HOW TO MAKE AMERICAN-STYLE SMALL TALK - IHouse CLG workshop

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Triveni Raghavan
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Written by: Triveni Raghavan

“I like your boy’s haircut”, said the Duke bus driver to me, and thus began a very delightful conversation about school, teens, peer pressure and before I knew it my stop had come. I am sure all of us have been in similar situations, but we may become tongue-tied because we are shy. At this week’s CLG Workshop, the host Paige Vinson of IHouse helped us to become “conversant” with how to recognize attempts at small talk, start a conversation, maintain and end it politely.

Paige broke the ice by introducing herself and then gave the participants a chance to practice among themselves. Like many people, I used to think that small talk is just that – talking. Now I know that it could be the start of some meaningful conversations and wonderful friendships. Even people who enjoy talking, may be at a loss for words when they want to start a conversation with someone. Through the presentation, we learned some interesting opening lines. Some of my favorites are:

  • Hello/Hi/Hey, I’m Paige – Nobody can go wrong with this.
  • Nice weather, isn’t it? – This one is evergreen.
  • I really like your scarf/necklace – Makes me feel good about my choice.
  • I haven’t seen you for ages – Wow! She still remembers me.

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Once you have picked up courage and started a conversation, how to keep it going beyond the initial exchange?

  • Find a meaningful topic
  • Give extra information
  • Pay close attention to what is said and how it is said
  • Use active listening, Trial and Error

Before you start making small talk, prepare yourself by identifying some “hot” topics like books, movies, restaurants, hobbies and travel. And, some topics to be avoided are: Personal, health, money or family problems, death, crimes, moral values, or any social, economic, political issues.

While it is important to make a good beginning, it is equally important to end the conversation on a positive note. During the course of the workshop Paige explained the difference between Ritual Interactions and Literal Invitations. In her inimitable way, she also gave us some useful tips and tricks on what to do when you don’t remember somebody’s name or if someone doesn’t respond to your attempts at making small talk. By the end of the workshop, I saw the participants eagerly practicing their conversation skills with each other and ending it on the right note too, with invitations to meet again.

Good-bye, or shall I say “Let’s keep in touch”.
 

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