I am an introvert. I would rather be alone than in a crowd and socializing exhausts me. The worst thing in the world to me is small talk. I am terrible at it! I am awkward and uncomfortable and I’m most likely to avoid it altogether. Yes, I am the mom who avoids eye contact, who walks by perfectly good friends without saying hello, and who turns in the opposite direction when I see someone I know in the stores. It’s not to avoid you (I promise) but to avoid the meaningless, small talk that comes soon after eye contact.
For my job, it is required that, sometimes, I interview someone- (usually a stranger). I realized that while I am terrible at small talk, I am pretty good at “real” conversation! I don’t mind chatting and catching up. It’s easy for me to can carry on a conversation.
I do much better in a situation where I know that the conversation is leading somewhere, instead of going nowhere. Most introverts are the same way! Those quick, mindless “how do you do’s” make us feel rushed and unimportant. We’d rather hide than have a face to face conversation! As adults, avoiding conversation can come across as rude, stuck up, and immature. We have to learn better ways to communicate!
With a background in journalism and some strengths of an introvert, I have learned a few tips that have helped me communicate better and I am going to share them with you. Hopefully, these help you to cut the small talk, too!
Did you know that this is actually one of an introvert’s strengths? We are great at observing and watching people. Can you tell she is in a rush? Does she look like she is having a bad day? Did she make eye contact with you? There is a good chance she is trying to avoid small talk, too! Are you friends on social media? Is there something she recently posted about that you can bring up in conversation? Talk about that! Have you spotted a commonality between the two of you? Point that out!
I love this tip because a sincere compliment can get the conversation flowing and I guarantee a compliment will make someone’s day! I always look for something to compliment the will lead me to ask questions. For example, if I compliment her necklace, that may lead to her telling me about the cute little hole in the wall shop she found them it! You can compliment a mom on how well-behaved her child is or ask where she found that adorable outfit the child is wearing. Here is another tip: Pick one thing to compliment, lots of compliments tend to get creepy!
We ask “How are you?” in passing. Sometimes we don’t even slow down and wait for the person to answer. This is the small talk I’m trying to avoid! I can’t even tell you how many friends I’ve walked by without even acknowledging! The thing is… I know how they are because I following them on social media. I know they were at the beach yesterday, got ice-cream on the way home, and her son spilled his drink into his new car seat. Social media makes it so easy to avoid conversation. We don’t ask questions because we already know… but do we? Ask open-ended questions! What beach? What ice-cream shop? Did you ever get that car seat cleaned? How?
This one seems obvious but you wouldn’t believe how many people actually lack this skill! Introverts are great listeners! We would rather let others talk! How many times have you introduced yourself to someone and after talking for a little bit, you’ve forgotten their name? It happens. This could happen because we are either forgetful.. or because we were too busy thinking of things to say that we forgot to listen.
This is an important tip because it ties all the tips together! Remember that time you complimented her necklace and today she is wearing another cute one? Tell her she has the best taste in jewelry and tell her that you need to invite her on a shopping trip. Did you see her Facebook post a while back, looking for a babysitter? At the time you couldn’t think of someone, but recently you met a girl that would be great. Bring it up!
Small talk for an introvert can be awkward… but it doesn’t have to be! It is actually an essential part in building relationships and with these tips, you are well on your way to cutting the small talk and having deeper more meaningful conversations!