How do you "small talk" in socal situations to keep it from getting awkward?
I was recently in a meeting with a judge hopping she would be my mentor to help me into the field of law and i think there were many times when we had those awkward silence moments and i just hope that my terrible social skills didn't mess it up. #business #social #networking #social-networking
Social awkwardness comes from a sense of not appearing "normal" or "socially clued in" under the gaze of others. Generated by our own fears and worries of what others think of us and by social expectations, social awkwardness can prevent us from fully interacting with others out of fear of being ridiculed or even ostracized by our peers. Once you realize that everyone is afraid of being socially awkward and that there are ways to move on from awkward situations with grace and confidence, you'll be on your way to embracing social interactions instead of dreading them.
Some people do seem to have a knack for personal interaction, but for most of us it takes preparation and practice. There are a few things that I try to keep in mind when "working a room" full of folks I don't know or may not know very well (these work with one-on-one interactions as well). First, as Anup pointed out, most people feel just as awkward as you do and are looking for someone willing to meet them half way to connect. And if someone seems overly confident, that may be there way of dealing with the stress, the awkwardness of the situation. Don't be intimidated or put off by their demeanor. Second, be prepared for conversation. Take a little time before a gathering to brush up on current events, especially unusual or suprising things happening around you that folks may have heard about or that most folks would likely find interesting. If at a gathering, what does the group have in common (there must be something that brought them all together)? If they are all artists, talk about the new installation at the museum. If they all live nearby, talk about new businesses that have opened recently or opportunities for new activities nearby. Avoid controversial topics such as politics, religion, etc. Third, listen more than you talk. Think about a recent conversation you particularly enjoyed. Chances are, that person is a good listener. For some reason people today seem to feel a need to say everything that's on their mind - and expect you to agree with them. That's not conversation, that Twitter. Listen, and give the other person your undivided attention when you converse with them. Think about what they are saying, not about how you are going to reply. It makes a tremendous difference. And fourth, remember that however modest we think ourselves to be, our favorite topic is ourselves. It's just human. Ask questions that let the other person tell you about themselves. You'll learn a lot. You may make a new friend. When you get folks talking about themselves, there's never a shortage of conversation topics.
I'm not sure how the conversation went or what you and the judge talked about, but I can tell you from experience that I can usually tell when someone wants something from me. In most instances I can tell that want something from me and don't really care what my answers to their questions are. Most of the time, it is a major turn off.
Depending on how you are approaching the judge, you might try a different tactic, especially if you are looking for them to mentor you, which is a deeper commitment than just helping you with a quick favor. In this case, you might not have to "small talk" too much at all. If someone approached me and told me that they admired me because of my involvement in (insert charity work here), my support of (insert social cause here), or my role in (insert recent job project here), showed they had done their research, and had a genuine interest in my life and accomplishments, I would happily talk to them all evening. It would spark a deeper conversation and set the foundation for a wonderful mentor-ship. Find something about your judge that stands out to you, be it their charity work, specific causes they support, or specific ruling tendencies. Find something that you can tell they care a great deal about and that you care about as well. Tell your judge why you admire them, but be genuine. This doesn't work if you don't actually believe what you are saying. That in itself will spark a deeper conversation than you will ever have with purely small talk.
Small talk is handy in some instances like when you are "working a room" or looking to expand your network. In this case, setting a different tone will probably get you a much better result.
Allison recommends the following next steps:
I find in certain situations small talk may not be neccesary. In the scenerio you mentioned above I think the best approach was to be upfront and honest. There was no need for small talk. You had a goal set and it would have been ok to talk about mentoring immediately after introductions. Once you received your answer, exchanged contact information, advise I'm looking forward to our first session. Thank the person, shake hands and walk away. This way you avoid the awkwardness and you've moved on. Had they said no to mentoring, you could have asked if they were aware of any mentoring programs in their field. Once the answer was received thank them for their time and move on.
In other social situations you can start by talking about the event you are attending and how you are associated with it. Ask the person the same question and listen carefully to their answer. When you respond make certain you are responding to what they said. If you don't understand it's ok to ask them to explain a little further. Before you know it your conversation will have a nice flow. You will learn and grow with each awkward "small talk "situation you experience. Michael, I hope this helps.
It helps to prepare ahead of time. Be ready with your "elevator speech"... the 2 minute (or less) explanation of who you are or what you need or why you are here or even about your interests. That can get the conversation started.
If you know you will be in a situation where small talk is required, prepare some topics, questions, and even opinions prior to the event.
Finally... ask the other person lots of questions (career, what they expect from the event, etc) and really listen to their answers. Take clues from them... you can ask personal questions too (if not too personal). For example, if the person has a paw print necklace, ask about pets. People love to talk and your efforts to keep the conversation rolling can provide some amazing results.
I wish you the very best and congratulate you on making efforts to improve!
Sheryl recommends the following next steps: