Summary of Better Small Talk

Talk to Anyone, Avoid Awkwardness, Generate Deep Conversations, and Make Real Friends

Connecting with others is vital for health, and the quality of communication matters, too. A study done showed that deep conversations are necessary for happiness and well-being.

The author describes how to move beyond small talk in this book. The first step to a meaningful conversation is to prepare oneself psychologically. A 2014 study by Epley and Schroeder revealed that commuters who spoke to strangers felt more connected than those who didn’t talk or go about their usual routine. Also, a study done by Sandstrom and Dunn showed that being efficient stops people from being happy at times. Those who engaged with people around them and smiled were happier. Many assume they’re better off keeping to themselves, but this is false. The author advises people to create conversation resumes that include one’s funniest stories, most notable accomplishments, points of view on various topics, and unique life experiences. This conversation resume should allow one to draw from a wide range of subjects so that an awkward silence can be avoided and one has something meaningful to share with others.

There are 4 levels of conversation and this is how they progress:

1. small talk centers around topics everyone can speak about

2. fact disclosure

3. opinion disclosure is the third stage. Talk for a while until you find some common opinions, but don’t pry

4. disclosure is where people share their feelings directly with one another, and this stage tends to grow deeper when in a meaningful relationship.

It’s a good idea to signal comfort and familiarity to people you want to get to know. It’s essential to set the tone so it’s appropriate for the conversation at hand. Overthinking, over-planning, analyzing, or holding back can lead to a stifling of the conversation. A lot of people discuss safe and boring topics that might be dull. Be playful and relaxed, and don’t be literal with your words. Be expressive and colorful. Exaggerating, misinterpreting for fun, hypothetical questions, and sarcasm can lighten a conversation.

The way to avoid looking awkward when speaking with someone new is to find plausible deniability, which means having a reason to walk up and speak with someone. Most people treat others like strangers and end up making no friends as a result.

1st indirect method to break the ice: Asking for an opinion or objective information.

2nd indirect method to break the ice: Commenting on an environment, context, or situation.

3rd way to break the ice is to comment on something you have in common with another person.

People naturally search for commonalities when they ask someone specific questions like where they went to school and where they’re from. These similarities make one feel comfortable, open, and friendly. People get along with and seek out people who think like them and share similar values. People can create similarity by mirroring. The FBI has used elicitation, which is an excellent strategy to use when a person doesn’t reveal anything about oneself; this is a way to get others to open up by asking indirect questions. The three ways to use elicitation to get someone to open up are: ask a question, act as if they have already answered the question, discover how the person reacts to your guess about their answer.

Storytelling is a way to captivate an audience by telling a story about the past. A mini-story should be three sentences at least. It can include a story about your weekend, job, hometown, hobbies, or other topics. People don’t want to know about one’s weekend when they ask, but they want to hear a story.

1:1:1 method– this story has one action, can be summarized in one sentence, and makes the listener feel one main, identifiable feeling. This method allows people to tell a story with a fast-approaching ending. Be sure to ask open-ended questions that aren’t shallow.

Every participant in a conversation is responsible for the outcome of the conversation. Conversations need to move forward in some way and have momentum by going deeper or wider into a topic.

Joseph Campbell, an academic who studied the world’s major spiritual traditions, said stories and myths all have a Hero Cycle. The hero travels from point A to B and back as they deal with challenges and conflicts and transform. People can respond to this cycle because they’ve all undergone particular challenges in life. Conversations are made of stories, questions, and statements in a series. Know when you are stuck on one topic, and it’s time to move on. A conversation can take on momentum through a free association technique, in which you freely think about an association with a word mentioned.

Giving people compliments fast and liberally is a way to make them like you. There are two complements: level 1 is low-hanging fruit complements that are surface level, and level 2 complements have depths. They are based on things people choose and things people control. For example, people don’t have control over how they look physically, but they have control over how they style their hair or what clothes they wear. Level 2 complements are based on a person’s life choices. People are grateful when you noticed their quirks, but stay positive and nonjudgmental when pointing them out.

Conversations go both ways; one must listen, speak, and give feedback. Some people only want to talk about their lives or have an agenda for their conversation.

People can tell if you are interested in what they say or are waiting for your turn to speak about yourself.

Silence is a good communication technique; you should occasionally ask people how they’re doing. It’s best to listen to a person with an empty mind rather than prepare for what you will say next. Both speakers should have an equal chance to take the spotlight.

Please don’t give the speaker a blank stare, and show them that you’re listening by using gestures and facial expressions. Don’t use conversations just to be heard, nor use them to steal the spotlight. When you listen to others, you benefit yourself and learn.

Become interested in other people if you want to make friends.

Here are six strategies to create more depth and intimacy in relationships:

1. Posing open-ended questions

2. Understanding a person’s beliefs and assumptions

3. Delving deeper into all aspects of the story

4. Asking questions after one is done speaking or when the conversation is over to follow up

5. Becoming comfortable with silence

6. Cheering your conversation partner on so they can come up with their epiphanies

Good questions allow people to develop new ways of thinking.

Become the type of person others want to know.

You becomes more interesting when you have many interests. You should be interesting, multidimensional, and engaging. Say yes more often to the opportunities that come into your life rather than no, and don’t overthink things.

When you know more things, you can connect with more people and have more topics to discuss. Educate yourself and become proactive in learning new things. The author recommends getting to know a broad range of topics rather than going deeply with one topic to connect with others. Form your own opinions even if you have to copy those of others in the beginning. When a person freezes and says nothing or very little about a topic, the person who brought up the topic will be afraid to bring up another topic because they are afraid to feel rejected again.

One toxic conversation pattern to be aware of is seeing only black and white which means you only see your way as the correct way of doing things, and you believe everyone else who doesn’t think the way you do is wrong. It’s vital to form your options in life, but it’s also essential to respect and honor the opinions of others.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief summary of Better Small Talk. Let me know what your favorite takeaway is.






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