How to Make Small Talk

Small talk can be a big challenge, but a little preparation and confidence is all you need.


  • STEP 1: Practice. Converse with everyone you come across: cashiers, waiters, people you're in line with, neighbors, co-workers and kids. Chat with folks unlike yourself, from seniors to teens to tourists.
  • STEP 2: Read everything: cookbooks, newspapers, magazines, reviews, product inserts, maps, signs and catalogs. Everything is a source of information that can be discussed.
  • STEP 3: Force yourself to get into small talk situations, like doctors' waiting rooms, cocktail parties and office meetings. Accept invitations, or host your own gathering.
  • STEP 4: Immerse yourself in culture, both high and low. Television, music, sports, fashion, art and poetry are great sources of chat. If you can't stand Shakespeare, that too is a good topic for talk.
  • STEP 5: Keep a journal. Write down funny stories you hear, beautiful things you see, quotes, observations, shopping lists and calls you made. That story of the long-distance operator misunderstanding you could become an opening line.
  • STEP 6: Talk to yourself in the mirror. Make a random list of topics and see what you have to say on the subjects. Baseball, Russia, butter, hip-hop, shoes ... the more varied your list, the better.
  • STEP 7: Expand your horizons. Go home a new way. Try sushi. Play pinball. Go online. Paint a watercolor. Bake a pie. Try something new every day.
  • STEP 8: Be a better listener. Did your boss just say she suffers from migraines? Did your doctor just have twins? These are opportunities for making small talk.
  • STEP 9: Work on confidence, overcoming shyness and any feelings of stage fright. Remember, the more you know, the more you know you can talk about.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be yourself. Keep in mind that confidence and humor are superb substitutes for comedic genius or wit.
  • Remember, you never have to do it alone.
  • Keepa few exit lines in mind too. For example, "Thanks for the wonderful chat, but I must make believe I'm interested in everybody else. Tee hee."
  • Keep your fellow chatterers in mind; naughty stories and loose language will be frowned upon in many circles. By the same token, your French quips and scientific discourses will be wasted on some.
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