Small talk is a part of nearly every social and professional occasion. People expect you to engage in conversation, no matter how inane the topic is just to keep everyone from being mired in an uncomfortable silence. No matter what they might say, very few people genuinely like small talk. Even most extroverts dislike it. But for introverts, small talk can be nightmarish. If you’re introverted and stressing about small talk, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you navigate small talk without ending up totally exhausted.
1. Ask Questions
Icebreakers may seem like an awkward way to start a conversation — asking someone about their deepest darkest secrets isn’t the way to win friends, but science has found that asking questions makes you more likable. One study done by the Harvard Business School paired two groups of people. One group was told to ask a lot of questions — a minimum of nine, in fact — while the second group was told to ask no more than four questions. The group that asked more questions was judged to be more likable than those that only asked a few.
If you’re not sure where to start, prepare some questions beforehand. If you need to, write a list of generic questions that can be used for every situation, just to give you something to break the ice. The goal is to get a dialog going, not to interrogate anyone. Try out questions like:
- Where are you from?
- What do you do for fun?
- How’s work/family/hobbies/etc.?
All these queries all a suitable place to start. They’re very generic, but they’re almost guaranteed to start a dialog. When it comes down to it, most people love to talk about themselves.
2. Be Interested
When it comes to small talk for introverts, it’s sometimes hard to keep a conversation going. It’s even more challenging when you appear closed off and disinterested. This is actually a two-part tip. First, you need to consider your body language. Are you standing with your arms crossed and looking down at the floor, or are your arms open and your hands moving animatedly as you speak? The former makes you appear closed off and uninterested, while the latter makes you seem open, welcoming, and engaged.
You can also use this knowledge to assess whether your conversation partner is interested or not — a person is often not aware of their body language so they could be unconsciously projecting what they think of the conversation simply by the way they stand or hold their body.
Second, you need to be engaged in the conversation. A string of ‘uh huh’ and ‘yup’ isn’t going to cut it if you want actually to maintain a conversation. Stay engaged in the conversation, even if you’re not particularly interested in the topic.
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3. Be Prepared
Conversations don’t always go the way you want them to. Discussions sometimes become awkward, and you end up on topics like breakups or politics, and you might feel tempted just to make a quick exit.
In cases like this, you need to learn how to take control of a conversation so you can redirect it. Don’t ignore the statement — this could annoy your conversation partner. Instead, acknowledge the comment and gently change the subject. Nothing wears people out like someone trying to talk politics at a social gathering, so it’s a topic that is often best avoided.
4. Know When To Make An Exit
For introverts, any social interaction is exhausting. When you’ve run out of energy, don’t try to power through and hang out — you’ll just end up pushing yourself beyond the point of exhaustion. Instead, learn when to make an exit, and more importantly how to make a gracious exit. Don’t just disappear — that’s rude. Instead, apologize for leaving early, thank your hosts and then simply leave.
It’s important to remember that you’re not generally under any obligation to do any of these things — it’s just more polite and makes it more likely that your hosts will invite you back.
5. Take Time To Recuperate
Now that you’ve met your social or professional obligations, it’s time to recuperate. For most introverts, the best way to do this is to spend some time alone doing something you love — or with someone who doesn’t drain your batteries — to help you regain your energy levels.
Break out a new book, play around with your favorite hobby or watch a movie — whatever you need to do to get yourself balanced again.
Small talk can be a nightmare if you go into it unprepared. Just be aware of your limits and take some time to yourself afterward, and you’ll do just fine.
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