Small talk is a really big deal.
Are you shy?
There is a purpose to “small talk”. As much as we dislike it, “small talk” is important in human relations and especially when making first contact with people.
Have you ever met someone who answered, “how are you?” with too much information? What most people really want to hear in response is “Fine” or “Great!” They don’t want to hear us recount our daily woes or ailments. When you answer something with too much information to someone you don’t know, don’t be surprised if they take twenty steps back. The complete run-down of how you’re feeling is more appropriate for already established friends—and family. This is good news for shy people. You only have to remember one word: “Fine.”
Other good news: “Small talk” is a ritual we use to develop acquaintance and friendship with people who heretofore have been strangers. That said, your openers do NOT have to be inventive. The best openers for small talk with new people are the basics: In what part of town do you live? Where are you from? What do you do? (for a living) How long have you been in this group? How did you first find out about this place? They don’t sound interesting, but they are what’s called “open-ended questions”, and they get people to talk about themselves. Since you’re shy, that’s probably what you want! As they talk and you find out more about them, you may find out that there is one thing you have in common, and then you will probably want to talk too! That’s what you are looking for: things in common.
Remember that game, “six degrees of separation”? That’s what you are trying to find, some kind of link between you and the other person. But let’s say you don’t have anything in common. You have still had a successful chat, because you can cross that one off the list as a potential date or pal. At least, you have just made an acquaintance, who will probably treat you like an old friend the next time they see you, at which time one of you will ask the other, “So what have you been doing?”
This IS a ritual; make no mistake about it. It is a verbal dance that humans do, and many of you do it every day at work and at home. So that’s what’s new: this is a social situation, and you are afraid. No need to be.
Many of you can do introductions quite easily at work. I say, social situations are exactly the same, so treat a social situation as though you are at a networking function or introducing yourself to people in work situations. “Hi, I’m Andrea, and I work in marketing.” That opens the conversation to a lot of replies, such as “I work in marketing too”, “what do you market?”, or even, “what’s marketing?”
What we are trying to do is put out a few fishing lines and then see if we get any bites. Some things work, and some things don’t. There is no need to be self-conscious about it. Usually, people are so concerned about themselves, they are not thinking about whether you messed up or not. (Right? Isn’t that what you’re doing? Worrying about yourself?) When you think others are judging you, remember that it’s really you judging yourself!
Always throw the ball in their court, if you can. Why? Because people want to know people are interested in them. If you are shy, try to get others to talk about themselves. Ask them questions about themselves. They are usually flattered.
The whole idea is to get comfortable with others, which comes naturally with flattery. What if you want to talk? Talk about what you know. One shy young lady became a completely self-possessed, poised, and comfortable talker as soon as she started discussing what she knows about: teaching. Suddenly, she had knowledge, wisdom, and lots of stories to tell.
The thing to remember is this: practice does make perfect. You would never believe that I was so shy that I couldn’t speak, but it’s true. So, just do it, do it, do it, until you are no longer shy. And, lastly, SMILE. A smile is worth a thousand words and makes anyone super attractive!
Any other questions? You can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 713.301.9843.