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The secret of successful small talk

1. Pay compliments
2. Start with the obvious things
3. Ask about their personal problems
4. Turn the attention to others
5. Avoid difficult themes
6. It’s not so difficult
7. Pay attention
8. Use friendly body language

A. You’re at a cocktail party. There are lots of people there but there’s nobody that you know. What do you do? The good conversationalist would choose to walk up to someone and introduce yourself. We all know people like that — people who can talk to anyone about anything. How do they do it? Well, the good news is that there is no great secret to small talk. There are just some simple techniques that anyone can use to start a conversation and keep it going.
B. In the film Annie Hall Diane Keaton and Woody Allen have just met and they want to impress each other. While they are talking their inner thought appear in sub-title on the screen. ’Listen to me-what a jerk. He probably thinks I’m stupid.’ Thoughts like these kill a conversation. So don’t try to impress other people. Just relax and be yourself. When you talk to someone you show that you are interested in them. So you don’t have to talk about deeply important things. Just talk about simple things like the weather or a television programme that you saw.
C. TV journalist Barbara Walters recalls that when she was younger she met the author, Truman Capote. She wanted to tell him that she liked his book. However, she thought that he must be tired of hearing that, so she just mumbled ’How do you do?’ and turned away. She forgot that everybody likes to receive a compliment and it’s an easy way into a conversation, especially if you follow it up with a question: ’I really liked your book. How long did it take you to write it?’ or ’That’s a nice jacket. Where did you buy it?’
D. Your face and your body can communicate much more than your words. If you stand with your arms folded or if you keep looking around the room, the conversation will quickly end because you will look uninterested. Instead, you should make eye contact; keep an open posture and smile. If you send out friendly messages, you will get friendly messages back.
E. A Victorian lady once compared the two British prime ministers, Gladstone and Disraeli. ’When you speak to Mr Gladstone’, she said, ’you think he is the most interesting man in the world. But when you speak to Mr Disraeli, you feel that you are the most interesting woman in the world.’ People like to talk about themselves and they will think you are fascinating if you ask questions that allow them to do so.
F. But people often don’t listen properly. They are too busy thinking about the next thing that they themselves want to say. Good conversationalistslisten carefully and they show that they are listening, too. They ask questions, nod their head in agreement or say things like ’Oh, that sounds exciting’.
G. There are some topics that you should avoid. Don’t ask people about personal problems, money or religion. It’s also a good idea to avoid the kind of statements that say ’I’m right. You’re wrong’. It’s all right to express your opinions but soften your comments with expressions such as ’I’m afraid I have to disagree with you there’. So, there is no secret to successful small talk. Just follow these simple rules and you’ll soon find that you can hold a pleasant conversation with anybody about anything.

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