Heading into the summer months means longer days, beautiful weather, and more opportunities to socialize. Whether you are traveling, chatting poolside, or attending fun summer event, there will be plenty of opportunities for small talk.
I’ve pulled together a few tips for helping you make small talk with ease this summer. I need these reminders from time to time—I’ve been guilty of everything listed below.
Small Talk 101
We’ve all had the foot-in-the-mouth moment where we realize we just said something we shouldn’t have. Navigating small talk can be tricky! Follow the tips below to steer clear of conversational faux pas.
- Discussing Controversial Topics: We’ve all had the experience where someone brought up a controversial topic and everyone groaned (inwardly, at least). Politics, religion, and other hot-button issues can create a conversational minefield. Heated debates often make people uncomfortable, especially in social settings where everyone is trying to relax and enjoy themselves.. Unless you’re in a setting where these discussions are expected, it’s generally best to steer clear.
- Criticizing or Complaining: Like the old saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Negativity brings the mood down and isn’t any fun to be around. Choose to focus on the positive and look around for something to compliment instead when you are tempted to complain.
- Oversharing: It’s important to know your audience. Openness and vulnerability are great but aren’t appropriate for every setting. Take into account how well you know the person you are talking to, who else may be in earshot, and whether the venue is appropriate for what you are about to share. Oversharing personal problems or sensitive information can make others uncomfortable—balancing opening with discretion is key.
- Dominating the Conversation: A good conversation is a two-way street. If you realize you are doing all the talking, it might be time to pause and give someone else a chance to jump in. Take the time to really listen to what others are saying, and leave space for voices other than your own. Asking questions of your conversation partner is a good way to make sure they have a chance to share.
- Interrupting: No one likes to be interrupted. Even if you are excited to share, be sure to wait until the person speaking is finished before you jump in. The best conversationalists know how to wait until the appropriate time to add your voice.
- Inappropriate Jokes or Comments: Inappropriate or offensive jokes are a definite no-no. Not everyone will have the same sense of humor as you. Something that might not bother you could be offensive or upsetting to someone else. It’s always best to consider the company you’re in and keep your humor both respectful and inclusive.
- Discussing Personal Finances: Money-related topics can often lead to awkwardness and are best kept to private conversations with those closest to you. In most social settings, discussing personal wealth, income, or financial struggles should be avoided.
- Breaking Confidentiality: Someone else’s secret should never be your story, even if you think it’s okay because the two parties don’t know each other. If someone has shared something with you in confidence, never bring it up in a group. Imagine how you would feel if a secret you shared with a friend was turned into a topic of conversation at a party.
- Gossiping: Gossip can have real consequences, not to mention hurting feelings, damaging relationships, and breaking trust. Before you share something that could be considered gossip, stop and put yourself in the shoes of the person you are getting ready to talk about. How would you feel if someone was sharing this about you?
The goal of conversation is to create connection, and remembering the tips above will help you make small talk confidently—without putting your foot in your mouth!