Chet Harding’s Guide to Meaningful Conversation

Small talk is a gateway to relationship building and it doesn’t have to be a source of fear. Entrepreneur and branding/leadership consultant Chet Harding explains how to improve your small talk and conversation skills in order to reduce your anxiety towards social or professional encounters.

1. Provide Purpose

Many people mistake of believing that conversation with no purpose and small talk are synonymous, which is why many dread the thought of small talk. According to Chet Harding, good small talk always has a purposeful force to drive it.

Your mindset is the key to making small talk effortless and natural. When approaching a situation for small talk, understand that the goal is to build a foundation for a potential relationship and develop authentic conversations.

2. Be Curious

Prior to approaching small talk, you should work at being genuinely curious about the individual and the topic of conversation. For instance, when asking how someone is doing, ask leading questions and show interest.

“How are you” is often a question that is asked without true interest, so when an answer is given, there is hardly any thought given to the reply except to propel the discussion past this awkward stage. Try following up the initial question by asking what is new and exciting in their life, this shows that you are genuinely interested in furthering the conversation.

If you approach small talk with real interest, you’ll find it more interesting to listen and make it easier to reply with something thoughtful and relevant.

3. Open a Two-Way Conversation

Don’t just ask relentless questions, says Chet Harding. Remember, this is small talk, not an interrogation. Listen to their answers and answer with relevant responses that are more than one word long or just another follow-up question.

One trick is to add personal tidbits to spark interest from the other person. This will help the other person follow up with their own tidbits and help find common ground to transition the conversation into the deeper, more meaningful subject matter.

4. Watch Out for Cues

The majority of communication happens via social cues. Be aware of the other person’s body language and adapt to the cues they’re sending.

For instance, if they seem uncomfortable when entering a certain subject, you should back off and lighten the tone of the conversation. Additionally, if they start looking fidgety or looking elsewhere in the room, it may be time to wrap up the conversation — not every small talk session will result in a meaningful connection, and you need to understand and respect this.

Final Thoughts

According to Chet Harding, too many people are unkind to themselves when small talk conversations don’t go as planned. However, you should remember that small talk is a skill and like any other skill it should be practiced. Mistakes are bound to happen — what is important is that you learn from these mistakes to become a more effective communicator.

Don’t overthink it and don’t forget to let things go. Remember that small talk is not just on you, but on the other person as well.