Lange International

Tips and Insights

from Lange’s Communication Thought Leaders

Small Talk: Three Tips for Moving Past Pleasantries


A meeting, networking event, party, or even the sidelines of your kid’s soccer game. What do all of these things have in common? They are ripe opportunities for small talk. You know that feeling of hesitancy you have in talking with people, because moving past, “Hi, how are you?” feels daunting. You consider not even talking to anyone because the queasy feeling in your stomach reminds you that small talk is awkward.

But what if you went in prepared, and with a different mindset? Here are three tips for moving past the pleasantries.

    • Know your conversation starters. Have some ideas in your back pocket that you can ask someone. These could include things like family, travel, and hobbies. Building from these ideas, you can usually find more information about people’s interests.

    • Listen. Have you ever been introduced to someone and immediately forgotten their name? You have to pay attention and listen. People will naturally give you information about their family, hobbies, and interests in the first few minutes of conversation. When you’re listening and you hear a nugget of information, follow up with a question. Keep asking. People love to talk about themselves, especially when it’s something they’re passionate about.

    • Look for areas where you’re connected. Often times, you will find some thread of connection with someone that you didn’t know about before. This could be somewhere you’ve both traveled, having the same number of kids, or enjoying the same hobby. In small talk, you’re looking for an area of connection so you can dive deeper into the conversation and build a relationship.

Small talk is the tip of the iceberg on what could be an interesting conversation or the start of a relationship. Your goal during those first few minutes of small talk is to look for a connection. Once you find it—and if you listen, you will—building from there will move you out of small talk and into a real conversation. And in a real conversation, the awkwardness will dissipate and you’ll show up as your more authentic self.