Silence isn't necessarily golden. Sometimes it's just plain uncomfortable to find yourself with strangers and nothing to say. Author Debra Fine believes that learning to make "small talk" can reap big rewards. She explains how in her new book, "The Fine Art of Small Talk."
The following are a few of her tips:
Greet Warmly — Use Names
"Make sure if you don't remember someone's name to ask," Fine says. "And, be prepared to introduce people to each other." It's also important to smile and be the first to say hello.
Show An Interest — Dig Deeper
Fine would like everybody to avoid clichéd questions that merely lead to clichéd answers that no one really cares about. "How was your day?" is one. You'll never know how someone's day was unless you dig deeper. You could say, "What went on at work today?" That kind of question will bring a more detailed, thoughtful answer, and you can follow up with another question. You have to actually be interested in the other person to have a good conversation.
Be A Good Listener
You can give visual clues that you are listening. You can nod your head, lean in towards the speaker to let them know you are paying attention. She says verbal cues include saying "yes," "uh-huh."
Prepare For Conversation
"Before going anywhere you need to make sure you have two or three things to talk about," Fine says. "It only takes a couple of minutes to prepare. The worst time to think of what to say is when you actually have to say something. You can talk about current events or what you already know about the person. But you have to be prepared."
Caution With Acquaintances
Fine says you have to be careful in what you assume with people you already know. Don't ask a question if you don't know the answer. For example: "How's work going?" might be a really bad question if you're talking with someone who's working at FEMA. Instead, you might say, "Bring me up to date about work since I saw you last." You have to be careful. You don't know whose marriage has fallen apart or who's lost their job. Ask open-ended questions.
Stop Being An Advisor
There's a real temptation in the course of conversation to respond to someone with advice. Resist that temptation. "No one asked for advice," Fine says. "They just want to be heard. You don't have to solve people's problems in your conversations."
Don't Melt From Conversations
Make a graceful exit. Try and shake the hand of the person you've been talking to. Show appreciation by saying, "It was interesting hearing about your trip."