idea. At this point, the conversation starts to take on a life of its own and you can start to relax. The point when you start to become less conscious of yourself (often around the ten minute mark) is the point when self-consciousness and shyness start to melt away.

  6. The Great Escape.

    The most difficult part of a conversation with someone unfamiliar can be winding it up. Finding a reason to leave helps. Think about it beforehand so you have it ready. Try, ‘There’s someone over there I need to talk to. Hopefully we’ll get to talk again later.’ Or, ‘I just have to grab a drink/ go the toilet/ make a call – I promised the kids. It’s been really nice talking with you.’

  7. Act as if.

    Thoughts and feelings often lead behaviour, but it also works the other way. Let your body take the lead and your mind will catch up. How would you hold yourself differently physically if you were confident about what you had to say. Would you stand taller, chest open, arms not across you, smile, keep eye contact for longer? Would you speak slower? Deeper? What would you say if there were no wrong things to say? Think of someone who actually is confident – or comes across that way – what do they look like or sound like? Even if you don’t believe it at first, acting as if you are confident is remarkably effective at chipping away at shyness or that awkward first five minutes of small talk. 

People like people who like them. It’s that simple. Eye contact, a passing comment, asking questions to show interest – will help to establish a social connection, or at the very least something to build on in the future.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is this: People won’t necessarily remember what you say, but they’ll always remember how you make them feel. All big things start somewhere. The next hello, followed by a few crazy, awkward minutes, might be your somewhere.

2 Comments

nourished roots

I love these suggestions because so often we see people we want to make a connection with but are just not sure how to start. It is true that a simple hello or compliment is often the best way to start!

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heysigmund

Yes – knowing where to start is often the hardest part. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love a compliment or ‘hello’ when it’s sent their way. It certainly always means a lot when either are given to me!

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When things feel hard or the world feels big, children will be looking to their important adults for signs of safety. They will be asking, ‘Do you think I'm safe?' 'Do you think I can do this?' With everything in us, we have to send the message, ‘Yes! Yes love, this is hard and you are safe. You can do hard things.'

Even if we believe they are up to the challenge, it can be difficult to communicate this with absolute confidence. We love them, and when they're distressed, we're going to feel it. Inadvertently, we can align with their fear and send signals of danger, especially through nonverbals. 

What they need is for us to align with their 'brave' - that part of them that wants to do hard things and has the courage to do them. It might be small but it will be there. Like a muscle, courage strengthens with use - little by little, but the potential is always there.

First, let them feel you inside their world, not outside of it. This lets their anxious brain know that support is here - that you see what they see and you get it. This happens through validation. It doesn't mean you agree. It means that you see what they see, and feel what they feel. Meet the intensity of their emotion, so they can feel you with them. It can come off as insincere if your nonverbals are overly calm in the face of their distress. (Think a zen-like low, monotone voice and neutral face - both can be read as threat by an anxious brain). Try:

'This is big for you isn't it!' 
'It's awful having to do things you haven't done before. What you are feeling makes so much sense. I'd feel the same!

Once they really feel you there with them, then they can trust what comes next, which is your felt belief that they will be safe, and that they can do hard things. 

Even if things don't go to plan, you know they will cope. This can be hard, especially because it is so easy to 'catch' their anxiety. When it feels like anxiety is drawing you both in, take a moment, breathe, and ask, 'Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?' Let your answer guide you, because you know your young one was built for big, beautiful things. It's in them. Anxiety is part of their move towards brave, not the end of it.
Sometimes we all just need space to talk to someone who will listen without giving advice, or problem solving, or lecturing. Someone who will let us talk, and who can handle our experiences and words and feelings without having to smooth out the wrinkles or tidy the frayed edges. 

Our kids need this too, but as their important adults, it can be hard to hush without needing to fix things, or gather up their experience and bundle it into a learning that will grow them. We do this because we love them, but it can also mean that they choose not to let us in for the wrong reasons. 

We can’t help them if we don’t know what’s happening in their world, and entry will be on their terms - even more as they get older. As they grow, they won’t trust us with the big things if we don’t give them the opportunity to learn that we can handle the little things (which might feel seismic to them). They won’t let us in to their world unless we make it safe for them to.

When my own kids were small, we had a rule that when I picked them up from school they could tell me anything, and when we drove into the driveway, the conversation would be finished if they wanted it to be. They only put this rule into play a few times, but it was enough for them to learn that it was safe to talk about anything, and for me to hear what was happening in that part of their world that happened without me. My gosh though, there were times that the end of the conversation would be jarring and breathtaking and so unfinished for me, but every time they would come back when they were ready and we would finish the chat. As it turned out, I had to trust them as much as I wanted them to trust me. But that’s how parenting is really isn’t it.

Of course there will always be lessons in their experiences we will want to hear straight up, but we also need them to learn that we are safe to come to.  We need them to know that there isn’t anything about them or their life we can’t handle, and when the world feels hard or uncertain, it’s safe here. By building safety, we build our connection and influence. It’s just how it seems to work.♥️
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#parenting #parenthood #mindfulparenting
Words can be hard sometimes. The right words can be orbital and unconquerable and hard to grab hold of. Feelings though - they’ll always make themselves known, with or without the ‘why’. 

Kids and teens are no different to the rest of us. Their feelings can feel bigger than words - unfathomable and messy and too much to be lassoed into language. If we tap into our own experience, we can sometimes (not all the time) get an idea of what they might need. 

It’s completely understandable that new things or hard things (such as going back to school) might drive thoughts of falls and fails and missteps. When this happens, it’s not so much the hard thing or the new thing that drives avoidance, but thoughts of failing or not being good enough. The more meaningful the ‘thing’ is, the more this is likely to happen. If you can look behind the words, and through to the intention - to avoid failure more than the new or difficult experience, it can be easier to give them what they need. 

Often, ‘I can’t’ means, ‘What if I can’t?’ or, ‘Do you think I can?’, or, ‘Will you still think I’m brave, strong, and capable of I fail?’ They need to know that the outcome won’t make any difference at all to how much you adore them, and how capable and exceptional you think they are. By focusing on process, (the courage to give it a go), we clear the runway so they can feel safer to crawl, then walk, then run, then fly. 

It takes time to reach full flight in anything, but in the meantime the stumbling can make even the strongest of hearts feel vulnerable. The more we focus on process over outcome (their courage to try over the result), and who they are over what they do (their courage, tenacity, curiosity over the outcome), the safer they will feel to try new things or hard things. We know they can do hard things, and the beauty and expansion comes first in the willingness to try. 
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparent
Never in the history of forever has there been such a  lavish opportunity for a year to be better than the last. Not to be grabby, but you know what I’d love this year? Less opportunities that come in the name of ‘resilience’. I’m ready for joy, or adventure, or connection, or gratitude, or courage - anything else but resilience really. Opportunities for resilience have a place, but 2020 has been relentless with its servings, and it’s time for an out breath. Here’s hoping 2021 will be a year that wraps its loving arms around us. I’m ready for that. x
The holidays are a wonderland of everything that can lead to hyped up, exhausted, cranky, excited, happy kids (and adults). Sometimes they’ll cycle through all of these within ten minutes. Sugar will constantly pry their little mouths wide open and jump inside, routines will laugh at you from a distance, there will be gatherings and parties, and everything will feel a little bit different to usual. And a bit like magic. 

Know that whatever happens, it’s all part of what the holidays are meant to look like. They aren’t meant to be pristine and orderly and exactly as planned. They were never meant to be that. Christmas is about people, your favourite ones, not tasks. If focusing on the people means some of the tasks fall down, let that be okay, because that’s what Christmas is. It’s about you and your people. It’s not about proving your parenting stamina, or that you’ve raised perfectly well-behaved humans, or that your family can polish up like the catalog ones any day of the week, or that you can create restaurant quality meals and decorate the table like you were born doing it. Christmas is messy and ridiculous and exhausting and there will be plenty of frayed edges. And plenty of magic. The magic will happen the way it always happens. Not with the decorations or the trimmings or the food or the polish, but by being with the ones you love, and the ones who love you right back.

When it all starts to feel too important, too necessary and too ‘un-let-go-able’, be guided by the bigger truth, which is that more than anything, you will all remember how you all felt – as in how happy they felt, how loved they felt were, how noticed they felt. They won’t care about the instagram-worthy meals on the table, the cleanliness of the floors, how many relatives they visited, or how impressed other grown-ups were with their clean faces and darling smiles. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that what matters most at Christmas isn’t the tasks, but the people – the ones who would give up pretty much anything just to have the day with you.

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