We’ve all been there: you’re at the grocery store and you see someone you went to high school with. You casually look at your phone as to avoid awkward eye contact but next thing you know you’re stuck in the gluten free aisle having a bland conversation with the person you were just trying to intentionally avoid. You can slice the layer of awkwardness in the air between you with a dull butter knife while you both think of a polite way out of the conversation. After 10 minutes of fake laughter and a multitude of glances at your phone as to avoid the awkward eye contact you part ways and hope to see each other again in the near future.
Everyone hates small talk but somehow we find ourselves stuck in it on a daily basis. It’s easy to small talk about the weather and your local sports teams, maybe about kids if you have them but let’s be honest chances are you and the person you are talking to have better things to do. Aside from the fact that most small talk is a complete waste of time it is exactly how it is described, SMALL talk. The fruits of the conversation tend to lead nowhere but boredom and a few fake pleasantries literally for the purpose of being polite and that’s it. Skip the small talk and dig deeper. While we may not to be able to relate to everyone through experiences or interest, one way all humans relate is through emotion. By asking questions at the emotional level you can bypass the small talk and turn an average encounter into a refreshing engagement.
So how do we skip the small talk and dive in to the things that matter? My personal favorite is by asking grandiose questions. If you’ve ever listened to the Art of Charm you know Jordan’s mantra is “We may not have all the right answers, but we definitely have all the right questions”. One of the best tactics you utilize are the 5 W’s: Who, what, where, when, and why? The reason these questions are superior for breezing past small talk is that they allow you to uncover more details and learn more about the other person without coming off as imposing. It makes the person you are engaging with get out of small talk auto pilot and more importantly talk about themselves and their experiences. It also gives you a lot of information to relate to and create a similar bond over. Asking these questions in the right context is a powerful way to connect with another person and it makes them feel important that you care enough about them to ask.
If you follow this rule you should be able to avoid 99% of all small talk. Utilize the 5 W’s and turn a boring, forgettable conversation into a friendly encounter.