You talk, I talk...

BREAK THAT ICE: Learn and develop the skills to carry on small talk.

BREAK THAT ICE: Learn and develop the skills to carry on small talk.  

YOU REMEMBERED all the names correctly and associated them with the right faces. You remembered the protocol for proper introduction and followed all the steps perfectly and the first hurdle is over. Whew!! You are on a roll or, you think you are on a roll. Now you come to a screeching halt. You have nothing to say!

This is the part that most people dread in a social interaction — "conversation". How to start, maintain, and conclude a dialogue. People who have nothing to say in company become extremely shy, tongue-tied and insecure.

Most people are petrified of that silence or impasse in a conversation and your brain is in high gear, running 100 miles an hour, trying to think of something, anything to say. You wonder, "I am a pretty well-put-together person normally. What is wrong with me?" You are afraid that others may think that you are a dimwit, unsophisticated and nervous. First, put your mind at ease. We are our own worst critics. To help you, , here is a peek into a big secret. You are not alone! According to Dr. Bella De Paulo, 40 per cent of all adults have social anxiety and 75 per cent of all adults experience anxiety at a party with strangers. So just relax. There are lots of people out there with the same or similar anxieties. Most probably, the person you were admiring for his or her confident manner of conversation, belongs to this category.

As comforting as the statistics are, let us see how you can save yourself from this social dilemma without forcing yourself. Besides, when one forces oneself to say something brilliant, it comes out all wrong anyway.

The idea is, once again, RELAX. Next, have some faith in yourself and learn and develop the skills to carry on small talk. Small talk is the ability to appear as a brilliant conversationalist.

You talk, I talk...

Notice the phrase "ability to appear"? That is the operative word here. Small talk is chitchat. No profound theories are explored or floated, just plain inconsequential conversation in a social setting that allows you to move about easily, meet a lot of people and have "conversations" with all of them, irrespective of their age, gender, background and education.

Once you have mastered the art of small talk, you get comfortable with people and the conversation just flows naturally out of you. A word of caution here, though. In any conversation in the social arena, there are certain topics you never bring up.

They are — cost of things, money earned (the whole subject of money is tacky, tacky), health problems (unless someone asks you specifically, nobody is interested in your little tumour), ethnic jokes (very offensive), sexual jokes (now you know better than that, especially in a mixed company), age (none of your business), deeply personal questions (don't ask that lady if she is dyeing her hair), religion and politics.

The last two topics can be very explosive, especially in a gathering where you do not know everyone intimately. So, what is there left to talk about? There are still a million other topics left in the world.

Weather is the best lifesaver! Think about the variations you can develop on the present rain. Unlimited. Sports, current events and the city you live in, are some of the examples of topics where you can have unlimited conversation. Now add to the list, think and be creative. The choice is yours!

(The writer is the director of ProEt Centre for International Protocol and Etiquette. Ph: 23372004/ 55503605; e-mail:


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