7 Hot Tips for Succeeding in Small Talk

We’ve all been there. Face to face with someone you’ve barely just met, and now you feel forced to fake a smile to get time to move faster. I can only assume you are here because you too, struggle with getting the conversation going with a stranger. Small talk can simply be exhausting if you’re not familiar with the right tips and tricks to sail a smooth conversation, but by following these simple steps you will seem more approachable and confident in any social situation, must it be dating, in job-related settings or simply in everyday life. 

According to early grades major and international student from Norway, Martine Güven – the key to successful small talk is confidence and having some go-to questions on hand. Martine, who’s been travelling and on the move, since she was 17, explains how small talk is an important skill and beneficial in all social settings. “It can always get awkward, but as long as you pay attention to whoever you’re talking to and ask inviting questions – I guarantee that you’ll do just fine!” says Martine. 

Martine Güven (24)

Tip 1: Pay Attention to the News!

What better way to get a conversation going than by discussing the news? Pay attention to current top stories so if you feel stuck, go ahead with “did you hear about…?”, or “what do you think about the…?”

 Tip 2: Ask Open-Ended Questions!

Open-ended questions lead to better conversations! Encourage your conversation partner to share interesting details about their life by avoiding yes/no questions and lead the conversation with questions that encourage discussion. 

Tip 3: Pay Attention to Your Conversation Partner!

Paying attention is key to successful small talk. Noticing details in your partner’s story that you can further elaborate on, or by simply noticing their outfit and complimenting it – it all contributes to successful small talk. 
You said you go to West Chester University, how long have you been going there for?
I didn’t realize you’re a communication major, what are you planning on doing with it?

Tip 4: Have Your Go-To Questions Ready

Not everyone’s fit to small talk for longer periods of time, and sometimes you may experience awkward silence. But fear not! By having some standard go-to questions on hand, you are assured a smooth sailing! Depending on what situation you’re in, keep in mind what you may have in common and go from there. 
How do you know ____? What brought you here? 

small talk with coffee

Tip 5: Start the Conversation with a Compliment

This one is a certain win. Don’t be a creep about it though. A simple “that’s a lovely dress” or “that’s a cool shirt, where did you get it?”, can go a long way. Everyone loves a nice compliment, so give it a try and let the conversation flow from there. 

Martine Güven (24) and Isabelle Waehler (22)

Tip 6: Share Anecdotes

Being relatable is key and can result in some nice bonding between the two of you. If your conversation partner tells you about the time he/she was in Spain and you’ve been there as well, shoot your shot and tell a story or two about your own experiences. 


But how? You might think. Next time you’re taking an Uber, compliment your driver’s car or simply ask about their day! Perhaps, say something to the person next to you in class sometimes instead of looking down at your phone? Start small, and before you know it, you’ll be a master small-talker. Practice makes perfect. 


Johnson, P. (2016). 15 tips to get better at small talk. Retrieved from https://www.success.com/15-tips-to-get-better-at-small-talk/
 Lebowitz, Shana. (2015). 10 ways to get better at small talk. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-get-better-at-small-talk-2015-10