An Introvert’s Guide to Small Talk
My smile wavers as I revert to my natural state of being: nervous and weird.― Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss
An introvert’s worst nightmare: the old lady in the supermarket checkout aisle or your coworker in the elevator looks at you with a look that indicates they want to start a conversation. You know that you’ll be drawn into an awkward round of small talk about the weather or parking problems. Short of faking sudden deafness or beginning to rant about aliens to scare people away, there’s no way to escape it.
Many introverts dislike small talk because it’s required but has no clear social rules. However, with these guidelines, you can rock those meaningless conversations as well as an extrovert.
Reframe Your Thought Patterns
Easier said than done, right? Small talk feels like a pointless drain on your social battery for a conversation that seems meaningless. However, these small conversations do matter. It helps you feel closer to people and eventually progress to deeper conversations. It could also make that lonely old woman in the supermarket’s day.
Instead of thinking of chit-chat as pointless, think of it as something that could lead to an important discovery. That makes spending your social battery feel more justified.
Ask the Other Person About Themselves
Asking plenty of questions is a great way to keep the focus off of yourself. Most people (especially extroverts) love talking about themselves. Give them the opportunity to do so, and they might not even notice if you don’t say much about yourself or zone out in your head. Ask follow-up questions and encourage the other person to tell stories.
However, don’t ask too many questions. You may like watching crime dramas, but you don’t want to accidentally reenact an interrogation room scene in the office elevator (however, if your goal is to scare the other person away from striking up a conversation, rapid-fire questions might do it).
Tell Stories About Yourself
No matter how many questions you ask the other person, eventually the conversation will come back to you. Instead of one-word answers or observations about the weather, try to throw in a few anecdotes. For example, instead of talking about how it’s rainy, tell a story about how you once got caught in a tornado.
Anecdotes liven up the conversation and offer the other person an opportunity to respond by sharing their own related story (which means more time before you have to respond again. Go you!) If you know you’re going into a situation that will require small talk, practice a few appropriate anecdotes ahead of time.
Make the Conversation Align with Your Interests
Small talk doesn’t have to mean discussing boring, meaningless topics such as the weather or parking meters. Throw in a few unique questions and steer the conversation toward something that engages you, such as travel plans or whether or not aliens are real. You don’t have to tell your deepest, darkest secrets to have a social interaction that still has meaning.
Small talk doesn’t have to be the bane of your introverted existence with these easy tips!