5 Ways to Make Small Talk With New People (without all that awkwardness)

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What is small talk? Everyone defines it differently. I consider small talk to be a short conversation, usually with strangers or acquaintances, that revolve around getting-to-know-you questions. Some commonly used words to describe small talk include: awkward, insincere, shallow, meaningless, polite (with a hint of obligation). These are the exact reasons why I hate making small talk - I don't like to engage myself in conversations for the sake of avoiding silence. It really doesn't have to be this way. I would not say I'm a pro at making small talk. Or rather, I'm hardly a pro. But I'm learning, trying new ways to make it less awkward, more sincere, more depth and less meaningless. What are some strategies you use to make small talk more meaningful?



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1. Pretend that the new friend is an old friend whom you haven't met for ages.
This is the number one helpful tip when it comes to easing small talk that I've used. Awkwardness is highly contagious. To break the ice quickly, the first step is to adjust your mindset. Banish all self-conscious thoughts. Do you have that one friend whom you don't see for a year and yet can start chit-chatting smoothly upon meeting up? That's the frame of mind you should get into. You will still ask the banal questions of "how are you doing now?" and so on, but minus all that self-doubt. Of course, don't get too convinced about this semi-delusion with your new friend. Steer away from sensitive topics like religion and controversial topics until you are sure they are comfortable or open-minded to talk about these without getting upset.

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2. Don't prepare 'topics' beforehand. Let the conversation flow. 
I've seen tips for making small talk, such as preparing 'topics' - perhaps, ambition, work, family, hobbies, and so on. Stop! That makes conversations really forced and uncomfortable. Conversations should be natural. You are not on stage - neither performing nor making a speech. Let spontaneity spark! Questions will come when you are interested in getting to know the person - refer to the first strategy - remember: you want to know all about your old friend's latest happenings! Listen closely to what they have to say so that you can respond appropriately.

Photo credits: linnareacu.org

3. Maintain a higher energy level than usual.
We aren't always hyper, but it's good to maintain a slightly higher energy level than your usual I-would-rather-be-in-bed mode. Keep the little happiness in your voice to show that you're excited to meet him/her, but don't go overboard. It's a fine line - cheerful versus edging on delirium. If you fall into the latter category, you might come off as sounding fake, even though unintentional.

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4. Open-ended questions
One of the chief reasons why conversations peter out consistently: questions are seemingly asking for one-word answers. Instead of getting tongue-tied after pelting your new friend with interrogative questions of their profile, start asking them questions that are more elaboration-friendly. For example, as a follow-up to the answer of what one's job is: "how do you like the experience of working as a (insert occupation here)?" instead of "where are you working at?". It might not be intuitive to the other party to continue the conversation, take the lead if you can.

Photo credits: thehagblog.com/blog/2014/7/29/keep-it-classy

 5. Be comfortable with silence, and indicate an excuse to make a move if it doesn't go too well.
The second strategy is key to making more meaningful exchange, but chemistry is a gift that doesn't come to everyone who cross paths. Sometimes the conversation keeps dying off prematurely even for conversations that should spark interest - and that is a sign that you might want to pause the conversation or exit completely. If it is a situation where you can't get up and leave - such as on a pre-assigned wedding dinner banquet table, you can choose to be comfortable with the silence (rather than force conversations through). Alternatively, find a quick excuse to make a move - chances are, the other party shares the same sentiments.

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I share interesting episodes in life revolving around food, lifestyle, travel and inspirational ideas. If you would like to stay in touch, follow me on my Instagram on @spherepiece and Facebook page!

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29 comments

  1. Great sharing, I always have problem in talking with new people.. Feels shy ma... Should take your advice and consider applying it in future..

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    1. I'm quite introverted too :) But it all takes the first step to avoid looking unfriendly! As they always say, 'fake it till you make it'! :)

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  2. I must commend you for putting these ideas in writing. People will absolutely find these comforting, especially those who have plans of meeting someone they never met before.

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    1. Yes, I've read quite a bit of similar articles but their tips make the conversations more insincere and highly-stressed, with tips to memorize certain things to say. I thought I would come up with my own article with tips that helped me ease situations like that.

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  3. These are tips everyone can use and learn from as I am sure we have all faced this type of awkward situation before. I find that even bloggers can have a hard time when they meet someone IRL for the first time so this type of thinking will help make a meeting easier.

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    1. Yes, a lot of times I get sooo stressed and awkward at blogger events because of the need to make small talk! Most people are shy, but they appear unfriendly when they don't look like they want to talk. :< That's a big hurdle to pass. But most of the time, once the conversation gets rolling, most people are reallyyy nice!

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  4. You've stated wonderful tips for people meeting other people for the first time. I totally agree when you said don't prepare questions or topics beforehand because it does make everything scripted. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. No problem! Hope this article helped you in some way or another. If you have any suggestions on what you would like to see on my blog, feel free to comment too :)

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  5. Good tips! I'd hate to toot my own horn but since I'm an extreme extrovert I really don't have a problem with this! But the problem is... I might come across as over-eager. Well, better find a good balance of both worlds.

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    1. That's something you should be proud of! :D Maybe you can share some tips on how you became more vocal! ^^

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  6. It would be better to let the conversation go on naturally. It would release the tension of the conversation.

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  7. I really like your writing style and it is a great post. If you are an expat and plan on moving to Singapore, you may want to check out www.placematch.sg. I found it to be very useful in finding a place.

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  8. I'm pretty introverted, albeit not shy. I can make small talks with strangers if I wanna... But most of the time (even with friends) I will rather not entertain.

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    1. Sometimes, holing up in your own room feels better, right? :) Heh.

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  9. I am quite a shy person so I am not much into starting small talk with a stranger in a social setting. If they talk to me first though, I think I am friendly enough to talk to him or her. Now if both of us are shy, now that is the problem. Haha!

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    1. Yeah (: It's often the case, especially in Asian countries.. people feel more inhibited about approaching strangers. The first step is always the hardest!

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  10. Great tips. I'm guilty of preparing topics beforehand. LOL. It's kinda stressful to think of topics and not focusing on what the person is trying to tell you. I guess I'm just afraid of dead airs :)

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    1. Silences can be beautiful if you convert them into "thinking time" rather than a space to be filled with words :)

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  11. Great post! I always face awkward silences & I'm always the one who tries to fill in the silence . Heh.. But these are helpful tips as well.

    Cheers ,
    Gillian | Gilliannong.com

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    1. Haha usually my method of conquering silence is simply to address it head-on, like.. literally saying, "haha.. now there's this awkward silence..." usually relaxes the other party quite a bit, I think :)

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  12. Great article and you shared very interesting tips. I am a tourists and always visited in different regions from all over the world. i will definitely apply your tips during my upcoming boston washington bus tours . Usually i love to make friends during my journey's as well. Nice article keep it up.

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    1. Hope you have a great time at the boston washington bus tours! Speaking to strangers on a journey is quite therapeutic and makes the experience much richer. :)

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  13. Another suggestion, don't be too friendly and dominate the whole conversation! I have the tendency to do that last time and scare people off! But that's my personality! I'm just afraid of awkward silences! :P

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    1. Hahha I am guilty of that sometimes too.. :X But I'd rather meet over-friendly people than aloof ones.. :)

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  14. Thanks for sharing. I'm kind of an introvert and trying to really improve on my social skills. I think it's important to learn to feel if the other party are really in the mood of a chit chat.

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  15. I'm always guity of no.2. But no.1 is brilliant!
    I never had that mindset before, great! I'm going to give it a try.

    Cheers~
    Pingerrain*Priscilla
    http://www.pingerrain.com

    p.s. Love to meet more local Singaporean bloggers!! Chat up soon, ya?

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  16. Wow.... You are brave to talk with strangers! I am still working on that. Great post my dear~

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  17. Good tips! I'd add one more - listen, really hear what the other person has to say. That's pretty effective ;)

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