Picture this: you and your coworker show up to a meeting early and are sitting across from each other in silence. Instead of pretending to be on your phone or awkwardly staring past them, you want to spark up a conversation to release the tension. However, what do you talk about? The weather? The office temperature? The new coffee machine in the break room? Though not ideal, many people think small talk is a necessary evil, especially in the corporate world. However, it is possible to have a meaningful conversation and make a genuine connection in a small amount of time with a stranger or an acquaintance. If you’re not sure where to start, follow OFFSITE’s guide on how to avoid small talk.
The easiest things for people to talk about are often what they know, and there is nothing they know better than themselves. To bring someone out of their shell and have a solid conversation with them, start by asking them a question or two about themselves. If you were talking about a common topic such as your jobs, ask them what their dream job is or what they wanted to be when they grew up. This will likely spark an interesting dialogue and can lead to you asking them follow-up questions and to them asking you for your own take.
Tell an Anecdote
While talking about the weather is most certainly small talk, sharing a story about how you narrowly escaped a tornado is most certainly not. Turn general, run-of-the-mill small talk topics into a more personal connection by linking the topic in question to an interesting experience that you’ve had. Talking about the local baseball team’s winning streak? Bring up the fact that your friend’s cousin is on the team and that you had dinner with the player once. It’s likely that the person you’re conversing with will have follow-up questions or stories of their own. Any sort of story or connection that can make the conversation more detailed and personal can turn a simple dialogue into a riveting exchange.
Offer a Genuine Compliment
If you and a colleague are in a silent elevator and you’re staring at her shoes wondering where she got them, speak up! Instead of quietly admiring and wondering to yourself, tell your coworker that you love her shoes and would like to look for a similar pair. Chances are, she’ll tell you where she got them and that will spark a further exchange. Essentially everyone in the world enjoys getting complimented and this will both brighten their day and make creating a conversation easier. These compliments don’t have to be surface-level. Are you loving what a colleague has done with the new marketing initiative or how they treat other people in the office? Speak up and tell them!
Though it may seem unavoidable, following these tips on how to avoid small talk can help you make more meaningful connections with colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers.