When you’re an introvert, just the idea of having to mingle with people outside your social circles can fill you with dread. However, you can’t avoid small talk forever. Small talk is an essential part of getting to know someone, but if you think you’re bad at it, don’t lose heart. Thankfully, small talk is something you can get better at with practice — but first, you’ve got to be willing to try.
(Before we go on, let me clear this up: not all introverts are shy and awkward around new people. If you’re one of those lucky introverts with amazing social skills, congrats! These tips aren’t for you, though. To my fellow awkward beans: you got this.)
1. Don’t be afraid of “boring” topics
Many introverts (myself included) say that they “hate” small talk because it’s superficial and painful. But small talk has its place and purpose. You can’t talk about the meaning of life, death, and the cosmos all the time, especially with people you barely know. (Just try it and see how that works out.)
Talking about the mundanities of life (e.g. the weather, work, celebrity gossip) lets you start conversations with strangers. If you’re lucky, you might be able to level up the conversation into something more “real”. But if you end up engaging in small talk during your entire interaction, that’s perfectly fine too.
2. Dole out compliments
We all like being liked, so paying compliments is a good way to get folks to warm up to you quickly. Compliment their outfit, their work ethic, or their sense of humor to get things started.
If you’re concerned about coming across as a kiss-ass, just remember to do this from a place of honesty (i.e. don’t give compliments if you don’t mean them). When you think something nice about the person you’re talking to, just tell them!
3. Ask questions
If holding people’s attention for extended periods of time makes you feel nervous, you can take the spotlight off you by asking people about themselves. Ask about their hobbies and interests, their travel plans, pets, etc. Letting others talk allows you to take the pressure off you, so you can simply listen and weigh in when you’re comfortable.
4. Stay curious
Small talk opens you up to topics that you may not find interesting right off the bat. But finding something boring isn’t a valid excuse to avoid the topic forever and ever. By rigidly sticking to only topics you enjoy, you’re not just missing out on potential relationships, but also the opportunity to grow into a well-rounded person. Plus, actively engaging with people makes social situations so much more enjoyable than sulking in a corner just because you can’t relate to them.
5. Watch your body language
If you want to feel more comfortable around people outside your social circles, you have to actively try to make them comfortable around you as well. Maintaining open body language makes a huge difference. Remember to smile. Nod when people are talking. Don’t cross your arms. And finally, resist the urge to use your phone as a shield and at least try to make eye contact.
6. Find common ground
As tempting as it may sound, you shouldn’t let the other person do all the talking. Asking one question after another might make the conversation feel like an interrogation. Listen for things you can relate to and add your own commentary before asking more questions. Remember: conversation is a give-and-take activity.
7. Look for other shy introverts
Whenever you’re struggling to find people to talk to, look around and find someone else who seems just as uncomfortable as yourself. Striking up a conversation with someone who’s all alone is an easy way to make an otherwise painful social situation more bearable, even pleasant.
Trust me, you’ll feel so much better finally having someone to chat with, and because you essentially rescued them from what could have been a miserable time, they’ll also be extra accommodating.
8. Be kind to yourself
Introverts are introspective by nature, and this can be a blessing and a curse. We tend to dwell on our faults a little too long, replaying awkward interactions in our head over and over again as we beat ourselves up for not being better conversationalists. Don’t fall into this trap — it won’t get you anywhere.
You’re bound to have some bad conversations. It happens to everyone. Instead of wallowing in self-loathing, think about what you could do better, then let it slide. It’ll get easier over time. Just trust the process.
Got any more tips? Share them with us below!