For many, meeting someone new can be nerve-wracking enough without that dreaded feeling of “What if I can’t think of anything to say?” Fortunately, there’s a powerful and effective method for getting very comfortable with social small talk; making it work for both you and the other person.
Janine from Oregon writes:
“Bob, I understand your concept of Feel-Good Questions® in order to comfortably engage a new prospect in conversation But I just want to be more comfortable with those first few seconds of small talk? I know some people who are so good at it, but I feel completely inept — like I just don’t know what to say and neither does the other person. I hate that uncomfortable silence. What do I do?”
Janine, I believe more people than you realize have that same challenge. Silence — as the saying goes — may be golden, but not when you’re trying to begin a conversation with a new acquaintance. For advice, I turned to Leil Lowndes, a woman I consider to be the foremost authority in this area.
In her book, Talking the Winner’s Way, she suggests “not letting your conversation be exposed defenseless against the two inevitable ‘assaults’ — ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘What do you do?'”
Leil cites the example, “You’re at a convention. Everyone you meet will, of course, ask, ‘And where are you from?’ If you answer, ‘Muscatine, Iowa’ or ‘Denver, Colorado’ what can you expect except a blank stare? You’ll receive a panicked look. They’re racking their brains thinking, ‘What do I say next?'”
Instead, Leil suggests making it easy for them to respond cleverly. You ensure this by “adding an extra sentence or two about your city — some interesting fact or witty observation — to bring the asker into the conversation.” (Example: I might say, “I’m from Jupiter, Florida, hometown of Burt Reynolds.” That really opens the door for conversation.)
Leil goes a step further and says you can specifically gear your extra sentence to the person with whom you’re conversing. She urges us to have an interesting fact about our city or town that would be of interest to a business person, a politician, a sports enthusiast, etc. You can also craft your extra sentence for answering the question, “And what do you do for a living?”
I heartily recommend Leil’s book. Actually, all her books! All it takes is a little practice, Janine, and you’ll become (and be perceived by others as) a master conversationalist.
Meanwhile, friends; along these lines, is there something similar you have found to be effective that you can share with us?