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How to Make Small Talk

how to make small talk

“When you’re being yourself, she’ll feel comfortable being herself. If you’re putting on an act, she’ll also likely put on an act.” 10 Ways to Win a Girl’s Heart.

The only way to be comfortable in a potentially awkward situation is practice. While I don’t advocate pick-up artists (PUAs), Neil Strauss’s Rules of the Gameprovides a good assignment guys and girls alike should complete:

Talk to 5 Strangers.

The more comfortable you are talking to people you don’t know, the more comfortable you’ll be talking to your dream girl when you finally meet her.

I was thrown into the deep end of small talk training when I took an outside pharmaceutical sales position. I was terrified as I parked at my first office in a small town called Mountain Grove, MO. My heart pounded through my chest. Finally, I mustered up the courage to walk in. I talked to the receptionist, the nurse, and finally the doctor. My first sales call…and I lived to tell.

Do you want to improve at small talk?

In her book The Fine Art of Small Talk, Debra Fine says two primary objectives will make you a better conversationalist: take the risk and assume the burden.

Take the Risk

A few years ago, I saw a guy over by the pier in Hermosa Beach, CA. I felt sorry for him. He looked great, wore the right clothes, and sported the latest hair cut. He casually leaned against a wall hoping to catch the eyes of passing ladies. But, not one stopped for him. He stood alone…all night. I’d been in those shoes before.

“We cannot hope that others will approach us” says Debra Fine. “Instead, even if we are shy, it is up to us to make the first move.”

No amount of cologne, muscle, or designer wear can guarantee you will meet your future lady. You have to go outside your comfort zone and meet her.

Assume the Burden

You provide the topic for conversation and ask the questions. Start with an interesting statement or simple question and then proceed to an open-ended question. Try to use something pertinent to the situation or a current news headline:

  • This food is good. What do you think of this party?
  • The story from his childhood was amazing. How do you think he did on his presentation?
  • That new rule is tough. What are you going to do?

Notice these are open-ended questions, meaning they can’t be answered with a simple YES or NO. If you start a question with what, why, or how, the other person has to provide some explanation.

Make it a point to be the bright spot in my someone’s day. Steer away from complaining, criticizing, or anything negative. Start off on a positive note. 

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