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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Today was an ending and a beginning. My darling girl finished year 12. The final year at school is tough enough, but this year was seismic. Our teens have moved through this year with the most outstanding courage and grace and strength, and now it is time for them to rest and play. My gosh they deserve it. 

It is true that this is a time of celebration, but it can also be an intense time of self-reflection for our teens. (I can remember the same feelings when my gorgeous boy finished so many years ago!) My daughter has described it as, ‘I feel as though I’ve outgrown myself but my new self isn’t ready yet.’ This just makes so much sense. 

There is a beautifully fertile void that is waiting for whatever comes next for each of them, but that void is still a void. At different times it might feel exciting, overwhelming, or brutal in its emptiness.

We also have to remember that this is a time of letting go, and there might be grief that comes with that. Before they can grab on to their next big adventure, they have to let go of the guard rails. This means gently adjusting their hold on the world they have known for the last 12+ years, with its places and routines and people that have felt like home on so many days. There will be redirects and shiftings, and through it all the things that need to stay will stay, and the things that need to adjust will adjust. 

To my darling girl, your loved incredible friends, and the teens who make our world what it is - you are the beautiful  thinkers, the big feelers, the creators, the change makers, and the ones who will craft and grow a better world. However you might feel now, the lights are waiting to shine for you and because of you. The world beyond school is opening its arms to you. That opening might happen quickly, or gently, or smoothly or chaotically, but it will happen. This world needs every one of you - your voices, your spirits, your fire, your softness, your strength and your power. You are world-ready, and we are so glad you are here xxx
When our kids or teens are in high emotion, their words might sound anxious, angry, inconsolable, jealous, defiant. As messy as the words might be, they have a good reason for being there. Big feelings surge as a way to influence the environment to meet a need. Of course, sometimes the fallout from this can be nuclear.
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Wherever there is a big emotion, there will always be an important need behind it - safety, comfort, attention, food, rest, connection. The need will always be valid, even if the way they’re going about meeting it is a little rough. As with so many difficult parenting moments, there will be gold in the middle of the mess if we know where to look. 
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There will be times for shaping the behaviour into a healthier response, but in the middle of a big feeling is not one of those times. Big feelings are NOT a sign of dysfunction, bad kids or bad parenting. They are a part of being human, and they bring rich opportunities for wisdom, learning and growth. .
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Parenting isn’t about stopping the emotional storms, but about moving through the storm and reaching the other side in a way that preserves the opportunity for our kids and teens to learn and grow from the experience - and they will always learn best from experience. 
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To calm a big feeling, name what you see, ‘I can see you’re disappointed. I know how much you wanted that’, or, ‘I can see this feels big for you,’ or, ‘You’re angry at me about .. aren’t you. I understand that. I would be mad too if I had to […],’ or ‘It sounds like today has been a really hard day.’ 
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When we connect with the emotion, we help soothe the nervous system. The emotion has done its job, found support, and can start to ease. 
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When they ‘let go’ they’re letting us in on their deepest and most honest emotional selves. We don’t need to change that. What we need to do is meet them where they and gently guide them from there. When they feel seen and understood, their trust in us and their connection to us will deepen, opening the way for our influence.
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When they are at that line, deciding whether to retreat to safety or move forward into brave, there will be a part of them that will know they have what it takes to be brave. It might be pale, or quiet, or a little tumbled by the noise from anxiety, but it will be there. And it will be magical. Our job as their flight crew is to clear the way for this magical part of them to rise. ‘I can see this feels scary for you - and I know you can do this.’ 
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When our kids or teens are struggling, it can be hard to know what they need. It can also be hard for them to say. It can be this way for all of us - we don't always know what we need from the people around us. It might be space, or distraction, or silence, or maybe acknowledging and being there is enough. Sometimes we might need to know that the people we love aren't taking our need for space, or our confusion or anger or sadness personally, and that they are still there within reach.
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What can be easier is thinking about what other people might need. Asking this when they are calm can invite a different perspective and can give you some insight into what they need to hear when they are going through similar. Don't worry if you just get a shrug, or a disheartened, 'I don't know'. They don't need to know, and neither do we. The question in itself might be enough to open a new way through any sense of 'stuckness' or helplessness they might be feeling.
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Give them space to talk but you don’t need to fix anything. You’ll want to, but the answers are in them, not us. Sometimes the answer will be to feel it out, or push for change, or feel the futility of it all so the feeling can let go, knowing it’s done it’s job - it’s recruited support, or raised awareness that something isn’t right.

Sometimes the feelings might be seismic but the words might be gone for a while. That’s okay too. Do they want to start with whatever words are there? Or talk about something else? Or go for a walk with you? Watch a movie with you? Or do a spontaneous, unnecessary drive thru with you just because you can - no words, no need to explain - just you and them and car music for the next 20 minutes. 

The more you can validate what they’re feeling (maybe, ‘Today was big for you wasn’t it’) and give them space to feel, the more they can feel the feeling, understand the need that’s fuelling it, and experiment with ways to deal with it. Sometimes, ‘dealing with it’ might mean acknowledging that there is something that feels big or important and a little out of reach right now, and feeling the fullness and futility of that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days are rubbish, and that sometimes those days last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. But the learning comes from experience.

I wish our kids never felt pain, but we don’t get to decide that. We don’t get to decide how our children grow, but we do get to decide how much space and support we give them for this growth. We can love them through it but we can’t love them out of it. I wish we could but we can’t.

So instead of feeling the need to silence their pain, make space for it. In the end we have no choice. Sometimes all the love in the world won’t be enough to put the wrong things right, but it can help them feel held while they move through the pain enough to find their out breath, and the strength that comes with that.♥️

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