How to Use Small Talk to Break the Ice and Create Connections

For many people, the words “small talk” dredge up feelings of panic and discomfort stemming from negative memories of awkward interactions with random strangers. For some of us, small talk is difficult and does not come naturally, while for others, it seems to be the easiest thing in the world. The good news is that, just like any other skill, your small talk abilities can improve with practice. The even better news? This will help you become more confident and successful in your business. Don’t believe me? Read on to learn more.

It may seem unfair, but people who are extraverted and gregarious are often viewed more positively than their quieter counterparts. They can also have an easier time being successful in job interviews or a work environment because they forge connections with many different people and come across as likable. You can do the same with a little practice.

Nowadays, it can be all too easy to retreat into your phone whenever you find yourself in an awkward or new social situation, whether it’s at work or in your personal life. For example, Meeting starting a little late? Most people will probably have their heads in their phones, checking email or social media. Instead, try chatting to the people seated next to you – especially if you don’t know who they are! Introduce yourself to them and you’ll make your company feel a little cozier and friendlier. Bonus? You’ll impress your boss with your ability to network with others.

If you have trouble getting started, try this: think of someone you know who’s excellent at starting conversations, whether a friend, a family member or a coworker. Observe what they do and then pretend to be them. Practice out your new skills on strangers you meet the cashier at the grocery store, strangers you meet in line at the bank, coworkers you share an elevator with. After all, you never know when you might meet a potential client or business connection. You might start off talking about the weather or sports, but you may also realize you have other things in common.

If all else fails, ask the other person questions and just listen to their responses. This way you don’t have to think of things to say. Most people enjoy talking about themselves – it’s human nature. And they’ll feel flattered that you’re showing interest in them.

There is one important caveat to this advice: make your small talk appropriate to the setting. If you’re in a business interview or chatting up potential clients, keep the discussion professional. I once interviewed a man who was extremely qualified for a position, but during the interview, he made multiple jokes about very personal experiences. Sure, he wasn’t the least bit shy and he didn’t have any trouble breaking the ice, but he ruined his chances by making inappropriate comments in a work environment. Needless to say, he did not get the job. Make sure you don’t make his mistakes.

For even more advice and personal coaching, contact me here. Whether you’re looking for interview help or leadership training, I offer coaching for those at all levels.