This Simple Strategy Can Turn Small Talk Into A Meaningful Conversation


On the scale of awkward things you do with people you barely know, small talk is just below the missed high-five.


But it doesn't have to be.

With a little conversational cunning, it's easy to turn stultifying small talk into meaningful - or at least novel - conversation. All you have to do is "break the mirror."

TED bloggers Chris Colin and Rob Baedeker say that small talk tends to stall out due to "mirroring," that unsatisfying symmetrical happening where, due to misguided attempts at politeness, we answer people's questions directly, repeat their observations back to them, or agree with whatever claim just came out of their mouths.

The result is boring, awkward, and forgettable conversation - as illustrated by Tracy Jordan and Kenneth the Page on "30 Rock."






While you may have had a conversation, you missed a connection.

Breaking the mirror is a cure to that.

Let's go over a few examples, care of TED.

The mirrored example:


James: It's a beautiful day!
John: Yes, it is a beautiful day!

This is terrible.

"By mirroring James' opinion and language, John has followed the social norm," Colin and Baedeker say, "but he's also paralyzed the discussion and missed a moment of fun."

Here's a much less terrible, non-mirrored convo:

James: It's a beautiful day!
John: They say that the weather was just like this when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. If that actually happened.


While strange, it's effective. Now James and John have something to talk about.

While you don't need to invoke American tragedies in order to have a fun conversation, the lesson holds: Instead of just saying back whatever is said to you, advance the line of thought in an unexpected fashion, potentially making friends in your wake.

"Be provocative," Colin and Baedeker conclude. "Absurdity is underrated."

For further small talk tools, watch our video: