How to Become a Natural at Small Talk

Knowing how to make small talk is important to meeting new friends. But small talk isn't just about chatting about weather. The real key to small talk is using it to get to meaningful conversation. The more you do it, the better (and more natural) at it you'll be.

Approach a Potential Friend

Three friends talking in a pub
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When going to a party or event, look for others who are on their own or standing by themselves. It will be easier to approach someone else (who may be in the same shoes you are) rather than trying to work your way into a group.

Small talk subjects often include the weather or what you do for a living, but another strategy is to talk about something around you. You might try a simple introduction by way of icebreaker ("Hi. I'm Julie."), coupled with a question about the event, such as:

  • "This is a great party. How do you know Kathy, our host?"
  • "Gail is a beautiful bride, isn't she? How do you know the couple?"
  • "What a fabulous day for a picnic! How long have you worked for XYZ Company?"

Vary your approach depending on who you talk with and where the conversation ends up going.

How to Turn Small Talk Into Meaningful Conversation

Small talk is not meant to last for the whole of your conversation. Use it as an icebreaker and pay attention to little clues the person gives you, using those to ask more questions.

You: "Wow, this buffet looks awesome."

Them: "Yeah, but I'm trying to avoid it. I haven't been able to work out in a week."

You: "Where do you work out?"

In this example, if you both like to exercise at the same gym or do yoga in the mornings, you may have discovered a new work out pal. The point is to keep the conversation moving by asking thoughtful questions and listening closely.

In each conversation, you'll learn more about a person as you toss out subjects and see how they respond. Use the clues you get to determine what you might have in common. Very often, you'll only have to make small talk for a limited time before you find a subject you both can get into.

Tips for Making Small Talk Work for You

Small talk is easier the more you do it, and it also isn't meant for long periods of time or to be shared with just one person. It is meant to help you navigate through a social event so you can find someone interesting to chat with.

To make the most of small talk:

  • Keep up on current topics, such as news items, TV shows, or recent movies.
  • It may take several conversations before you bond with someone. Don't expect to become fast friends just because you've connected over small talk.
  • Avoid controversial subjects.
  • Be yourself. Don't crack jokes or act like an expert on a certain subject just to impress someone.
  • Don't worry about your "performance." If you talk with a few people and they don't seem interested, just keep moving on to someone else.