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How to make small talk anywhere

Small talk is a skill. Get word-for-word scripts for better small talk. You’ll be able to make them your own—letting your own personality shine through.

Ramit Sethi

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • “I hate small talk, let’s just get to the point…”
  • “We started small talk and then there was this long awkward pause…”
  • “I had no idea how to start the conversation so I just sat there silently”

Small talk. Ugh.

But, I do have good news: Small talk is a skill. And just like any other skill, you can become more natural at it with practice. Thousands of my students have improved their social skills (especially if they weren’t “naturals” in social situations).

Today, I’m going to give you word-for-word scripts to help you start this process. Eventually, you’ll be able to set these scripts aside and make them your own — letting your own personality shine through.

In this post you’ll learn 4 essential small talk skills that work anywhere:

  1. Small talk’s critical function
  2. 3 openers that work in 90% of scenarios
  3. Low-stake small talk experiments to use today
  4. How to introduce yourself

Small talk’s critical function

Why even master small talk? Wouldn’t it be easier to get straight to the “important part” of the conversation?

In this 4-minute excerpt from my Ultimate Guide to Social Skills, I reveal why small talk IS the important part…and why it’s critical to success anytime you meet someone new. You’ll use this skill in job interviews, networking, dating, and even your high school reunion.

We’ll cover:

  • The purpose of small talk in building relationships (0:23)
  • Why you don’t actually want things to “get straight to the point” (1:24)
  • How to keep the conversation exciting with an actual teardown interview with one of our IWT students (2:32)

Just like I showed the student in the video, you only need a few simple tools in your small talk arsenal to avoid those awkward moments.

The first tool I’m going to give you is a fool-proof conversation opener.

The 3 openers that work for 90% of situations

Here are 3 scripts that work in nearly any situation. I’m giving you the exact words.

  • “Hi. How’s your morning going?”
  • “Hi. I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Ramit.”
  • “Good morning. How are you?”

Seem too simple?

That’s intentional! Notice how ordinary they are. The truth is, we’re not searching for magic words. We’re simply looking for a way to connect and build rapport.

It’s easy to “nod and shrug…” and then go back to what you’ve always done (which probably doesn’t include comfortably talking to anyone you’d like to talk to).

Or you can try something new. Use these scripts — starting today — and see how they evoke positive responses in others around you.

How many times have we walked past doormen, bartenders, people on the street, baristas and used our phones to avoid small talk?

We can change that starting today. Just a small baby step — say hello! Use just one of these openers to start a conversation with a stranger today.

Low-stake small talk experiments to use today

The general openers above are great “easy outs” when you’re struggling to think of something to say.

But the hardest part isn’t having something to say. It’s having the confidence to actually do it. One of the best ways to build that confidence is to start very short conversations in low-stakes environments.

I’ll show you what I mean. Here are a few scripts to help practice your small talk skills with baristas and clerks.

Scenario #1: Servers and Baristas
Servers and baristas are paid to be friendly, so this is a low-stakes situation. Just be aware of your environment: For example, don’t make your first small-talk attempt when there’s a line of 50 people behind you.

They’ll ask how you’re doing, and what you’d like to order. Instead of ordering your “regular” (in my case, a tall iced green tea, unsweetened), smile first, then try this instead:

“What’s good? (“Everything!”) “No really, what do you get when no one’s looking?”

From here, you can order their suggestion (“That sounds good, I’ll try it”) or stick to your usual (“Cool, I’ll have to try that next time”).

Non-offensive, safe-for-work jokes can add value too, but test your delivery before trying it:

“Have you ever purposely misspelled someone’s name on the cup because you didn’t like them?”

“Seriously, what’s the craziest order you’ve gotten this week?” (Notice how “this week” helps them narrow down the question so they can answer it easily. You do not want to be asking deep philosophical questions at this stage of the game!)

Smile and keep the tone light. This is fun! Treat it like a game and watch what happens.

Scenario #2: Checkout Clerks
Most checkout clerks are treated like cogs in the machine. By taking a few extra seconds to make a genuine connection, you’re automatically standing out because the bar is set so low.

“Do you get a discount as an employee?”

[Pick up a tabloid] “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone buy one of these. Do you sell a lot?”

Try one or create your own questions based around it. Remember to listen to their response, smile, and keep moving on.

The point here is that easy micro-tests in low-stakes environments like coffee shops and stores give you valuable practice and confidence you can apply to higher-pressure situations like conferences or bars.

How to introduce yourself

What about when it’s critical that you make a good first impression?

Once you’ve practiced in low-stakes situations, you can prepare for higher-stakes environments like events and parties. In the video below, I’ll show you exactly how to craft the perfect introduction, including:

  • What restaurant desserts can teach you about social skills (1:30)
  • The “table stakes” of introductions — you must do this every time (3:25)
  • Word-for-word introduction scripts you can steal and apply right away (3:57)
  • What the most socially skilled people do to take their introductions to the next level (4:15)
  • How to make the bridge from intro to relationship (4:50)
  • How to “hook” someone so they beg you to keep talking (6:10)
  • The simple strategy that keeps me from messing up my introductions (6:40)

Get instant access to the video below.

Craft the perfect introduction

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