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The Art of Small Talk

By Ashley Dowling

I’ll admit – I have never been any good at small talk. I’ve always struggled to smooth my way into conversation. To break that bubble of awkward quiet was something I’ve always met with an equal awkwardness. “Sooo, what animal would you be if you could be one?” (Some of my co-workers might remember that…)

I’ve always reveled silence. I don’t like static noise, and I’ve never felt uncomfortable with a lack of conversation. People that get straight to the point tend to be my people, but the more I put myself in social circles the more I realize that the majority of people like to dance before they dip and maybe I need to get better at “warm-up” conversation.

There is an art to small talk, and if you didn’t know it, just google it and you’ll see hundreds of self-help books out there about mastering it. Not surprisingly, I am not the only one that clams up in conversation, and there are others who struggle in a different way. Ask them about their day and they might babble for 10 minutes about how much salt is on the sidewalk outside (guilty there too).

The advice I read was the same advice my dad gave me 11 years ago after I graduated college and began the work of endless interviews. “Get people to talk about themselves and they’ll love you.”

Across the board the experts tell you to “ask open ended questions.” Dance away from queries that invite a single word response like “yes/no.” Ask more questions than you answer and one I really liked, “look for anomalies.” This last one is heightened observation skills where you try to observe something unique about the other person and ask them about it. But all of this really does spin back to my dad’s simple, one sentence advice: get people to talk about themselves.

Sometimes I will attempt small talk just for practice (because I’m crazy like that) however I also struggle with eloquently leaving conversations. I’m definitely that person that smiles and slowly backs away until you can’t see me anymore. Ever heard the slang “the Irish Goodbye?” Yeah – that’s usually me unless I get caught leaving without saying farewell. I might also say “okay guys, well, that’s all I got” several times until I can safely disappear.

How to end conversations politely is another top google search apparently with hundreds of results but instead of me spitting them out, I’d love to hear yours? How do YOU leave the conversation?

And I still don’t know why I said the animal I chose would be a frog because I don’t want to be a frog, but how weird would it be to be a frog?

Okay guys, well.. That’s all I got!

 

 

About the Author:

Ashley Dowling is a Product Manager on a mission to make the usability of software as easy as eating cake. When not immersed in the digital realm – you might find her with a ukulele in hand or a book in lap with her snoozing side-kick Elliot, a Dalmatian/Lab!

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