Everyone has a story to tell, but have you ever noticed that people rarely tell these amazing stories at work? What do they actually talk about? The weather, their cat (for the fifth time), and other mundane things that bore you to a headache. You don’t want to be that loner hugging the wall and not fitting in. That won’t do.
But, what if there was a way to get to the good stories and discover who your fellow money-earners are on a deeper level? This article will tell you how to add some big talk to your work life.
FIND THE STORY
You may dismiss a person who only gives you one-word answers. Why should you waste your time on a boring person who can’t speak more than one word at a time, right? But, what if the problem isn’t a lack of personality, but that you aren’t asking the right questions? Rather than asking close-ended questions, ask open-ended questions. You know, the ones your English teacher made you answer. Just like your teacher, ask for a story. Instead of “How have you been lately?” (Fine.), ask “What have you been doing?” If you are interested in their employment, ask them “How did you get into this job?” or “Why do you enjoy it?” These invite people to tell stories, not just shrug you off with a one-word answer. Find the story by asking the right questions. Just like you, everyone has thousands of stories.
STAY FOCUSED ON THEM
In order to bypass the boring small talk, you should stay focused on the other person. Often, when a silence occurs we rush to fill it with chatter about ourselves. This can lead to domination of the conversation, which discourages the other person from sharing about themselves. Rather than defaulting to talk about yourself, cultivate a companionable silence. When you ask your conversational partner authentic questions about themselves, the small talk will fade away as the two of you move into a real conversation.
Remember to listen to your partner, rather than focusing on your next conversational turn. This will create an easier exchange between the two of you.
TALK ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT
Whether someone loves another person or an activity, they love talking about their passion. To avoid the dreaded small talk, hone in on other’s passions. People may have different passions: baking, train-spotting, or their job. When you discover these areas you may notice that quiet person light up and begin talking nearly non-stop. You may see someone’s eyes, face, and spirit perk up. When you finally hit on the right note, make sure to ask questions that keep the conversation fresh.
Rather than asking someone where they went, ask them why this activity makes them excited. This will give them a platform to not only engage their talking muscles but their emotions. You will have the added benefit of learning a lot of information about a subject you knew nothing about and creating a positive bond between you and your conversational partner.
ADD A STORY TO EVERY SMALL TALK SEGUE
When someone asks you a question that may lead to a boring conversation, begin a more interesting conversation. For instance, if you are asked what you do to pay your bills, add an interesting story of what you may have done the past week or a cool experience that made you feel excited. When you add in some personal information, this can lead to big talk.
Rather than defaulting to “what” when someone tells you information, ask “why?”. This is a great way to invite them to dissect why they like or do not like something. This can help you get to know the person on a deeper level and build a stronger relationship.
SHARE SOME DETAILS ABOUT YOURSELF TO MAKE A CONNECTION
Creating meaningful conversations is all about sharing information with each other. When you are talking with someone else, add tiny anecdotes about yourself. This can put the two of you on an equal level and encourage more interesting stories. Rather than acting as if you have just met the person and are trying to be polite, talk as if you are speaking to a friend. While you shouldn’t go overboard with information, as they are not beholden to confidentiality, you want to treat them as a regular person just like you.
As you share these stories, keep an eye on the other person’s reaction. Do they ask questions to keep the conversation going or seem disinterested? If they do seem disinterested, offer other tidbits that will entice their curiosity. Other people have different criteria for what piques their social curiosity.
If you are asked how your day or weekend has been, answer the question genuinely. Tell them about a new food you have tried, a funny joke you have heard, or how you are struggling to find the motivation to get up earlier and workout. There are few people who are unable to commiserate with the misery of waking up early, except the larks. But, if you do meet a person who loves waking up early, talk about that midday slump or being forced to stay up late.
BE WITTILY HONEST
Rather than put politeness above all other means of communication, be honest. If small talk is killing your brain cells in bunches, tell people that and then get into a meatier conversation. People are not used to honesty and most find it refreshing. They like when someone shows who they really are because they crave to be their honest selves.
You were not meant to be someone else. Knowing that is how you find your superpowers.