Does that sound familiar to you?
- “I hate small talk, let’s just get to the point …”
- “We started small talk and then there was this long, uncomfortable pause …”
- “I had no idea how to start the conversation, so I just sat quietly.”
Small talk. Pooh.
But I have good news: small talk is a skill. And just like any other skill, practice can make you more natural. Thousands of my students have improved their social skills (especially if they have not been “naturals” in social situations).
Today I’m going to be giving you word-for-word scripts to help you start this process. Finally, you can put these scripts aside and make them your own – so that your own personality shows through.
How to Make Small Talk at a Glance
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Instant Irresistibility: Why Small Talk Matters
Why master small talk at all? Wouldn’t it be easier to get straight to the “important part” of the conversation?
Let me tell you a story about my friend who is an actress. We talked about how she had a couple of dates and the boys always fell in love with her. They became instantly into a relationship with her and felt that the connection was incredibly deep after meeting her for an hour.
What they failed to understand was that she is socially skilled enough that she can evoke this sense of awe in most of the people she interacts with. She is completely transparent and ethical, but her social skills are so advanced that they produce the best version of herself – which makes her almost irresistible.
The first step to achieving this level of social skills is to master a foolproof conversation opener.
The 3 NC contacts that work 90% of the time
Here are 3 scripts that will work in almost any situation. I will give you the exact words.
- “Hello. How is your morning going?”
- “Hello. I don’t think we met. I’m Ramit.”
- “Good morning how are you?”
Seems too easy?
This is by design! Notice how common they are. The truth is, we are not looking for magic words. We’re just looking for a way to connect and build a relationship.
It’s easy to “nod and shrug …” and then go back to what you’ve always done (which probably doesn’t include talking comfortably to someone you want to talk to).
Or you can try something new. Use these scripts – starting today – and see how they generate positive reactions from others around you.
How many times have we passed bouncers, bartenders, people on the street and baristas and used our phones to avoid small talk?
We can change that from today. Just a baby step – say hello! Just use one of these openers to start a conversation with a stranger today.
How to Practice Small Talk: Low-Stakes Experiments
The general openings mentioned above are great easy outs when you are having trouble telling yourself something.
But the hardest part is not having anything to say. It has the confidence to actually do it. One of the best ways to build that trust is to start very brief conversations in low-stakes environments.
I’ll show you what I mean Here are some scripts to help you practice your small talk skills with baristas and staff.
Scenario 1: servers and baristas
Servers and baristas are paid to be friendly, so this is a low stakes situation. Just pay attention to your surroundings: for example, don’t make your first attempt at small talk with a line of 50 people behind you.
They will ask how you are and what to order. Instead of ordering your “regular” (in my case a tall green iced tea, unsweetened), smile first and try the following instead:
“What is good? (” Everything! “)” No really, what do you get when nobody is looking? “
From here you can order their suggestion (“That sounds good, I’ll try”) or stick to your usual one (“Cool, I’ll have to try next time”).
Non-offensive, work-safe jokes can also offer added value. However, test your delivery before trying it out:
“Have you ever intentionally misspelled someone’s name on the mug because you didn’t like them?”
“Seriously, what’s the weirdest order you got this week?” (Notice how “This Week” helps you narrow the question down so that it can be answered easily. You don’t want to ask deep philosophical questions at this stage of the game!)
Smile and keep the tone bright. It’s fun! Treat it like a game and watch what happens.
Scenario 2: cashier
Most cashiers are treated like gears in the machine. If it takes you a few extra seconds to establish a real connection, you’ll automatically be noticed because the bar is set so low.
“Do you get a discount as an employee?”
[Pick up a tabloid] “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone buy one of these. Do you sell a lot? “
Try one out or create your own questions. Make sure you listen to her response, smile, and move on.
The point here is that simple microtests in low-traffic environments like coffee shops and stores will give you valuable practice and confidence that you can apply in higher pressure situations like a conference or bar.
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The invisible cost of poor social skills
But what if your social skills are just average?
Sometimes the people who fail to see the importance of social skills seem to be the people who need them MOST:
She will never know what she was missing.
How many of us go through this every day? The scary thing is, we’ll never know what we’ve missed out on because of poor social skills. These possibilities just cease to exist.
- We don’t talk to the girl at the bar and kick each other later. Add this up over the years and we end up with our “second choice” of partners – not the ones we WANT, but those who are comfortable or left over.
- We stagnate when it comes to making new friends as it is difficult to meet real friends after college. Especially when you don’t go out much.
- We may be very tech-savvy, but we bomb the interview, or get passed over for promotion, or we’re not in the “inner circle” of people at work the boss prefers.
There are even more haunting examples of the consequences of mediocre social skills:
- I have friends who thought that making enough money was enough to make a partner. They have spent the last 5-10 years of their careers but never took the time to learn how to talk to men and women on a personal level. (Many Indians are actually like that.) What now? They have great jobs and lots of money in the bank, but they lack a core skill – and as a result, the pool of potential high profile partners is much smaller than it is for others.
- A friend of mine runs a successful tech company and is considering getting a small one-man business. After a night of drinking, he asked what I thought of the guy. He’s a good friend so I told him the brutal truth: I told him the guy was way too cocky for his experience, I wouldn’t want him on my team, and I told him exactly why. My friend canceled the takeover the next day. This guy will never know that his social skills are costing him a seven-figure payday.
What do all these missed opportunities add up to over 10 years? 30 years?
If you had even learned ONE technique to improve your social skills – something you can use every day talking to coworkers, men, women, or even random people on the street – what would it be worth?
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Introduction to my “Small Talk” Hacks video
I’ve made a new video for you, a 30-minute crash course on improving your social skills. I didn’t mean to offer you just a random “tip” or two. I wanted to go deeper.
The video contains simple scripts for starting, maintaining and politely ending conversations (also with hikers). I’ve also included a live report on small talk social skills as well as the powerful concept of the Story Toolbox.
1:28 – Watch as I analyze my latest national TV appearance blow by blow
4:07 – The social mistakes I’ve made
5:44 – How do you start a conversation with a stranger?
8:20 am – How do you keep the conversation going?
13:47 – How do you politely end a conversation?
16:57 – Your Story Toolbox: How can you make yourself unforgettable?
20:50 – How do you make small talk?
TO DO TODAY
In the 4:57 p.m. video, I described the Story Toolbox, a dream job concept that lets you immerse yourself in any interaction – a job interview, bar, or cocktail party – and have 5 to 10 stories right away.
Top performers know that by having these stories – stories that consistently generate positive responses – they can instantly connect with anyone.
Today I want you to start creating your Story Toolbox.
Here is your challenge:
- Brainstorm ONE exciting story (like my story about the recovering alcoholic at the bar) then test it on a person – a friend, family member, colleague, or even a stranger.
- In the comments below, do share the story (excerpt only) and the reaction you received. It’s okay to get a negative reaction! Share everything you find below.
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