One reason people run out of things to talk about is that they are constantly trying to make small talk.
Small talk is fine for quick exchanges, like when you are sharing a lift with someone. Or if you bump into a friend but can’t hang around.
But if you are sitting down for a meal with someone, on a date, or having a long catch-up with an old friend, small talk won’t cut it.
Examples of small talk conversation starters are:
- “How’s work going?”
- “How’s the family?”
- “Did you see the game last night?”
The problem with small talk is that it is designed to be light, unsurprising and unengaging. It is conversation that is intended to be quick & unenduring.
Most of our interactions each day will involve small talk. Few people will be lucky enough to have hearty conversations regularly each day. However, this can cause us to default to small talk mode when a real conversation presents itself.
For a longer conversation, you should ask questions that will go to unexpected places. Initiate a conversation that will build and evolve. Ask questions on topics where everyone can have input. Ask questions about things that don’t have obvious answers.
But particularly ask questions that are likely to have interesting answers. Is your friend likely to want to review their work week? Do you care to hear about it?
Be daring in your conversation. Maybe you’ll ask a question that will open a can of worms. That’s OK! If you have time, tease out these big topics. Maybe you’ll ask a question that requires a lot of deliberation and soul searching. That’s OK! Your conversation will be all the more rewarding for it.
But using small talk when given the opportunity to have a longer deeper conversation will result in awkward silences. The conversation will be stop & start, and there will be lots of looking around the room trying to think of something obvious to comment on.
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