How to Embrace the Agony That is Small Talk

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Small talk is the social equivalent of getting a paper cut: super painful at first; definitely not the end of the world; but you try to avoid it as much as possible.

I like to pretend this is my face when I’m small-talking it up …

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But on the inside, I’m this insecure, shambly mess that actually looks like …

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The vast majority of young adults hate engaging in trivial conversation. “Oh, I love this weather we’re having!” “How about them sports?” “Ugh, this elevator takes forever, am I right?”

the. worst.

This one study commissioned by Don Pablo Coffee (and cited by Men’s Health) found the following:

  • 65% of young adults do not feel confident in face-to-face social interactions.
  • Eight in 10 feel more comfortable having a conversation via digital means.
  • 30% of young adults cancel or just bail on events they’re invited to because they fear it will be socially awkward.

We’ve been conditioned to multi-task. Since adolescence, we’ve held entire conversations via IM, text or social media while doing a million other things. These digital conversations are beneficial because they give us the power to control who we speak to and when. It’s extremely easy to dodge situations that pull us outside of our comfort zones. Ultimately, we end up spending all of our free time talking to people who share common interests.

So, yeah, it can be tough when we are forced to socialize outside of that realm.

I’m not going to pretend like I don’t bail on events or dodge situations to avoid social awkwardness. I’m human; I do it. But, I have a little trick that’s made small talk a lot easier.

I’ve discovered that when given the chance, most humans enjoy talking about themselves. So, use small talk as an opportunity to let people tell stories about their lives that they wouldn’t otherwise share. Now, this comes with two caveats: 1. Don’t ask anything intrusive, controversial or weird. 2. Don’t say or ask anything you don’t mean, or that you don’t want answered.

Here are some examples of my go-to “small-talk” questions:

  • Are you working on any cool projects at your job?
  • Have you been cooking anything fun lately? Where do you get recipe ideas from?
  • I just finished “Friends” for the millionth time. I need a new show to watch. Are you binge-watching anything interesting?
  • Has your baby reached any fun milestones yet?
  • [If it’s someone you’re following on social media, you can totally use that as a crutch.] I saw your Instagram post of your vaca to Amsterdam. What was your favorite part of that trip?
  • [Compliments work, too! But, remember you have to actually mean them.] I love that dress, girl. That pattern is so vivid.

These aren’t earth-shattering questions or statements, but they’ll help turn small talk with someone you barely know into pleasant conversations. And, hey – there’s something to be said about steering clear of politics, religion, and perhaps most importantly, the damn weather.

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