I was pretty shy growing up so it took years and plenty of practice before I felt comfortable-ish engaging in small talk. I'm horrible with names, easily distracted, and my brain-to-mouth filter is unreliable. These factors, plus my fear of awkward pauses (I over-compensate by spouting ridiculous random facts) can take small talk from "mildly awkward" to "stick an olive fork in me, I'm done" in seconds.
So even though I'm better than I was, there are still times when conversing with strangers can be stilted and uncomfortable, but it doesn't have to be this way.
"Small talk is an art," says Hank Hunse, owner of aptly named Small Talk Vineyards. "It isn't a skill that people are born with, but it can be mastered. Small talk is the starting point of all relationships and whether you are at a friend's wine tasting party or a networking event it is an important starting point for everyone."
The staff at Small Talk Vineyards know all about the art of good conversation and have become experts at small talk. So, to help us conquer our social jitters, they have compiled a list of five tips to mastering the art of small talk. *I have added a few "helpful" notes to the end of each tip.
1. Remember Names
Introductions tend to pass in a blur. Names are forgotten just as quickly as the hors d'oeuvres disappear, but make an effort to slow down and stay present. Repeat the person's name in your head a few times and if you forget a name, discreetly ask a third party for help. Remembering someone's name goes a long way and they are more likely to approach you at future gatherings.
*If you use mnemonic tricks to remember somebody's name, don't call them by their physical trait reminder by mistake. Calling him "Guppy lips" instead of Gus won't score you any points.
2. Establish Eye Contact
This may sound like a no-brainer, but in uncomfortable situations people tend to avoid eye contact. Casual eye contact and a warm, friendly smile demonstrate your interest and desire to communicate. Eye contact for five to ten seconds indicates curiosity and is generally considered friendly. Make an effort to keep your body language open and relaxed - you'll send out confident and friendly signals that will draw people to you.
*Intense eye contact for ten to 60 seconds makes you, frightening.
3. Discuss the Setting
Finding a topic of discussion after introductions is the hardest part of small talk. Try commenting on the location of the event — how long the line is for drinks or discuss the floral arrangements — this is an easy way to create common ground.
*Another common ground topic, besides the weather, is party guests. Ask how they know the event host, who else they know at the party. Who knows, you might even find yourself in a six degrees of Kevin Bacon situation.
4. Have Fun!
It's important to remember that you aren't alone. There are others in the room feeling just as uncomfortable as you, so stop hiding behind your glass of wine and enjoy yourself! Allow yourself to be curious and ask questions.
*Asking questions is great! Mind you, I was on a blind date once and clearly someone had told this guy that firing questions across the table at your date was a good move. I felt like I was out with Phil Donahue. (Yes Donahue. Or Merv Griffin even. That's how old I am.) His best/worst question? I'll never forget it... he asked me to name my top three favourite breakfast cereals. That was our first and last date.
5. Make a Clean Escape
When your conversation starts to draw to a close, take the opportunity to make a natural exit. Using phrases such as "I need to grab another drink" or "I need to say hello to a friend who just arrived" allows you to make a clean exit. Make sure to end the conversation with something like, "It was great talking to you. See you later." This keeps the lines of communication open for another meeting.
*Think "George Costanza" and exit on a high note whenever possible.
Thanks for reading. (Small) talk to you soon!
The original "Fun With Auto-Correct" game (totally made up and ridiculous) takes advantage of Auto-Correct’s persistent need to decide on your behalf what twisted word you were mayyyyyyybe thinking of typing.
If you decide to play, and you should, leave your best Dirty Duo in the comments so we can all have a chuckle.
Party Mummy, should by name, embrace any opportunity to celebrate, right? Totes. But Valentine's Day is where I draw the line because... Valentine's Day is F❤️CKING stupid. There, I said it.
Here's what irks me about V Day (That's Valentine's Day, not Veteran's Day. Veterans are cool.):
Red or pink ones in particular. Roses are smelly and thorny and ridiculously over-priced. If I wanted to spend money on something just to watch it wither away and die within days, I'd buy a fish. Okay, I'm kidding about the fish. I'd take care of it. I'm not a monster, I'm just all riled up over here.
What's the point? I have to run out to the store tonight in the freezing cold to buy pointless generic cards for my daughter to pass out to all of her classmates. Even ones she isn't actually friends with. Inclusion, fine. I'm all for inclusion, but what a waste. You know darn well the cards will just get tossed away. Except for hoarders. I suppose they might kept theirs. Plus we can't send treats to school of any kind, even nut-free ones. So if you're like me, you'll cruise Pinterest looking for a cute but useful DIY number to include with the card, to make the card a little less useless.
Then you'll be up until midnight melting crayons to pour into little heart shaped molds to make heart crayons to accompany the soon to be recycled cards. And when the crayons end up looking like complete shite, you'll have to run out the next morning to the Dollar Store to buy a handful of red and pink pencils for your child to hand out instead with her pain-in-the-ass Valentines.
While you're driving to the Dollar Store, you'll remember you've neglected to buy something for the teacher. You'll feel horrible because you know she doesn't want another chocolate shaped rose and she'll probably open it and want to punch you in the face. (I know this from experience—as a former teacher, chocolate and coffee gifts made me twitch. And bloat.).
We don't need a fake holiday to tell us when to bestow affection upon our loved ones. I tell my husband I love him daily and I kiss him all the time. Though in November I kiss him significantly less, but only due to Movember. I'm not big on staches.
I mentioned how I'm an inclusion fan. I have a kid with special needs so don't even get me started. But this holiday reeks of exclusion. People who've lost someone, who are divorcing, or who are single for whatever reason, can't help but feel relegated to the outside looking in on this contrived, dollar-driven day. It bothers me.
Like I said, not a big V Day fan over here.
But instead of just moaning and preaching and dropping f-bombs (although they are pretty F❤️CKING cute when you put a little heart in them) I'm going to offer a suggestion for how to transform February 14th into something pointedly less pointless.
Let's turn Valentine's Day into SHARE THE LOVE DAY!
No really, let's call it that.
Don't spend your money on flowers, chocolate, and jewelry (save those gifts for when you've really screwed up or for no reason at all—that means so much more.) Use the money to "share the love." Buy lunch for a hungry person, bring the school crossing guard a coffee, or drop off a bag of food at the Food Bank. Tell somebody what you love about them, hold open the door, give up your seat. You get the idea. Just focus on being kind(er). Sincerely.
Send home a note to parents asking them to skip the Valentine's cards. Instead suggest they send in the money they would have spent on the cards. $5 max. A twoonie would be fine. (Make sure they know this is optional and anonymous.) As a class, decide on how to spend the money to share the love. Perhaps buy seeds to grow flowers in the school yard in the spring. Whatever you choose, make sure the gesture is something tangible if possible for younger children.
Take the opportunity to talk about what love really means.
Maybe write letters or draw pictures to send to seniors at care facility.
Or make "Share the Love" booklet—designate a page for each student, with their name at the top of the their page. Pass the booklet around throughout the day. Have each student write one nice thing on each of their classmates' pages. At the end, give student's their happy pages to keep. Now that's some sweet useful love.
This Valentine's Day night I'll be with my single and divorcing friends...eating, drinking, playing games, sharing a laugh and Sharing the Love. And the cheese dip.
BTW....My daughter loves printing out her friends' names on Valentine's cards. It gives HER joy, so who am I stand in the way of that? So of course I bought Valentines for her to hand out. And if you happen to like roses, go for it. White or pale yellow ones aren't so bad.