#Askingforafriend: The art of small talk and connection
By Mike Wallace
GCU Office of Student Care
You’re in an elevator with someone you find attractive.
You’re at party and you find someone fascinating/intriguing.
You’re new to a church with a lot of interesting, energetic people or to a therapy group with a lot of new acquaintances.
Or it is Welcome Week with a lot of new contacts you just met.
We all have been there. And whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you will have times of awkwardness and a sense of no confidence to generate the necessary art of small talk.
Here are some tips to mastering this art form:
- Do not hesitate to ask superficial questions with good eye contact – these are links to further conversation. (Remember, most people want to talk and are just as initially insecure, so they appreciate someone getting the ball rolling.)
- Observe the surroundings: clothing (“Hey, I like your shirt.” “Cool earrings!”), where you’re at (“What do you think of Lopes Way? Do you like the food choices?”) or common references (“I am in accounting, too.”)
- Balance your initiated conversation with appropriate curious questions about the other person with sincere compliments (“I liked how you were nice with that person – where did you learn to be so empathic?” “I like how you organized this get-together – are you a good planner?”).
- Use the acronym F.O.R.M. (Family, Occupation, Recreation and Motivation). (“How is your family/mom/brother?” “What is your major?” “Where do you work?” “What got you interested in nursing?” “What do you do for fun?”)
This is all based on this YouTube video by Brett McCay. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Now some truisms about connecting that are backed by research:
- People like people who sincerely like them (Theory of Reciprocity).
- Smiling (when it is sincere) is attractive.
- Be committed to being goofy when appropriate (not hurtful or disrespectful) and be committed to it. Take that karaoke song all the way to your heart’s content.
- Here’s a challenging one connected to the above sentence: Let go of managing others’ opinions of yourself when you are being you!
People are drawn to others who have similar interests, values, education, religion and even vices (yes, even tattoos), which can be deeper draws than just physical appearance (that’s why we may wonder why she is with him and vice versa). All of the truisms above are based on the 2017 textbook by Rathus, Navid and Fichner-Rathus on human sexuality.
In these challenging times of social distancing, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are social creatures all craving to be connected in some form or another. And although we cannot control the explicit realties, we do have control of the implicit ones.
Yes, all this is doable – even while wearing a mask.