This past semester you probably learned a little bit of calculus, perhaps some biology, a dash of theology and just a touch of history. One thing that you definitely didn’t learn about, however, is socialization -- it’s something that just isn’t taught in the classroom.
Over the summer you’re going to have to make plenty of small talk (http://mashable.com/2015/04/26/small-talk-tips/). Whether with employers, family members, old high school friends or new coworkers, the dreaded small talk inevitably looms in the upcoming months. Luckily, it doesn’t always have to be the stuff of nightmares. There are easy ways to improve your small talk game, and a lot of it is mental.
First, make sure you know your role in small talk. Don’t see yourself as a genuine person engaging in fake, superficial conversation. This leads to conflicts in your own mind; instead, see yourself as enthusiastic, dynamic or thoughtful—whatever description helps you to see that awkward small talk about you cousin’s grad school applications as a way to genuinely interact and connect with someone else.
Second, you have to prepare. It seems to go against our definition of easy, stress-free small talk, but the key to making real connections with people lies in knowing what you want to talk about beforehand. Have a practiced opener or introduction; disarm yourself and your conversation partner by having a kind, inviting introduction.
Don’t go in with your guns blazing, though; not everyone will want to speak about the time you embarrassed yourself in front of your favorite professor. Instead, stick to the classics: a good, genuine “Hello, I’m *insert name here*. How are you?” can go quite a long way.
Finally, make sure to realize that small talk really does have a greater purpose. Sure, after a semester of discussing deep, philosophical issues and concepts, talking about the weather may seem a little bit pointless. Remember that what you’re cultivating here is not necessarily intellectual knowledge, but something that may last even longer. By engaging in small talk, you’re creating real relationships with people that matter.
Keep these tips in mind next time you’re going to a work function or an uncomfortable family gathering. Rethinking the way you imagine small talk can entirely change the way that you interact with people outside your closest circle of friends and family. Whoever you’re speaking to will be sure to notice that you care and genuinely want to talk and connect with them. One day soon you may not have to make simple small talk with these people.
Even if these tips don’t make you want to run outside and speak to the first stranger you see, at the very least realize one thing: small talk isn’t going to kill you. The next time your great aunt asks you about your spring semester, don’t cringe away in disgust. Instead, see it for what it is: a chance to make a real connection.