Did you know that when it comes to first impressions, the small talk you make can say a lot about you?
In a published study summarized by an article in The Guardian, Professor Daniel Sgroi from the University of Warwick said that idle chit-chat allows people to judge your personality and how you’ll behave in the future.
To conduct the study, the researchers split people into two groups, one group being paired up with each other to talk for four minutes beforehand, and the other group not talking at all. After playing a bunch of games with the participants, they found that the ones who had those conversations prior knew their partner better, like being able to guess their IQ more accurately, and knowing what tactics their partner would use in some of the games.
The study gave good evidence that having small talk with people can make a great impression and bond them closer together, but what’s this like for people who don’t do small talk?
Kendal Amos, a senior at the Chicago High School for the Arts, and freelancer at True Star, had this to say: “I’m not good at small talk at all. I don’t know how to hold a conversation with a stranger. It’s really awkward.” Amos added, “It’s definitely impacted people’s first impressions of me. After meeting somebody, it takes us like six months to become friends because I’m so awkward.”
I’m similar to Amos in this social sense, and have definitely had experiences like hers. It’s really hard for some people to know what to say when first meeting people, or how to say it. Maybe small talk should be taught in school, because it can be really important according to the study. If you’re at a job interview and can’t make small talk with the interviewer, then it might not be off to a good start.
What do you think about this? Are you good at chit-chatting? If not, check out these tips below from Toastmasters International for ways to become better at small talk.
TIPS TO IMPROVING YOUR SMALL TALK
Be a good listener. This is not to say you should stand on the outskirts of a conversation and just listen. Engage in the conversation. Be attentive to whomever is speaking, and respond accordingly by nodding or smiling. Let the speaker know you have been listening by commenting on the message. You will gain more respect in social circles when you demonstrate good listening skills.
Encourage the other person to talk. If you want to be considered a wonderful conversationalist, just invite others to talk about themselves. We are all more comfortable speaking about a subject that is familiar, and what is more familiar to you than you?
Ask questions. Start a conversation or demonstrate your interest in what a person is saying by asking questions. Open-ended questions elicit more interesting responses. That’s why they are called “conversation starters.”
Know when to speak and when to listen. Conversation should involve give and take. Each person in a conversation should speak and listen. Participate, but don’t monopolize. Sometimes, someone else puts you in the position of monopolizing a conversation. This person asks question after question about you without offering any information in return. Having someone express that much interest in you may be the height of enjoyment and flattery but after a while, it will begin to feel like an interrogation rather than a conversation. Avoid interrogating others.
Model yourself after someone whose conversation skills you admire. We all know someone who gets positive attention at social events. Consider the people you look forward to talking with. What makes them stand out in a crowd? What are some of his most endearing qualities? How does she make you feel when you’re talking? Study her body language, opening and closing statements and speaking style. To improve your conversation skills, mimic someone you consider successful in this area.
Source: Toastmasters International
By Inti Navia, Senior, ChiArts
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