The biggest hurdle I have in my life is small talk. I'm not bad at it, because after all this time working in retail, I've had to fake enjoy conversations with lots of different people. It's amazing the things folks will tell an absolute stranger. Right before they hand them sweaty money from their bra.
Despite being skilled at small talk, it drains me like nothing else. So I thought I'd share my top 5 tips for avoiding the dreaded meaningless conversations.
If you can manage to procure some brightly colored earbuds, these can save your sanity on days when you legit can't handle talking to one more person. I don't even have to have music or a book going, I sometimes just pop the earbuds in to avoid the chit chat. Although I have had people wave me down and force me to pause my audio book to have pointless convos with me. So this isn't 100% effective, especially in smaller towns.
2. Dark or Mirrored Sunglasses
Eye contact encourages extroverts to move in and start chatting. Not to mention you know the fear of making eye contact with those lotion people in the mall kiosks who will move in on you like you have the last twinkie during the apocalypse. So I have mirrored shades I wear whenever possible. This is especially effective when used in combo with the earbuds. I can fake like I didn't see the sales person with the best of them.
3. Your phone is your best friend.
Have extra chargers available, to ensure this is always an option. I keep two in my purse at all times. If you need an out, text a friend to call you. If you just need to keep yourself busy to avoid the dreaded eye contact vultures, play a game or check social media.
But what happens when it's an event? What happens when you have to...gulp...mingle?
4. Ask detailed questions pertinent to the conversation.
The reason small talk sucks is because it's pointless. Yes. We all know it's raining. Thanks. So one of the best things you can do when you're forced to socialize is ask questions. Are you at a work convention? Don't just ask what position the person you're sitting next to has. Ask them what their opinion is on a new technique in the field. Ask them how they handle customers with a specific issue that you've been grappling with.
And when you are asked questions, respond with details. No, I'm not saying take over the conversation. But instead of just saying you're enjoying the conference, say, "I'm having a great time. I caught the panel on legal issues with fiction writing and found the information incredibly helpful. What panels have you attended?"
5. Take a breath and remind yourself it's going to be okay.
If you're like me, sometimes you need to give yourself a mental slap upside the head when your anxious inner monologue starts going off on a tangent. You didn't always know everyone you're now friends with. There are people in your life you once had to embrace with chit chat. This person who comments that it's hot outside, could be your new colleague, or a potential book club buddy just waiting to be met. So take a breath, smile, and steer the conversation toward some better topics. You can do this. At least for a couple hours, then you can pretend you're not feeling well and run to your room where you can hop on your laptop and escape.
I'm not the greatest conversationalist, but I get by because I have to. What tips do you use to avoid small talk? I'm always looking for some new techniques.