Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Small Talk in English

In this post, I want to add a few more suggestions on how you could captivate at small talk in English and truly engage with your conversation partner. 
#1 Share anecdotes
There’s nothing better than sharing stories or anecdotes with someone. That shows the other person that you can relate to what they’re saying or have experienced. That forms a bond.
For example, if your partner says he or she spent time living in another country and you did as well, share a story or two about your years abroad. You’ll most likely encourage the other person to tell you about some similar memories. 
#2 Allow the other person to teach you
If you’re not familiar with a subject, be honest and ask the other person to explain a little more. The chances are they’ll be delighted to go into more detail and you get to learn something new. If you’re an inquisitive (curious) person, you’ll love it.
This goes back to the idea of letting other people do most of the talking. Asking other people to explain what they mean might prompt them to talk for a few more minutes and it takes the pressure off you for a while.
#3 Practise with everyone you meet
If small talk is outside your comfort zone, practise small talk with everyone you meet. It could be with the barista at your favourite coffee bar, with your dry cleaner when you pick up your dry cleaning, or with your hairdresser’s. 
Even if this practice is in your own language, it will allow you to start feeling comfortable with striking up (starting)  and maintaining interesting conversations. 
What you can then do is imagine having these conversations in English and recording them. 
#4 Copy good conversationalists
If you watch talk shows or listen to podcasts, listen to the talk show hosts and their guests.
Try to remember the kinds of questions they ask, how they follow up on the other person’s answers, and even how they make use of silence. 
One of my favourite talk show hosts is Graham Norton on the BBC. He knows how to make his guests feel comfortable and engage with him freely.
#5: Talk about something that happened to you
Instead of asking a stranger you meet at a conference or someone you don’t know that well a question, you could start the conversation by telling them something that happened to you earlier in the day. 
This allows the person to ask you a question or add what they know to the topic. For example, you could say: “I had the funniest conversation with my son this morning”. 
If you’re a social media user and often post comments about your experiences, you could use those as an example.
# 6: Introduce some of your past failures
Have you noticed that when people talk about their successes and accomplishments, the reaction from the other person is a simple nod of the head and mumbled “Congratulations”? The conversation soon fades away.
However, when we share our past failures they feel more comfortable. Not because they’re happy you’ve failed, but because these failures resonate with them too.
For example, 
“I was in a presentation the other day. I raised my hand to ask a question and when the presenter invited me to ask it, my mind went completely blank! I spent the next couple of minutes talking about anything and everything frantically trying to remember my question so as not to look a complete idiot. What a nightmare.”
This will get a lot of laughs as people will relate to these moments of sudden blankness and start sharing their stories too. They’ll also feel relieved that it doesn’t just happen to them.
#7: Know that you’re not alone
I think this is so important. You’re not the only one who finds small talk uncomfortable, even more so in English. Some people may look confident but deep down they’re struggling and have worked hard to improve their small talk skills. So don’t think it’s just you and don’t feel ashamed if you find it hard to engage in small talk. You will improve with time – one tiny step at a time.



Welcome to English at LERNFORUM Chur.  We teach English one to one or in small, personalised groups at every level and for every English language need. Cambridge and Swiss qualified, we're mother-language speaking, and most importantly, have a passion for helping you speak English.

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