People who are good at small talk always use these 9 phrases

by Tina Fey | April 22, 2024, 2:37 pm

There’s a clear distinction between being a chatterbox and mastering the art of small talk.

The real trick lies not just in talking, but in sparking meaningful conversations.

Small talk, when done right, can open doors to deeper connections and fruitful relationships. And believe me, those who are really good at it have an arsenal of effective phrases they use routinely.

In this piece, I’ll share the nine phrases that people who excel in small talk always use. These are phrases that can turn an awkward silence into a memorable interaction. Let’s get started!

1) “How’s your day going?”

We often underestimate the power of simple conversation starters.

While it may seem trivial, asking someone about their day is a classic small talk phrase that never fails to break the ice.

This open-ended question allows the person to share as little or as much as they’d like, giving you insight into their mood and current state of mind. Plus, it shows that you’re interested in their well-being, which can foster a sense of connection.

The next time you want to engage in a conversation but aren’t sure how to begin, try asking about their day. You’ll be surprised at how this simple phrase can open up avenues for deeper conversation.

2) “That reminds me of the time when…”

Let’s face it, we all love a good story. Sharing personal anecdotes is another effective strategy to make small talk more engaging.

For instance, I once found myself in an awkward silence at a networking event. I had just met a person who mentioned that they were planning a trip to Italy. Instead of letting the conversation die down, I used this golden phrase: “That reminds me of the time when I backpacked through Italy in my early 20s.”

Instantly, their eyes lit up and we spent the next few minutes swapping travel stories and tips. This transformed our mundane small talk into a fun, memorable conversation.

By sharing personal experiences that are related to the topic at hand, you not only keep the conversation flowing but also make it more relatable and engaging. You become more than just a stranger—you become someone with shared experiences and interests.

Keep in mind that small talk is all about building connections. And there’s no better way to do that than sharing a bit of your own story.

3) “Did you know…?”

Adding an element of curiosity can transform a casual chat into an intriguing conversation. The phrase “Did you know…” can be a great way to introduce something new and interesting into the dialogue.

For example, if the conversation is revolving around coffee, you might say, “Did you know that coffee is the world’s second most valuable traded commodity, only behind petroleum?” This not only adds another layer to the discussion but also subtly displays your knowledge and intellect.

However, it’s crucial to ensure that your fact is relevant to the conversation and not just a random piece of trivia. The goal is to keep the conversation engaging and seamless, not to show off or divert the topic unnecessarily.

4) “I couldn’t help but notice…”

The phrase “I couldn’t help but notice…” is a delicate way to give someone a compliment while keeping the conversation casual and light.

For instance, if you say, “I couldn’t help but notice your unique watch – it really stands out,” you not only make the person feel good about their style, but you also open up new topics for conversation. They might tell you about where they got the watch, why they chose it, or perhaps share a story related to it.

The bottom line is: your compliment should be sincere. People can sense insincerity and giving a fake compliment can do more harm than good. 

This phrase helps create a positive atmosphere, making small talk more enjoyable and engaging.

5) “What’s your opinion on…?”

One of the best ways to keep a conversation flowing is by asking for opinions. The phrase “What’s your opinion on…?” can effectively steer the conversation in a new direction and also give the other person a chance to express their thoughts.

For example, you might ask, “What’s your opinion on the latest season of that popular show?” or “What’s your opinion on the current political situation?” This not only helps you understand their perspective better but also gives them a chance to have their voice heard.

However, it’s important to respect their views, even if they differ from yours. The goal here is not to debate or argue but to engage in a respectful exchange of ideas.

This phrase encourages active participation in the conversation and keeps it dynamic and interesting.

6) “I really appreciate…”

The phrase “I really appreciate…” allows you to express your feelings of gratitude and acknowledge the efforts of the other person. It can add a warm and personal touch to any conversation.

For instance, you might say, “I really appreciate you taking the time to explain that to me,” or “I really appreciate your insight on this matter.” This not only makes the other person feel valued and heard, but also builds a positive rapport between you two.

A heartfelt thank-you can go a long way in making someone feel good. It shows that you don’t take their efforts for granted and that you value their contributions.

7) “I’ve always struggled with…”

Opening up about our challenges can create a sense of authenticity and trust in a conversation. The phrase “I’ve always struggled with…” allows you to express vulnerability in a casual way.

For instance, if the conversation revolves around hobbies, you might say, “I’ve always struggled with painting, but I’m trying to get better at it.” This not only conveys your determination to learn and grow but also makes you more relatable.

Sharing struggles or shortcomings can level the playing field and make others feel more comfortable opening up about their own experiences. 

According to research, authentic people tend to be more content with their lives and enjoy better relationships. 

This phrase can deepen your small talk by bringing authenticity and relatability into the conversation.

8) “Have you ever tried…?”

Making suggestions or sharing experiences can bring a refreshing twist to a small talk. The phrase “Have you ever tried…?” can open up new topics and possibilities within a conversation.

For example, if you’re discussing food, you might say, “Have you ever tried sushi from that new Japanese restaurant downtown?” This not only introduces a new topic but also gives the other person a chance to share their experiences or thoughts.

If they haven’t tried it, it could lead to a discussion about food preferences or other favorite restaurants. If they have, it could lead to a shared appreciation for the same place or dish.

This phrase is an effective way to keep the conversation engaging and explore new topics, making your small talk more interesting and varied.

9) “Tell me more about…”

Whether it’s “Tell me more about your work,” or “Tell me more about your recent trip,” this phrase encourages the other person to open up and share more about their life, experiences, and interests.

It shows that you’re not just making conversation for the sake of it, but that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Remember, small talk isn’t about filling the silence—it’s about building connections. And asking someone to share more is one of the most effective ways to do just that.

Final thoughts: The art of connection

Whether it’s sparking a conversation with a stranger, building rapport with colleagues, or enhancing relationships with friends and family, these phrases can serve as your guide. They are not just about filling silence, but about creating space for sharing, learning, and connecting.

So, next time you find yourself in a small talk situation, remember that it’s not just about talking—it’s about making others feel heard, valued, and connected. It’s about transforming an ordinary conversation into an extraordinary connection.

And who knows? You might just turn small talk into a big opportunity.

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