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Small Talk: It should be easy …

Why is small talk so difficult for some? Many people do seem to have the gift of the gab . . . but do they really?

Let’s say you’re at a party and you’re mingling with a variety of people. Here are some of the kinds of individuals you may discover between yourself and the drinks. Say hello to Mr or Ms…:

  1. “You think you have problems?”: You innocently mention that you find work a bit difficult. Instead of empathizing, this person will immediately say something such as, “Ha! You think THAT’S bad! Not only is my boss a @$%^^&, but I regularly have to work 25 hours a day, including Saturday and Sunday . . .” This is the kind of person who, upon hearing that you have an incurable disease, would say, “Cancer schmancer, let me tell you what I have …” And so it goes.
  2. “Pulling Teeth”: You know no one at this party, and you just want to talk with somebody. Yaayy! You see someone in the corner, staring at a martini. You march up to this person, a smile plastered on your face. You ask an innocent question: “Hello, I don’t know anyone here. Do you?”
    You get a shrug.
    Gamely, you continue: “Umm—who do you know here?”
    You get a shrug. The person mumbles something such as “Whatever.”
    And it continues. You might feel sorry for this person, or you might end up feeling great about yourself: Wha-hoo, there’s somebody out there who actually has worse social skills than I have!”
    Well, perhaps. But is it worth pulling teeth just to have a civil conversation?
  3. “Emotional vampire”: Beware the emotional vampire, he or she can suck your soul out of your body. Sure, we all need a friend that we can confide in, but this individual will grab onto anybody unfortunate enough to offer a listening ear. If you start talking to a person and, within five minutes you hear:
    1. His or her life story
    2. How lonely he / she is
    3. How wonderful you are, and
    4. We should get together soon, well, really, is tomorrow OK?

…Warning, warning, you’re in the clutches of an emotional vampire who will be delighted to call you at 3 in the morning to moan about some new horror on the horizon.

There is nothing wrong with meeting a new gem that you would like to explore; after all, that is what parties should be about. However, if you sense an air of desperation about this person, *ding ding*, that person probably is desperate. There’s a good chance you really don’t need that kind of neediness in your life.

The point is this: there are many people out there who really do not know how to have an easy-going, give-and-take conversation with another human being. It’s a rare person who can put people at their ease, and get the small-talk ball rolling.

And don’t doubt it: having skills in small talk is not a small thing at all. It’s big. I’ll go over the importance for small talk in a future blog—and I’ll also give you tips on what you can do so you can meet many social situations with confidence.