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5 Main Principles of Small Talk

https://preply.com/en/blog/2018/07/06/5-main-principles-of-small-talk/

preply.com

5 Main Principles of Small Talk
Most people hate small talk . Especially, when it comes to introverts . But whether you're bad at it, worrying that you will run out of words, or feeling awkward, you can't avoid this polite conversation about seemingly unimportant things.

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Small talk

It’s a brief conversation between you and someone you don’t know very well. 

Small talk is an essential stage of a casual conversation, especially in English-speaking cultures.

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How to get better at small talk

How to get better at small talk
  • Have a genuine interest in getting to know a person you’re talking to and learn from them.
  • Ask open-ended questions. It encourages the other person you're speaking with to open up.“What do you do?” followed by “Why did you choose that type of work? How did you enter that profession?”
  • Never talk about something too personal.
  • Practice active listening. By paying attention to the speaker’s words, you’ll create much stronger connections.

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Anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski noted in 1923 that a great deal of talk "does not serve any purpose of communicating ideas" but "to establish bonds of personal union." He also said that small talk was merely a way to fill the silence.

He was wrong. Small talk is not just for those seeking companionship. It enacts and reinforces social roles in a whole range of social, commercial, and professional settings. 

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  • Speech communicates information or ideas. It is the semantic content of speech.
  • On another level, talking is a social behavior. Every speech does something. It reassures, acknowledges, nurtures, enjoins, rejects, dominates, encourages, or just fill an awkward silence.

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How to get beyond small talk

Ask open-ended questions that invite people to tell stories, rather than one-word answers.

Instead of "How was your day?" try, "What did you do today?" Other open-ended questions to try:

  • "What's your story?"
  • "What's the strangest thing about where you grew up?"
  • "What's the most interesting thing that happened at work today?"
  • "How'd you end up in your line of work?"
  • "What was the best part of your weekend?"
  • "What are you looking forward to this week?"
  • "Who do you think is the luckiest person in this room?"

Practice the art of disruption

When small talk dries up, it's often due to "mirroring." In our efforts to be polite, we answer questions directly, repeat their observations, or just agree with whatever they say.

For example, one person would say, "It's a beautiful day," and we might answer, "Yes, it's a beautiful day." Instead, we could practice the art of disruption. To move the dialogue forward, we could reply: "They say that the weather was just like this when ... happened (insert a historical or personal moment)"