Don’t Be Shy
How many times have you said Hi to a stranger? The other day, I came out of the grocery store and was about to load my groceries into my car. Then a car pulled up next to mine to park. As soon as the car pulled up, I could see that its window was open, and I heard a female voice say, “Hi!”
Are you talking to me?
At first, I wasn’t sure if the lady was talking to me because she said “Hi” even before she had stopped the car! And she said it like she was talking to somebody she knew.
But when I realised she was talking to me, I said “Hi” back.
Then she got out of the car and said: “I was over at the other grocery store. But then, I thought to myself, ‘You know what, I like this grocery store better.’”
And then she went on to tell me how the other grocery store is expensive, and the only thing they really do better than this grocery store is “meats.” So, I’m just listening and interjecting every now and then. She went on for about five more minutes.
Before I knew it, I had learned that she had two children (a son and a daughter). And that she was going to visit her daughter and three grandchildren in Los Angeles next week.
She ended by saying she was ditching the other grocery store in favor of this one, because this one really is the best grocery store. Then she told me to have a nice day, and she left to do her shopping.
After she left, I started thinking, “Wow. That lady is a great conversationalist. She has mastered the art of small talk.”
She didn’t know me. But she pulled me right into her world.
I was a captive audience.
People say that “talk is cheap.” But, the way I see it, small talk is priceless and can be the starting point for building great relationships.
Knowing what to say and how to say it can be challenging at times. The important thing is to be prepared with conversational ammunition.
With that in mind, here are some simple strategies to deploy whenever you’re faced with the bone-chilling, nail-biting, jaw-dropping task of how to make small talk.
Yep! Just say, “Hi.” Like the lady at the grocery store. There’s something about the idea of going up to someone and saying “Hi” that fills many with an unshakeable sense of horror. But, being the first to say “Hi” doesn’t have to be horrific.
Besides, research shows that people prefer to be greeted that way. So, acknowledge your fear, and then do it anyway.
Be bold. Live dangerously. Say “Hi” to a stranger
I know . . . it goes against everything our parents taught us. But, we’re adults now. We can do this.
The worst that can happen is that the person doesn’t say hello back. In that case, you would just move on. But think back on an occasion when someone introduced himself to you. Were you offended? Nope. You probably appreciated the gesture.
If you start the conversation, the other person will silently thank you because he or she will be relieved of that responsibility. It’s likely they were standing there shaking in their boots trying to figure out how to start a conversation and with whom. Then you appear with a smile and a “hello.”
You’re not an intruder. You’re a lifesaver
So, the next time you feel reluctant to start a conversation, just say this to yourself: “I could be saving a life.” Then go forth fearlessly.
Talk About the Weather
Heat waves. Cold spells. Thunderstorms. Snowfall. Believe it or not, weather is one of the most popular small-talk topics. So, if the weather has got you down or is brightening your day, talk about it. Finding a common, real-time experience is a non-threatening way of beginning a conversation, whatever the situation. Weather is always observable, so it’s the perfect conversation starter when you can’t think of anything else.
People tend to bond over common experiences. Small talk about the weather can establish a sense of camaraderie, while still allowing you to remain non-intrusive and uncontroversial. Then, you can guide the conversation into other topics.
Ask Appropriate Questions
“I love that shirt. Where did you get it?”
Asking appropriate questions is a great way to make conversation. Many people love to talk about themselves — all you have to do is listen.
Keep it general. Ask about their interests, hobbies, or work. A good conversationalist is a good listener, but also contributes. Share your thoughts and stories and piggyback on what they say, to keep the conversation going.
Keep Up with Current Events
It’s a good idea to keep up with current events so when you do say hi to a stranger you’ve got something to talk about. People often discuss local and national news. If you’re unaware of recent news, it may be more difficult to contribute to a conversation. Scan the headlines for stories that might appeal to a general audience.
Keep it Light
Try to avoid negative or controversial topics. Avoid discussing relationship problems, health issues, or other personal matters. Small talk is chitchat. Light conversation. Not an opportunity to be nosy.
Don’t be Boring
Make the conversation interesting. Share a story or something funny that happened to you.
It’s just conversation. And they’re just people. Most people would welcome the opportunity to talk to a friendly stranger who (with a little luck) might just become a friend.
You can never predict how a conversation will progress, when you say hi to a stranger, which is probably why the idea of making small talk is nerve-racking for many.
But being prepared and having a few conversational strategies up your sleeve will help you prepare for whatever social encounters are thrown your way.
So now be brave and go and say Hi to a stranger.
You say Hi to a stranger then let me know how it goes…
Blog Input and images courtesy of Shana Douglas