Don’t you hate it when you’re in the elevator with a stranger and neither of you says anything? Or when you’re waiting for a meeting to start and the silence is deafening? It can be uncomfortable, awkward, and stressful.
That’s why we need to be able to alleviate tension in those situations, and one of the best ways to do that is often small talk.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”6Ji1e” via=”yes” ]‘People will never forget how you made them feel.’ – Maya Angelou[/ctt]
If you can relieve people’s tension, they will appreciate it. You probably already know people at the office who seem to be able to create small talk with ease, and perhaps you wish you were more like them.
You can be that person.
We all know that sports and weather are easy topics, yet most people don’t want to create small talk about sports or weather because it often sounds forced. However, it doesn’t have to be a long conversation about sports or weather. Try these:
“It looks like spring is finally here! Have you gotten out into the yard yet?”
“It is much colder outside today than it looks, isn’t it?”
The other person will likely make some type of reply, and that will start the conversation. If they don’t reply, maybe re-evaluate either your small-talk starter or their interest in having a conversation with you.
When we’re in an awkward, silent situation, it’s too easy to pick up our mobile phone and have a side-conversation with a friend or browse a social media site. That may make you feel a bit better, but it won’t alleviate the tension in the meeting room and it won’t connect you to the people who are sitting in there with you, waiting for the meeting to start. It is avoidance, and it’s usually not the best idea for you or for the people you’re with because it’s alienating rather than connecting.
How other people feel when they are with you is important. Make them feel comfortable. Make them feel like you are interested in them (and actually be interested in them). Make them feel good about being in your company.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”ax90W” via=”yes” ]Do you struggle with small talk too? Here is a great article that gives tips on what to do and what to say[/ctt]
Here are some topics for small talk:
– The weather
– The reason you are wherever you are.
– How long they’ve worked at your company (anything company-related is okay as long as it isn’t negative or gossip).
– Light humor to make people laugh. My favorite thing to do is to make a joke in the elevator. Everyone is uncomfortable standing there in complete silence. People are either looking at their mobile phone or watching the numbers of the floors change. I’ll sometimes make a joke along the lines of, “I wonder what we would do if the numbers went out of sequence” or “I think I’d better drive this elevator, you looked too stressed right now.” I usually get a light laugh and often a response. Once I get a response, a conversation usually begins, and the situation becomes much easier for both of us. Even if I get no response, I’ve broken the uncomfortable silence a bit.
Of course, there are things we should never talk about in small-talk situations:
– Political views or opinions
– Religious beliefs or opinions
– Anything racially charged
– Anything negative (don’t complain about the boss, the government, or your paycheck). I am even careful about complaining about the weather and prefer to use a little humor instead. Instead of complaining about the amount of snow we have had, I’ll say, “This has been a great year for skiers. Are you a skier? Do you love all this snow?”
– Gossip (even if you believe it to be fact).
– Don’t talk about others. If you wouldn’t say it if that person was standing in the elevator, don’t say it if they aren’t in the elevator.
Take a chance. Start practicing a little small talk on a stranger. What have you got to lose? At the very least, you’ll get a funny story out of their reaction, and you just might meet a new friend.
Article By, Rhonda Scharf