Small talk is a polite conversation about trivial matters that usually do not include much controversy. It is an unnecessary conversation that tends to fill in a situation that looks awkward. It involves things that are of no importance especially between people who do not know each other well. It revolves around topics like sports, weather, current jobs, latest gossip or where an individual lives. It at times backfires into social discomfort and feelings of loneliness. Small talk helps to build ones’ confidence such that you can initiate conversations, develop your social skills and make connections.
Small talk is not only knowing what to say but also what not to say (what to be kept private). There are things that when involved in the small talk it makes you or the person you are conversing with uncomfortable. Some of the things that makes small talk critical include;
Financial. Asking people you are meeting for the first time about financial issues is quite inappropriate. While it is good to ask someone what he/she does for a living or positive aspects of his or her career, it is not appropriate to ask him or her questions about salary. Some people will find such a question intrusive and inappropriate.
Religion. It is another sensitive and personal question to ask someone you are meeting for the first time. Some may not like it if asked which religion they fall in since they may think you fall on the opposite side hence may take it as a discrimination question. It is also vital to know that some people do not belong to any religion hence such a question may be insulting. Questions on religion should be avoided during small talk.
Politics. Another area to be avoided is on politics. The problem is that you may not know who in the crowd has strong opinions. Avoid political question unless you are prepared for a heated debate.
Sex. Asking questions of intimate nature or talking about sex during the small talk is very untimely. When talking to strangers stop making sexual innuendos or talking about sex openly. Such questions tend to make other people uncomfortable.
Death. Another worse topic to be avoided during small talk. When in the company of strangers do not come up with topics that may bring up emotions or potentially upsetting. Some in the group may have lost somebody close to them and when reminded, they may end up going emotionally about it.
Appearance/age. Dare not ask somebody questions related to age and appearance, unless you know the person well. It may look pretty similar you but hot a topic for someone else. You are talking to a strange woman and you are asking her if she is pregnant or why she looks so slim or fat. You may not know the reason for the pregnancy, slimness or fatness and this could leave you and her in an uncomfortable situation.
Offensive Jokes. You hardly know somebody, you’ve just met and you’ve started the silly jokes you make with your best friends. Some people don’t like jokes. To be specific, avoid racist and sexist jokes as they are offensive and may end your conversation quickly.
Personal Gossip. You may gossip about celebrities during small talk, but avoid gossiping about people you personally know. Gossiping about other people paints you bad. On the other hand, you never know who may know each other. Stop bad-mouthing!
Past relationships. On the first date, avoid talking about past relationship. Some peoples past may be hurting while others may not like it when you tell them how your ex used to do good things to you. Talking too much about a past love or making comparisons is a turnoff and a fast way to make you not get a second date.
Narrow topics. Do not talk too much about one-sided topics. Be keen and watch signs that show they have lost interest and find a way to quickly end it. It is boring, for example, to go into too many details of a movie, when some of the people haven’t seen the movie.
Those are among the many things you should avoid in a small talk. They are critical and may quickly end up conversations. However, do not be scared of small talk. You should learn to overcome the fear of small talk. Below is a list of the things that can make you handle small talk:
- Entertainment and Arts — Topics on arts and entertainment are good for conversation starters. They may include; books, movies, and TV shows, music etc.
- Weather — as much as it looks mundane, it is a general topic that everyone can discuss. Practice small talk on weather questions or else you will get yourself in the middle of difficult silence with nothing to start on.
- News — reading news and being updated on current issues is the best way to prepare for the small talk. Be aware of what is trending in your country or city.
- Family — You are likely to be asked about your family. Get prepared to answer such questions and to ask them too. This will help you learn about a person within a short period.
- Celebrity gossip — It is good to know a little about some popular celebrities should the topic emerge. But unless everyone is talking about the celebrity, avoid being the initiator of such conversations.
- Hobbies — If you don’t have a hobby, consider having one since people like talking about their hobby and may be interested to know yours too. It will not only give you something to talk about but also know other people with interests similar to you.