First things first. I admit it. I do not like small talk. Talking to unfamiliar people makes me nervous and uncomfortable. I would much prefer the company of a few close friends. However, as I have thought and read about small talk, I gained some basic, but important insights, insights that encourage me to feel more comfortable in talking with new people.
1. Small talk really is not about small talk at all. Through small talk . . .
- We may begin a new long lasting relationship. As we talk to a new person, we may discover many things we have in common and then watch as our circle of friendships grows!
- We may discover ways to help other people make connections. The conversation may help us link together people with similar interests. We help them grow in their relationships and ability to serve!
So maybe, instead of calling our conversations with unfamiliar people “small talk,” we could call it “smart talk”!
2. When talking to strangers, remember that people really love to talk about themselves. If asked a few good questions, they will probably start talking and before you know it, you are both comfortably engaged in an enjoyable conversation. On the flipside, if someone is asking you questions, try not to respond with one or two word answers. For example, if someone asks your occupation, instead of saying simply, “I’m a teacher,” include some details. For instance, “I have been teaching third grade at Happy School for the past four years.”
3. Asking good questions is important. The best questions are open-ended, requiring more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. for example, “How did you ….?” or “What was that like for you?”
4. Plan to start “smart talk” with some basic questions. First, find out the person’s name. Continue to use it during the conversation so that you remember it. Then, ask about family, occupation, and recreational activities. If you are meeting people at your church, ask about what brought them there. The answers you receive to these questions will probably give you some idea about directions the conversation might take from there.
5. As you talk with people, practice good listening. This is where eye contact is important. If possible, restate what they are saying to clarify and demonstrate your interest. Remember, though, not to stare and try not to ‘parrot’ their answers as you restate.
6. If you consider yourself an introverted person, you may still feel intimidated as you consider talking to strangers. To gain more confidence, practice these two essential skills before you walk up to a complete strangers:
- First, smile. This is huge. Smile at everyone. Smile at people at the grocery store, when you are waiting in line. Smiles are contagious. When we smile at others, we appear more approachable, and we help the other person feel more comfortable.
- Second, make eye contact. This helps you establish a connection and shows you are interested in them.
Small talk, or smart talk, is a critical part of our ministry. We want to welcome new people and help them feel at home in our church communities. People come to us seeking relationships. Through smart talk, we plant and cultivate those relationships. As they grow closer to us, we have opportunities to invite them to grow closer to Jesus, our Savior and theirs.
As I learn more about smart talk, I realize that even though talking to strangers is not my favorite thing to do, I am ready to take the risk. I am ready to meet new people. I am ready to expand my circle of friendships. I know there may be some uncomfortable moments, but that minor discomfort is worth it, because it can open the door to Christ-centered relationships.
Blessings to you as you consider with whom and how you will enjoy a little “smart talk.”
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