When it comes to small talk, some people get it and some people don’t—or do they?
According to experts, small talk is a skill that can be studied, learned and practiced. The skill of elegant casual conversation is called conversational intelligence.
Here are the five stages of conversational intelligence:
- Be open. The first stage is opening yourself up to a potential conversation. Signal your desire to talk by mentioning something that you and another person are both currently or experiencing in the room. Use this shared experience to your conversational advantage.
- Introduce yourself. The second stage is making a personal connection. Do this by introducing yourself. Tell the other person your name, followed by a statement that leaves the conversation open. For example, “It seems like the city is on vacation.”
- Find common ground. Ask questions, and if the conversation stops, refer back to your original statement with a question like, “Were you able to vacation this summer?” If a new topic is introduced, make sure to promptly respond and build upon the topic, or offer an alternative.
- Keep it going. Link in other relevant themes to the topics already discussed. Topic building is the key to good conversation. Avoid awkward silences, but be careful not to talk too much.
- Wrap it up. This stage is about making a smooth and clean exit. To close the conversation, signal the end by making a statement of appreciation—for example, “I really enjoyed this conversation.” Reflect back the highlights of the discussion to show that you were listening, and exchange information to keep in touch, if you choose.
— Adapted from “How to Be a Better Conversationalist,” Elizabeth Bernstein, The Wall Street Journal.