"Hi! How are you?" "Oh good" "Yeah, the weather really has been bad." "This event sure is nice, though. I think they re-did the carpet." "If only we all just weren't so busy." "More sleep, yep, that'd be so great."
I'm pretty sure we've all
had experience with it: the dreaded small talk. Okay, sometimes it can
be convenient in short gaps of time to initially gauge what a person's
like, but I think we often engage in this small-talking habit for too long.
If I've met you (and often even if I've only known you for literally three minutes), my mind moves. I want to talk deeper, to do something meaningful,to change this interaction to add more value in some way to our lives or to the world.
Here's 13 ways that we can say and do more than just small talk.
1. Investigate a New Topic
It turns out we each have a new topic literally right in front of us: each other. We could keep talking about the weather or the room's decorations, or we could actually realize that the carpet is going to stay new if we talk about it or not but we could find out something truly interesting about the human being we are interacting with.
You can use whatever method suits you as to try to find out more about not just what the person does but what they're passionate about, not just their name but what has made them into the person they are, not just their interests but the struggles they've encountered along the way.
2. Try the Question Game
This can help you when you're "investigating." Rules: one person asks a question. It can be about anything, but it's most fun if it's deeper than "what's your job?" Think more along the lines of "what does happiness look like for you?" or "what makes your life meaningful?"
questions can be particularly insightful for the question game, too:
"why do you think people chase happiness so much?" "why do you think so
many people love to laugh" "why do you think the news stories that gain
popularity take off?"
3. Play What If
This question game might seem to personal for some and could potentially freak them out. I can't give you a hard and fast rule about when the question game is appropriate; you'll have to determine that in each situation.
option can be used, though. You can ask "what if." Ask what if about
something psychological, cultural, relational, experimental or (really)
whatever you want. Think along the lines of "what
if people actually lived happily every day?" "what if everybody stopped
driving cars to work?" "what if people were consistently intentional
with kindness in their family relationships? "what if everyone in this
room were to be forced to talk about their deepest fears?"
4. Seek to Help
By this point in your conversation you may (or hey, may not) have heard something about the person or what they in their life that you may have had some experience with, too. Maybe you have some wisdom to share that could help them. Maybe you just got a new idea that they might need to hear to get them thinking.
If you're looking for ways that you can help this person, whether it be through advice or even something tangible like a reference, you'd be surprised at what you might find.
5. Learn a Skill
In your conversing, you may have discovered the other person has a skill or strange hobby. Maybe this really interests you.
Why not find out more about it?
You can increase your knowledge and maybe even learn quite a bit more
about a skill. You never know when this can come in handy later down the
6. Impersonate Sherlock
Maybe you are sick of talking about yourself or the other person. Chances are, you are in an environment, and are other people around you. What about them? What can you observe about the way they are standing, interacting, gesturing, wearing, doing?
If no one else is around, then just look around the room. What do you notice about his environment? What does the wallpaper or items left on the floor indicate? What might have this room been used from in the past?
Playing a little detective and seeing what you discover
about the other people around or the environment can be surprisingly
7. Be Spontaneous
You might be in a situation where you're not confined to small talk around a table. If you have ability to re-locate, you can consider it.
What might be right around the corner? What does that room down the hall have?
Exploration can provide alternative options for engagement.
Even if you can't physically explore, spontaneity can still happen other ways. Maybe they've been talking about how their little brother has started recording songs. Why not look the songs up? Maybe you found that you both have always wanted to learn the lyrics of that Beatles song. Why not now?
Spontaneity often leads down more engaging roads than small talk.
8. Start a Social Experiment
Not everyone is comfortable with this option, but some sure are. If you and your small-talking acquaintance are around other people, you can try something that is out of the social norm.
This doesn't have to be super weird and random (though it could be). What if you dared each other to do something kind? To go compliment someone else in the room? To say something encouraging to another person?
The "out of the norm" activities to look for can be as simple as a random act of kindness, but it can simply go a long way.
9. Maximize Dual Potential
Maybe you've discovered you both share a common interest. Songwriting. Gardening. Social justice advocacy. Llamas.
Why not explore all the options while you have your shared strength?
First, see if you can do anything about your shared interest now. You both love songwriting? Why not choose a topic and go for it?
Second, see if there's anything they know that you can learn from. Try to see what their experience has shown or taught them and learn from the wisdom.
Third, see what your brainstorming power can do. Think about the topic and talk about some goals with the topic. Then let your collective brainpower lose and try to come up with all the possible solutions, new ideas, different angles on the topic, or action step.
When you find someone with common interest, you just have to take advantage of the opportunity.
11. Talk about Change
The world is raft with issues, even outside of you and your acquaintance's personal spheres. Instead of commenting about the new carpet, what if you discussed what changes you wish you saw in the world? What if you talked about what would need to happen for these changes? What if you looked smaller and asked what you could do?
You don't have to limit your discussions about change about current events or global issues, though. You can pick ideas and talk about those, and the ideas can come from literally anything. Science developments. The new TV series you've been watching. The way your neighbor's new house design is maximizing her ability to entertain. Your family.
The limit to the ideas you can talk about is simply the limit your two brains can think.
12. Brainstorm Ways to Help
Alright, so you've been talking about all these ideas and what can be done. You can step up your game and really kicks these action plans--ways to help--into gear. You can look to what you can do.
But what if you
thought about ways to help in your personal lives? What if you tried to
come up with practical ways that you or your acquaintance can move
closer to goals that you guys have talked about? What if you
brainstormed about more universal elements, like your relationships?
What if you thought about how to be more intentional in your family,
among friends, or among co-workers?
13. Make a Difference
You've been thinking about ways that you can make changes. What if you thought smaller, though? What if you looked at what you could do to make a difference in the moment?
Is the host at your event running behind? Could she use a helping hand? Is there trash at some tables? Could you pick it up?
What about the people at the location? Is someone looking uncomfortable; can you go and ease their unease?
If you keep your eyes open to ways in which you can make a difference, you might be surprised.
Small talk doesn't have to be all that happens. It's up to you, and you can often go as deep as your comfort levels will take you. Image what could happen if your conversations and actions started looking a little more like this?
I mean, you can keep talking about the weather and new carpet all you want. Let's just be clear: it's your choice.
As it has been said before, may your choices reflect your hopes (not your fears).