You’ve heard it a million times: First impressions are everything. Small talk is key to getting off on the right foot with someone new. Remember this study, which showed that recruiters are drawn to candidates with strong small talk skills? So, yes, it’s pretty key to your professional growth, on top of its obvious importance in your social life. Use these six tips to boost your chit-chat game.
There’s no such thing as being “bad with names.” Pay attention when someone says their name, and repeat it back to them (i.e., “Nice to meet you, Sarah”) once or twice as you start talking to them. Seeing their face and saying their name out loud will help it stick.
Give the long answer
When someone asks what you do, don’t say “I’m a doctor.” Instead, say, “I’m a doctor at Fourways Life and I mostly work with children.” You’re giving the other person more to draw from—now they know that you live in Johannesburg and specialize in pediatrics, giving you more to talk about. On the flip side, ask questions that invite a longer answer. Rather than asking a yes-or-no question (“Do you like living in Johannesburg?”), ask open questions like, “What’s your favorite part about living in the city?”
Ask more questions than you answer
Draw the other person out. Ask them questions. Give compliments. The key is to be more interested than interesting—no matter how awesome you are, people remember someone who made them feel awesome.
Keep it positive
Don’t complain. Ever! Even if the other person doesn’t seem put off, they’ll associate you with negativity long after they’ve forgotten what you talked about. If they ask about your trip to Italy, don’t mention the fact that your flight home was delayed so you had to take the red-eye and you showed up at work exhausted and it was terrible. Sounds rough, but unless you’re putting a funny, laugh-it-off spin on it, it comes across as pessimistic.
Know when to stop sharing
You don’t want to be so reserved that people can’t relax around you, but bear in mind that these are strangers who probably don’t care that your brother and his girlfriend just broke up. Share personal information that’s not too intimate, but is still relatable enough to keep the conversation going.