As a child you were probably warned about talking to strangers, but now you may want to break these rules. Studies show that small talk can make you smarter, healthier, and happier.
University of Michigan researchers found an increase in problem-solving skills following casual social conversations. They also found that these interactions can lower the risk of heart attacks. Another study found that passengers said their train travel was much more enjoyable when they got involved with other passengers, and these good feelings lasted for hours.
You may still feel a little uncomfortable talking first, but the rewards are worth it. If you are ready to brush up on your small talk, try these tips.
Small Talk Benefits
1. Extend your network. Informal conversations can lead to job opportunities and business connections. You can meet a future customer at the airport or in the cafeteria.
2. Make friends. Friendships and close romance also need to start somewhere. Sharing a note or extending a compliment can help you find companionship and love.
3. Develop new ideas. There is a natural tendency to surround ourselves with people who have similar backgrounds and share our views. Reaching beyond your comfort zone presents new perspectives and greater knowledge.
4. Increase your attention. Is it hard to focus on the present moment because you are overwhelmed with your to-do list? Talking to someone face to face draws your attention to what is happening now.
Tips for breaking the ice
1. Evaluate the situation. Of course, some occasions are better suited for small conversations than others. Someone who is focusing on their golf swing will probably not laugh at your jokes. On the other hand, strangers who are making eye contact while trapped in a long, boring line have excellent prospects.
2. Find common ground. Start small. Search online for something interesting to talk about. Weather and optimistic news are generally safe topics.
3. Look affordable. If you still feel embarrassed about taking the first step, you can encourage others to come to you. Put a smile on your face. Upload an art magazine or science journal. When in a hotel lounge or coffee shop, choose a seat facing the crowd.
Tips for keeping a conversation
1. Listen carefully. Show others that you are interested in what they have to say. Focus on their message rather than rehearsing their response.
2. Tell stories. Prepare fun anecdotes to answer common questions about what you do or where you are from. The details create hooks that facilitate the conversation progress.
3. Ask questions. Relevant questions also keep a discussion flowing. Ask your open questions so that the answers demand more than yes or no.
4. Go deeper. What's more satisfying than small talk? Research shows that we enjoy small talk, but we tend to feel even better after heart-to-heart talk. While you may want to be wise about how much personal information you disclose, you can also risk opening up a bit.
5. Express your gratitude. It's easy to like others when they seem to like us. Tell someone if you think it's funny or insightful.
6. Follow up. Now that you're excited, find a way to stay in touch if you're doing well. Introduce yourself and hand out your business card, if appropriate. Look forward to meeting again if you attend the same race track or schedule a coffee date if you want to be more proactive.
Running with scissors is still a bit risky, but talking to strangers is good for your health and career. Contact us and see what difference a small conversation can make in your daily routine.