7 Ways to Make Small Talk More MeaningfulBy Samantha Boardman, M.D.
Does the thought of small talk fill you with dread? While trying to appear interested, engaged and enthusiastic, are you really itching for the, so often, awkward conversation to end so you can crawl back into your comfort zone? Small talk makes so many of us feel like a fraud – it’s one of my least favorite things to do—and yet it’s extremely important in life. Job interviews, first dates and cocktail parties, even waiting in line; small talk is essential and unavoidable. It comes as no surprise that science has discovered some truth to just how important small talk can be. A study from 2010 shows a distinct correlation between feelings of wellbeing and conversing in a casual way (small talk). In other words, happy people talk more.
The study’s conclusions don’t stop there. Substantive small talk, conversing about personally relevant things, meaningful things to us as individuals, bigger things than the average topics of small talk, increases feelings of well being even more. A casual chitchat about the weather or any sort of small talk lends to the general happiness of a socially engaged life. A conversation about the weather with a personal spin, how it makes you and the other person feel, perhaps a memory, anything that digs deeper than the surface and has meaning will increase feelings of wellbeing even more.
Here are some tips, mostly common sense, to make your small talk more meaningful:
Repeat Their Name When You Meet Them
Undoubtedly you’ve heard this one before and undoubtedly it’s worth repeating. Any feelings of well being you’ve created with substantive small talk will be annihilated when you’re utterly embarrassed that you’ve forgotten the other person’s name. Furthermore, meaningful conversation is without a doubt contingent on some understanding of the other person – like their name.
Ask Questions That Matter
What they think of the weather, or how it makes them feel. Their thoughts on the latest Batman movie, its themes and bigger relevance. Remember, the key to substantive small talk (and the feelings of wellbeing it engenders) is talking about things with meaning. Be curious, people are interesting and you may learn something.
This includes body language cues like eye contact (and not looking over their shoulder) sincere nodding, leaning in and of course actually listening. Nothing kills a pleasant conversation like feeling the other person doesn’t care about what you’re saying.
And Vice Versa
When they ask you a question, respond with more than jus