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How to make small talk and start conversations: Ideas, topics and importance of small talk

Awkward moments in the elevator will never be awkward again if you can master the art of making small talk.

Awkward moments in the elevator will never be awkward again if you can master the art of making small talk.

Knowing how to make small talk is having the ability to start conversations instantly. Small talk can help displace the awkward silence in most situations including not knowing what to say when you run into your boss, share the same elevator with an annoying office colleague, bump into the cute guy who was your high school sweetheart or sit next to a beautiful woman at a bar. Apart from outlining the importance of small talk this post looks at some common ideas and easy ways to make small talk.

5 key reasons why it is important to make small talk

1) Small talk helps avoid awkward moments

An awkward silence may ruin your chances telling a girl how much you like her or throw you in a nervous fit while giving a job interview. While these were just examples, you are likely to be in sticky situations where not knowing what to say can lead to an unfavorable outcome.

Knowing how to make small talk arms you with the ability to avoid these awkward moments.

2) Small talk helps you connect and network

Even the shortest of chats can help you connect and network, an advantage that is very handy in professional environments. Small talk generally opens door and opportunities as it breaks the barriers and allows you to reconnect with an individual on a later date.

For example, a quick 10 second chat with a guy working in an office in the same building as yours can help you seek new job opportunities. You could add him on LinkedIn once you get home to further your connection and your motives.

3) Small talk keeps you updated

Small talk goes a long way in keeping you updated with the latest happenings whether it is your classroom, dorm or office.

A short conversation with a classmate in the hall could be about how a guy and girl in your school were spotted making out after class. In an office scenario, small talk with a colleague from another department could very well lead you to know how the company is planning to put austerity measures in place.

Small talk is necessary if you want to stay ahead in terms of news, gossip, important updates and all the other jazz.

4) Making small talk makes you look like a nice person

If you bump into someone and don't make eye contact or initiate a conversation, you may come across as rude. On the other hand, making small talk can put you forward as someone who was nice enough to say hi.

People will like you and you may be labeled as the guy or girl who is never grumpy and always has something to talk about.

5) Small talk has the potential to change your life

Have you ever wondered how small talk can change the course of your life? Someone you meet in the elevator could be the boss at a big company and making impressive small talk could lead to him to offer you an opportunity to interview for a job opening.

Reading autobiographies and success stories of corporate honchos, celebrities and other people who have made it big may often reveal that some of the most important decisions began from unassumingly naive conversations.

Can't make small talk? Get into the habit by starting with something simple. Use traditional greetings like good morning to pave the way for quick conversations.

Can't make small talk? Get into the habit by starting with something simple. Use traditional greetings like good morning to pave the way for quick conversations.

How to make small talk: Ideas and topics to talk about in short conversations

1) Traditional greetings and conversation starters

Traditional greetings like 'How are you?' or 'How is it going mate?' are easy ways to start a conversation with someone. A greeting accompanied with a smile can instantly cut ice with anyone, whether it is a complete stranger sitting next to you on a train or a friend's friend who you may have met at a party earlier.

2) Sports: Talking about the game

'Did you see the game last night?' is a commonly used line to make small talk in schools, colleges and offices around the world. From talking about an amazing three-pointer in the last few seconds of the game or chatting about how the referee made a bad call, there are heaps of small talk ideas for anyone and everyone who can handle a discussion about sports.

3) Weather talk: Popular small talk topic

There is a reason why the term 'weather talk' is popular across the globe. When you are in an awkward situation when you don't have anything to say, use weather talk that ends with a tag question. 'It's a lovely sunny day, isn't it?' is all it may take to get someone to open up and start talking.

4) A compliment: Flattering small talk

'Cool shoes bro. Where did you buy them from?' 'Nice tie. Looks expensive' or 'Did you get a haircut? It looks very pretty' are compliments that you can use to make small talk and even bring a smile on the face of the person you are saying it to. You really don't need to think too hard to give a compliment which is harmless. Pick anything about a person you think will make for a harmlessly compliment. Make sure that it doesn't sound flirty else you may find yourself at the center of classroom or office gossip.

5) The weekend: Small talk for just about everyone

'Good morning. How was your weekend?' is a standard way to start a Monday and is apt for most situations and environments including classrooms, offices and other workplaces. It is a neutral, safe and a mindless question to ask on a Monday morning. From hangovers to quirky gossip, this question is set to open up a plethora of mixed bag conversations.

6) Talking about gadgets

Most people are likely to carry smartphones, iPads or iPods with them to work or school. Whether you are crushing over a guy and want to get his attention or you have to do some friendly chit chatting with your neighbor, talking about gadgets can help you breeze through social awkwardness. Just leave a random comment on the phone they are using or buying the music player that they have is on your bucket list.

7) The reviews of the latest movie: Conversation starters for movie buffs

You can attempt to strike a chord with someone by talking about the latest movie that was released recently. Irrespective of the fact that the person may or may not have seen it, he or she is likely to know about it just enough to engage in a 10 second conversation. That 10 second window is all you need to make small talk.

8) The big sale: Talking about shopping

Everyone is likely to love a big sale or know about a shop offering huge discounts. If you bump into someone who you need to make small talk with, talk about how you just got back from the latest sale in town and the amazing stuff you bought from there. This is likely to perk up their ears and they may come back to you to get more details about the sale.

9) The party last night

Who got drunk, who puked, who didn't come to office because of a hangover or who kissed who can be hot topics of conversation which can interest a wide range of people. There are fewer better ways of beating the Monday morning blues than talking about all this gossip originating from the wild parties on Friday or Saturday.

10) The boss' mood

Whether you are walking down the stairs with a colleague or flirting with a receptionist, talking about the boss' mood can be a straight winner. Everyone likes gossiping about bosses and seniors. This is the type of small talk which can create an instant comfort zone between two people.

11) Coffee or muffins: Morning small talk

You can make small talk with someone in the morning without having to rattle your brains too much by simply talking about what you see. If you see them carrying a cup of coffee in their hands, ask them whether they have tried the soy version or not. If you see them carrying a sandwich for lunch, tell them that the muffins at the kiosk around the corner are to die for.

12) The college talk

You don't need to take this tip to the last written word and actually ask a person which college they went to, upfront. The objective is to use this as an access point to get someone to speak. If you are introduced to someone, say that they look like an Ivy Leaguer. Or if you happen to sit next to a fellow student on a train, chat about which college they go to.

13) Having seen the person before

Telling someone that you have seen them before can be used in a genuine way or as a complete blind shot when you are desperate to make conversation. No one will really find out whether you have actually seen them before or not. Using lines like 'Have I seen you before?' or 'Have we met?' are considered to be commonly used pickup lines but they make for good small talk too.

14) Favorites or pet peeves: Making small talk with familiar people

Making small talk with favorites or pet peeves may require a high amount of discretion as it depends on the familiarity levels you have with the person you are talking to, and the situation you are in. Suppose you and your colleague are in the elevator when someone walks in while eating fruit. 'Don't you hate it when people eat food while doing something else?' is what you could say to make small talk with your colleague after the other person walks out. Note that such a conversation with a random stranger may not be possible.

15) Talking about the commute

Making small talk about the commute to work is a common. Complaining about the rush hour traffic or being annoyed at how late the bus was are classic examples of conversation starters. People may respond with their own versions of complaints about the congestion in the city or how crowded the trains are.

16) The latest event in your neighborhood or suburb

Chatting with someone about the fire that erupted in a building in your suburb or telling your friend how you have new neighbors who are way too snobby make for effortless small talk. Just think about any new event that has happened in your locality. Such things are likely to spike the curiosity of the listener.

17) The headlines: Small talk on current affairs

From politics to business to upcoming elections to famous personalities to Apple's latest product launch, put your habit of reading the newspapers every day to good use by using interesting news snippets to make conversation. You can leave an open-ended question asking for the person's opinion to further the conversation.

18) Kids these days: Blaming the kids

'Kids these days' is a common topic which adults are known to embed in their candid conversations every now and then. Parents are known to talk about how much their kids spend and blue collar workers are known to curse the school kids creating a ruckus on the bus.

19) Asking about work and professional life

Saying something along the lines of 'So, how's work been?' is all it needs to start a short conversation. The person is likely to talk about new professional developments in his or her life. Such conversations are saving grace when it comes to those awkward silences in office elevators or situations where you don't know what to say but you feel obliged to say something without sounding stupid.

20) New cafes, bars, pubs and shops

Chatting about a newly opened hole in the wall cafe or a newly opened quaint bookstore can be an interesting topic to make small talk with friends or colleagues. By saying something along the lines of 'Have you been to the new pub on Elizabeth Street? It's quite the place', you can project an image that you know about the latest buzz in the city.


Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 15, 2012:

Brilliantly stated points here, a well understood hub with most helpful ideas thanks

idigwebsites from United States on December 14, 2012:

That pic -- "500 Days Of Summer" -- how I love that movie. :)

You're lucky like in that situation if your officemate/s happen to listen to the same kind of music you've been loving. Thanks for providing a list of various topics. Voted up and shared. :)

Catherine Deslipp from Brantford, Ontario on December 14, 2012:

Working in the retail business I so could relate to your article. I love people of all ages, great writing skills and truly enjoyed reading your hub. Thank you for sharing and giving out some wonderful ideas.

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