Ahhh, small talk.

(It'd be hilarious if we just ended this post with only that line, wouldn't it? Anyways, let's continue...)

Any introvert’s nightmare, small talk can be a challenging task that can at times leave anyone feeling overwhelmed and anxious. 

Like cookies and latkes, small talk is a holiday-season staple. Whether you’re going to an alumni event where you’ll reunite with classmates or you’re sitting across the table from your partner’s grandparents, small talk is - for almost all of us - unavoidable.

The key is to come prepared, and we've got your back in that department.

Here's your survival guide to making small talk a breeze at your next social function:

 

Don’t have much to say? Ask questions!

People love to talk about themselves, so, pepper your conversations with questions that get others chatting and allow you to keep (mostly) quiet.

Conversation starters are crucial, but if you really want to keep it going, arm yourself with great follow-up questions that encourage others to get deep. 

There’s nothing wrong with listening and sipping punch. 

 

Keep it casual

The office party isn’t the place to ask about your raise or to vent about a colleague.

Your mother-in-law’s annual cookie exchange might not be the *best* time to get into a heated political conversation.

Instead, keep it easy by asking others about their kids or pets, talk about your passion for donuts, or trade opinions on the holiday movies you love most.

Try to say hello to everyone at the party and keep your convos light.

 

Talk about things you love

If you are stuck in a conversation with someone you barely know, talk genuinely about the things you love.

Sharing tidbits about your love for mountain biking or Vietnamese cuisine will give others insight into what makes you, you.

It will likely also help you feel more comfortable and confident – two things that make small talk easier.

 

Turn it into a game

Small talk is an art, but you can turn it into a game.

If you’re at a party where you know no one, see how many people you can convince you’re a freelance taxidermist.

Or, if that’s a bit too off the beaten path, try to make a mnemonic out of everyone’s name.

 

Have an exit strategy

If the idea of an office party sends shivers down your spine, have a plan for making a break for it.

Stay for one drink and say hello to the people who need to see you show up (bosses, CEO, etc.). After that, you’re free to go.

Maybe you promised your partner you’d have dinner with them. Maybe it’s your night to let the dog out that's been cooped up all day...

Set a time, know your reason for leaving, and enjoy yourself until you need to jet.

 

Maggie Dodson
Maggie Dodson

Maggie Dodson is a creative writer living in New York City. An avid hiker and film buff, she spends most of her days sneaking wine into movie theaters and climbing mountains in the Hudson Valley with her husband and rescue dogs, Billie Holiday and Walnut. For book + wine pairings and her merry misadventures, follow Maggie on IG at @maggiesdodson.


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