By | John Bowe | www.cnbc.com
Small talk is often dismissed as being pointless and anxiety-producing. People either want to jump right into real conversation, or they want to go home. But some of the most important relationships begin with a casual conversation.
Making memorable small talk hardly requires ground-breaking style or creativity so much as sensitivity and understanding. As a public speaking coach, I always tell people to think about finding common ground. Your goal? Show emotional intelligence. Take a risk, but don’t be threatening.
Here are five questions that people who are good at small talk use to seem more real and less awkward:
1. “Where are you from?”
The best conversation starter questions are tailored to fit the moment, and they invite the other person to share in a way that’s neither invasive nor difficult to answer.
Luckily, people love to talk about their hometowns. If you’re at a wedding in Boston, for example, you might ask, “Did you fly in or are you from around here?” If you’re at a dog show, you might ask, “Are you a long-timer here at Westminster?”
A variant of this question could also be, “How do you know so-and-so?” (i.e. the person hosting the event). In any case, the point of these questions is simple: “How did you come to be standing in front of me?”