By Bandana Jain
Natasha was in the office elevator with her boss. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, N. racked her brain for topics to start a conversation. Finally she spoke about the scorching August heat and the soaring temperatures of Dubai. Natasha’s boss seemed unimpressed and resorted to his mobile. Natasha stood disappointed at her inability to strike a successful conversation once again!
It turns out that Natasha is far from alone. Most of my lift rides are equally excruciating journeys wherein deafening silence prevails and the only thing I end up doing is staring at others’ footwear. And it’s not only about lift rides…whether I run into a neighbour at marketplace or an acquaintance at a party, I am literally tongue tied when it comes to beginning conversations.
Honestly speaking, whenever I see people hitting it out with their gift of the gab to a crowd of eager listeners, my heart misses a beat and how I long to be in their shoes. And I have also discovered that many of us have suffered such awkward moments.
Whether it is Dubai or anywhere else in the world, the ability to indulge in small talk is an absolutely essential skill to possess. Often times, it is these inconsequential chit-chats that turn out to be the most consequential conversations; the first impression you create could well be the lasting impression.
This awareness of my failings left me with a daunting question: how does a person like me, who’s not so blessed in the art of small talk get good at it? Being a determined person at overcoming my shortcomings, I was constantly on the lookout for a solution when I chanced upon a self-help book by author Leil Lowndes. HOW TO TALK TO ANYONE- 92 little tricks for big success in relationships.
I read the book from cover to cover, not missing a single word and found it to be invaluable. I took several tips from that awesome book and started implementing them. I am happy to say that I can notice a distinct change in myself and I feel I am on the path towards honing my speaking skills.
Recently, I bumped into an old acquaintance in a park. After the ubiquitous hi’s and hello’s, I asked her how her son Akshay was doing at his karate class. She was amazed and thrilled that I not only remembered her son’s name but also knew that he was learning Karate. I could sense the warmth coming in as she happily took the conversation further. And as for me, I was gloating within and congratulating myself for successfully navigating myself through this art of small talk.
Let me share with you a few tips on finding some golden starters for great conversations.
Point No. 1 Talking about weather is so much a (cliché). Keep in mind a few current happenings, the newspaper could help you here – Dubai’s newest attractions, Delhi’s alarming pollution or mom’s favourite- technology and its effects, all these are resplendent examples of conversation openers.
Point No. 2 Remember names- Such a small thing but so often overlooked. Psychologists believe that each person’s favourite word is their own name. So make any opening remark using the person’s name. in most cases, it will be a total win-win situation.
Point No. 3 Be a great listener- People love to brag about their woes, whether personal or professional! So, if they find a patient listener in you, chances are great that they would love continuing talking to you.
The choice lies with us- whether we continue to be like the shaky, Natasha with her wavering talking skills or we choose to be a star conversationalist. There’s a famous quote by Mark Twain which most of us are familiar with “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”. I am sure he meant get started with mastering small talk and conversations will then be nothing, but child’s play!
About the author
Bandana Jain is an independent journalist and reporter with over sixteen years of experience. She specialises in travel, art, health, fitness and lifestyle. Her forte lies in interviewing eminent personalities from different fields.Bandana also models for photo shoots and commercials and strongly believes in giving back to the society. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org