Always talk about what you got
People who are good at small talk never do these 7 things, says public speaking expert
Going back to the office soon? As a speech trainer, one common source of anxiety I've been hearing from people is the social interaction they'll once again have to make with colleagues.
But like any other form of public speaking — yes, elevator banter counts — small talk skills have nothing to do with your personality, and everything to do with learning to empathize with your audience.
If you want your skill and comfort levels to soar, avoid these seven conversational pitfalls:
1. Assuming that nobody wants to talk to you
If you're shy, I get it. But you're not the only one. If you're fretting about seeming confident or "natural," you're missing the point: Stop thinking about yourself.
Instead, think of reaching out as an act of service. After so many months of social isolation due to the pandemic, odds are enormous that the person next to you is just as eager to make a connection.
2. Interrupting or intruding upon an existing conversation
Timing is everything. If you see two or more people vigorously engaged in conversation, they're probably not ready for you to barge in.
First, wait for a lull. Then once you have someone's attention and, ideally, receive a non-verbal go-ahead, that's your chance.
Keep distance in mind, too; don't stand too close or too far away. You do want to be heard. You don't want to shout or come across as creepy.
3. Start talking without having something to say
If someone appears distant or lost in thought, moving into their personal space and mumbling "hey" is hardly an icebreaker.
Try asking permission (e.g., "Hi. Is it okay if I talk to you?" or "Excuse me, do you mind if I ask you something?") and make sure you have a fully formed question or comment in mind (e.g., "Are you having a good time?" or "How do you like being back in the office?").
It's all about creating a comfortable opportunity for the other person to respond.
4. Broaching controversial topics
If you're talking to someone new, it's generally best not to talk about weighty, off-putting or polarizing topics, like abortion or politics.
If you gravitate towards those topics later on, great. But for starters, aim for something simple and close at hand that you and the other person can observe together. Maybe it's the music you're both hearing, the food you're both tasting or the big "Welcome Back" office banner you're both facing.
5. Being hard to follow
Once you've made a connection with each other, keep that connection going by making yourself easy to understand.
If you speak different languages, for example, slow your speech and enunciate clearly. If you tend to speak in slang, don't use words they might not know. If they ask you what you do for work, answer in a way that doesn't take five minutes or deploy a lot of workplace jargon.
6. Talking too much about yourself — or about the other person
It's often said that people love to talk about themselves, and that asking questions is the secret ingredient to good conversations. But that's not true for everyone.
Nobody likes to feel interrogated, so if you sense that questions aren't welcome, back off. Instead, tell a story, offer an opinion or otherwise relieve them of the burden of performance.
If you can't sense where their interests lie, try asking about subjects you're interested in (e.g., "Hey, do you think this shirt looks funny?" or "Have you been to any good, new restaurants in this area lately?).
7. Wasting someone's time
If you're talking to someone, talk to them. Don't stare at the floor or look over their shoulder at another person. Put your phone away. Be present and give them your full attention.
It's easy to dismiss small talk as an insincere, unwanted and unimportant social nicety. But every relationship you value began somewhere — with an initial conversation. Was it profound? Did you cure cancer? No. But you made a genuine connection.
John Bowe is a speech trainer, award-winning journalist, and author of "I Have Something to Say: Mastering the Art of Public Speaking in an Age of Disconnection. " He has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, GQ, McSweeney's, This American Life, and many others. Visit his website here.
- Want to sound smarter? Avoid these phrases that make you sound 'pretentious,' say grammar experts
- Bad at public speaking? The trick is to distill your message to these 15 words
- 11 common grammar mistakes that make people cringe—and make you look less smart
Talking to Your Parents or Other Adults (for Teens)
You probably talk to your friends way more than you talk to your parents. That's natural, even if you and your parents have a great relationship.
Still, it's good to have a parent's help, advice, and support. You can get support from other adults in your life, too. Maybe there's a teacher, mentor, or coach you like to talk with.
At first, it might seem awkward to open up, especially when talking about some subjects. Or it might feel harder if it's been a while since you had a good heart-to-heart. Here are some tips to make it easier to talk.
Talk About Everyday Stuff — and Do It Every Day
The more you do something, the easier it gets. Talking to the adults in your life about everyday stuff builds a bond. It makes it easier when you need to discuss something more serious.
Find something to chat about each day. You can keep it brief and casual. Talk about how your team did at the track meet. Share something one of your teachers said. Tell them about a school project. Share a fun post or picture. Even small talk about what's for dinner can keep you feeling close.
Do things together that you both enjoy. Go for a walk. Work out together. Cook, eat, play, make music, help out, or just hang out together. This gives you a chance to have a casual chat.
It's never too late to start. If things feel strained between you and your parent, ease into it. Mention that cute thing the dog did. Watch a funny movie together to share a laugh. Talking about little things might be a way to get closer if you need to.
How to Talk About Difficult Topics
Maybe you need to break bad news to a parent, like failing an exam. Maybe you're feeling scared or stressed about something. Or there's something personal you want to share, like a special person in your life. But you don't know how they'll react. Or how it will feel to tell them. Or how you'll find the words.
To help you prepare, you can:
1. Think about what you want or need from your parent.
Do you want to tell them something important? Ask for their help? Do you want them to listen and hear you out? Do you need their support? Or their advice? Do you need their permission for something? Or help with a problem you're having?
It helps if you're clear about what you want. Put it into words. For example:
- "I need to tell you about a problem I'm having. I just want you to listen right now so you know what's bothering me. I'm not ready for advice yet."
- "I need your advice about something. Can we talk?"
- "I need to get your permission to go on a class trip next week. Can I tell you about it?"
2. Think about how you feel.
Are you worried about how a parent or other adult might react? Scared that they'll be mad or disappointed? Embarrassed to talk about something sensitive or personal? Feel guilty because you got in some trouble? Don't let those feelings stop you from talking. Instead, let your feelings be part of the conversation.
Put feelings into words. For example:
- "I want to tell you something that's pretty personal. And I'm worried about how you'll react. But I want to tell you anyway. "
- "I need to talk to you. But I'm afraid I'll disappoint you."
- "I need to talk to you about something. But it's kind of embarrassing."
- "I have something to tell you. I'm not proud of what I've done, and you might be mad. But I know I need to tell you. Can you hear me out?"
If you think you might get nervous or clam up when it comes time to talk, try practicing what you want to say in front of a mirror. Or practice with a friend. Practice can build confidence. It can help you feel more comfortable when you're talking.
4. Pick a good time to talk.
Find a time when your parent or the adult you want to talk to isn't busy with something else. Ask, "Can we talk? Is now a good time?" Try to find a quiet or private space where there are not a lot of distractions or other people around. And then, just get started.
Reviewed by: Margaux J. Barnes, PhD
Date reviewed: October 2021
Jean Reno quote: Always say what you think and do what you ...
- Jean Reno
Taken from Wikiquote. Last updated September 23, 2022
Jean Reno16 French actor 1948
your choices are90 You make shitty choices, you live a shitty life. It's fair as gospel. Life is not a marshmallow, no one is obliged to chocolate it to you.“
- Franz Wertvollen, book On Flying Serpents. Naples
"Parents give you life, but want you to live it for them"
- Semyon Kolosov, The Smoke of Our Dreams
"You can live your life happily if you manage to go the right way and manage to think and act correctly .“
- Marcus Aurelius 16th Roman Emperor 121 - 180
“Everyone knows how others should live, but no one knows how to live their own life properly.”
— Paulo Coelho Brazilian writer and poet
- Lev Davidovich Landau Soviet theoretical physicist 1908 - 1968
"Your life is tailored to you. "
- Juliana Wilson
"When you're hungry, only your stomach tells you about it. When you are hungry for victories, your whole body and your whole life screams about it to you.“
- Arsène Wenger French football player and coach 1949
"Life is meaningless without good, you know that,
Is it worth living without meaning, it's up to you."
- Zafar Mirzo 1972
all my life with one person. The correct number is something around three. Yes, perhaps three husbands would be enough. "
- Claire Booth Luce 1903 - 1987
0005 Let the goal be clear before you.
It is not your fault that you were born,
It is your fault that you lived your life in vain.”
— Mirza Shafi Vazekh Azerbaijani poet 1794 - 1852
“If you want to do something right in life, do it yourself .“
— Matthew McConaughey American film actor 1969
“Do not do what your conscience condemns, and do not say what is not in accordance with the truth. Observe this most important thing, and you will complete the whole task of your life.“
- Marcus Aurelius 16th Roman Emperor 121 - 180
"I used to be even madder. When I studied at the institute, I thought that design was needed not to make life easier for people, but to make it as difficult as possible. If you are making, for example, a navigation system, then you need to ensure that a person never finds what he is looking for. If this is a layout, then it should be pink on green. It seemed to me then that it was so right, now for some reason it doesn’t seem so.”
— Roman Litvinov (Mujuice) 1983
This translation is pending. Is the translation correct?
"No one knows what life is until they live their own."
- Marilyn Monroe American film actress, singer and sex symbol 1926 - 1962
to do with your life - you need to meet the dawn by the sea. It will be so wonderful that you can only think about what is really important to you. This is what needs to be done. If at this very moment you have realized something for yourself, you should do it.“
- Marina Matisse Belarusian and Spanish singer, poetess and composer 1991
"Life is not a funny thing, but how to live it without laughter at all?" From the book "Laffirmations" by Dr. Joel Goodman, 1995. Also from Reader’s Digest, N4, 1998
“Casanova is given to live her life, we are to live it.”
— Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva Russian poet, prose writer, translator 1892 - 1941
"Your happiness, your successes, your life, and in general everything depends on you and only on you. Only you decide whether to be happy or unhappy, cheerful or sad, evil or kind, lonely or popular. It's your life, so you're in charge."
- Bob Marley Jamaican musician, guitarist, vocalist and composer 1945 - 1981
"If you can't laugh at yourself, then you're too right and your life is too boring."
— Steve Irwin 1962 - 2006
Gabriel García Márquez - always say what you feel and do what you think forgive me and thank you lyrics, lyrics
God forgot for a moment that I am just a rag puppet, and would give me a piece of life, then I would probably not say everything I think, but I would definitely think what I say.
I would appreciate things, not for how much they cost, but for how much they mean. I would sleep less, dream more, realizing that every minute we close our eyes, we lose sixty seconds of light. I would walk while everyone else is standing, stay awake while others sleep. I would listen when others are talking, and how I would enjoy the wonderful taste of chocolate ice cream ...
If God gave me one more moment of life, I would dress more modestly, lie in the sun, exposing not only my body, but also my soul to the warm rays. Lord, if I had a heart, I would write all my hate on ice and wait for the sun to come out. I would pour tears on roses to feel the pain of their thorns and the scarlet kiss of their petals...
Lord, if I had a piece of life left, I WOULD NOT SPEND A DAY WITHOUT TELLING THE PEOPLE I LOVE THAT I LOVE THEM.
I would convince every person dear to me of my love and live in love with love. I would explain to those who are mistaken, believing that they stop falling in love when they grow old, not realizing that they grow old when they stop falling in love!
I would give a child wings, but let him learn to fly on his own. I would convince the old people that death does not come with old age, but with oblivion. I learned so much from you people, I realized that everyone wants to live on the top of the mountain, not realizing that true happiness awaits him when he climbs the mountain.
I realized that from the moment when for the first time a newborn baby squeezes his father's finger in his little fist, he will never let him go again.
I realized that one person has the right to LOOK AT ANOTHER FROM HIGH only when he HELPING HIM Rise.
There are so many things that I could still learn from you people, but, in fact, they are unlikely to be useful, because by the time they put me in this suitcase, I, unfortunately, will already be dead. I have learned so much from you, but to tell you the truth, it is not of much use, because after stuffing my chest with it, I am dying.
Always say what you feel and do what you think. If I knew that today is the last time I see you sleeping, I would hug you tightly and pray to God that he would make me your guardian angel.
If I knew that today is the last time I see you walking out the door, I would hug you, kiss you and call you again to give you more. If I knew that I would hear your voice for the last time, I would record everything you say on tape so that I can listen to it again and again ... endlessly. If I knew that these are the last moments when I see you, I would say: "I love you", and I would not assume, fool, that you already know this.
There is always tomorrow and life gives us one more opportunity to make things right, but if I am wrong and today is all we have left, I would like to tell you how much I love you and that I will never forget you.
Neither a young man nor an old man can be sure that tomorrow will come for him. Today may be the last time you see the ones you love. So don't wait for something, do it today, because if tomorrow never comes, you will regret the day when you didn't have time for one smile, one hug, one kiss, and when you were too busy to fulfill the last wish.