This book is littered with tips and tricks to make small talk less painful and flow more smoothly. It’s been almost all outwardly focused—on the other person, on the interaction, and on what you can say to improve your social exchanges. While that’s ultimately the most important part, there remains a vital part of the equation left for the end: looking inwards to yourself. From the perspective of others, are you someone who is easy to make small talk with? Are you someone who energizes and makes people curious, or are you rather a drain on their precious energy? We have to make sure that our input is proportional to the type of output we want.
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Better Small Talk: Talk to Anyone, Avoid Awkwardness, Generate Deep Conversations, and Make Real Friends By Patrick King
Get the audiobook on Audible at https://bit.ly/BetterSmallTalk
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For production information visit Newton Media Group LLC at https://bit.ly/newtonmg
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Jeffrey usually has a lot to say. He reads the news every morning and always seems to be consuming media whenever he has free time. He avoids gossip sites and reality television, but he generally learns a few facts each day. No wonder he can connect and relate with people on just about any topic that comes up.
Furthermore, he is able to offer his perspectives on the topic. Other people might just answer with one-word replies and not provide insight or analysis. Jeffrey is a blast to talk to because he always seems to be on the same page, and if he’s not, he is willing to be curious and learn.
You can be Jeffrey or the other person. What’s the difference? Jeffrey is a fabulous conversationalist because of his ability to discuss different opinions and perspectives. He’s not just putting on an act; he is genuinely a curious person who thirsts for knowledge, information, and varying viewpoints. He has intentionally exposed himself to more of the world, and the more he learns, the less he feels he knows.
Become a person with lots of experiences and lots to say. A more succinct way to put it is this that you should become the type of person you would like to get to know. You prefer someone who actively skydives over someone who watches television all day. You prefer someone who has something to teach you in an interesting subject. You prefer someone who displays passion and has opinions on a wide range of topics. Are you this person?
We might realize that in trying to create our conversation résumé, it is suspiciously empty or devoid of anything interesting. We might realize that we actually didn’t do anything the past week besides work and eat. We might realize that when others share their new discoveries, we have literally nothing to add. Therefore, the first section of this chapter focuses on looking inwards and becoming someone it hard to not have a captivating conversation with. Although all of the techniques in this book are effective and useful, if you are the type of person with a lot to share and engage on, you will naturally overlap with them quite a bit.
Conversation-worthy people actively pursue what they want. Sitting at home, working 24/7, or always talking about the same things won’t make you interesting. In fact, it makes you seem like you have nothing going on in your life, and that may be an accurate assessment. Everyone has everyday experiences they aren’t interested in rehashing with others. Most likely, when people ask you what you have been up to, they don’t want to hear you say “work.”
They may laugh and smile, but the conversation stops there because they know any other details from you will probably be boring. But imagine how you could lead the conversation into outrageous twists and turns if you said something else, like “I went skydiving. It was so exhilarating, dropping fourteen thousand feet through the air! My chute almost didn’t deploy but it finally did—phew!”
Imagine the questions and comments people would have—but the point here is that you cared enough to take initiative and pursue an interest of yours, not that you are bragging about something you did. That’s a worthy trait, and it results in more engagement and people taking interest in you. If someone asked you about your weekend, and your honest answers provoke those types of responses in people, then you’re on the right track.
Maybe jumping out of planes is not your cup of tea—that’s fine, too. You just need to find things that you have an interest in and take steps toward quenching that interest. You can later impart new knowledge to people, or you might find people who share the hobby and want to do it with you in the future.
The more interests you have, the more interesting you become. When you’re engaged, you’re engaging. These adages don’t just sound clever; they ring true. People take an interest in those doing worthwhile things with their lives. You are also more likely to find someone who shares one or more of your hobbies. If you just have one single hobby, people will quickly find you boring because the odds of them sharing that interest are somewhat slim and because you offer little to talk about.id you when they realize that:
But if you also are into painting, you can find more people who enjoy that, and you can appeal to a larger demographic of people because you don’t just have that one single odd hobby that few others share with you. You’re simply increasing your surface area of being interesting and engaging.
This all carries into the idea that you should avoid being one-dimensional. I once had a boss whose sole interest, purpose, and passion in life was sports. That’s it. The guy couldn’t carry conversation like a normal person unless the topic related to sports. Or if the conversation was not about sports, he’d go out of his way to make sure it slowly became that way.
This put off people who didn’t like or care about sports. It also prevented him from getting involved in conversations that didn’t involve sports, which limited what he could talk about and who he could talk to. Most people felt annoyed by him, and even people who liked sports found his extremism obnoxious, annoying, and off-putting. Avoid being like my boss.
Always try to have something you are working on or toward—a project in your free time unrelated to work and unrelated to passive consumption of media via some type of screen. You don’t have to set the bar to loving a passion, but rather just investigating something you are interested in.
You will enjoy life more, learn a lot, and have more to talk about. Others will want to talk about your project and ask questions. Your new endeavor might also expose you to new people who share this passion, allowing you to broaden your social horizons.
In the movie Yes Man, Jim Carrey is forced to start saying yes to everything—literally everything. As a result, his life is transformed and he has many unforgettable experiences that he would never have had otherwise. He meets the love of his life, goes on many adventures, and other such things. Well, you need to be like his character and get into the habit of just saying yes and never saying no.
Cease the overthinking and giving yourself excuses to say no. You don’t even need a reason to say yes, so saying yes should become very easy and automatic for you. Simply ask “Why not?” to kill the overthinking and go along with a new experience. Don’t set expectations for what happens. Just be curious about what will take place and maintain an open mind.
Remember, for our purposes, you are truly becoming an interesting conversationalist if you have these experiences in your back pocket.