Why I Don't Hate Small Talk (and You Don't Have to, Either)

Raise your hand if you hate small talk.

For many, it’s up there with interviewing and public speaking and other highly feared (translation: detested) career tasks. But at least with interviewing or public speaking, you can see the trophy at the end of the race—i.e., if you do well, you could land a job or generate a ton of publicity for your brand. Moreover, you know that hiring managers and audiences prefer authenticity to canned, robotic performances, so you get to bring some of yourself to the task.

Small talk seems to have missed the authenticity memo. Thankfully, the word is out that conversation starters don’t have to be about the weather. But small talk is still—quite literally—defined as bland and unobjectionable. You’re supposed to get in, avoid offending anyone, and get out. Even the examples of small talk on the Merriam-Webster website are an absolute snoozefest: “They made small talk while waiting for the meeting to start. [A]t the corporate get-together we made the obligatory small talk with some people from the home office.” The only fun part of small talk’s entire entry is the “rhymes with” section (which is actually pretty fabulous).

The good news is: Small talk doesn’t have to suck. I know, because I actually enjoy it. How? I throw the rulebook out the window and try to make these quick exchanges sincere and meaningful. All it takes is three simple steps.

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