Whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or stuck in an elevator with an acquaintance, you have to make chit chat sometimes. And, as its name suggests, it’s awful and cringe-worthy and the worst—it’s always against your will, so it doesn’t come easy.
Take it from someone who has no clue—here’s how to succeed at small talk.
Say the first thing that comes to mind
If someone with Tourette’s is allowed to do it, you should be too. Whether it’s, “Snakes!” or, “My mother doesn’t love me!” or, “I USED TO PEE IN THE SHOWER ON A REGULAR BASIS,” just blurt it out. #theconversationhastostartsomewhere
Play 20 Questions
Right out the gate—don’t preface it, just dive right in. E.g.
- “Are you a man or a woman?”
- “Are you dead or alive?”
- “Are you gay? [Rhetorical.]”
Nod and smile
At everything the other person says. This will convey, regardless of the facts, that you’re engaged/are listening/give a shit. I don’t care if they say, “… I just got back from a funeral,” or, “Oh, that’s my phone—it’s my girlfriend—I’m pretty sure she’s going to break up with me, so I just refuse to answer her calls,” or, “After this I’m going to jump off the roof”—nodandsmileandnodandsmileandre-fucking-peat.
Ask lots of questions
We’ve gone over and over how much people love to talk about themselves. So the only thing you really have to do to survive the conversation is sustain it with questions—about them them them. Again, we are honing the fine art of pretending to care. And people buy it. So sell that inquisitiveness like it’s a subprime mortgage and you’re Wells Fargo.
•”So, what’s your story? Start from the womb. You choose number of weeks—gestation is a tricky topic, and I don’t want to be the one to tell you you’re a moron if you considered yourself a person before you were anything other than a mass of cells. Like a tumor. I mean, fuck—should we ban chemotherapy too?”
•”So which community college did you go to?”
•”Your haircut looks so affordable—where’d you get it?”
You want to put the other person at ease, and make them feel like they can tell you anything, so that the small talk will flow like the river of bullshit from Ted Cruz’s mouth. You can accomplish this by offering up a personal detail of your own to start the conversation. For example, tell them the number of sexual partners you’ve had (make sure to distinguish between oral and otherwise), or show them that sore you found on your tongue (optional: ask them what they think it is), or tell them how much money is in your trust fund. You say crossing lines, I say breaking down barriers. #tomato,tomatomothafuckaaaaaa
Throw out random sayings
There’s going to be a lot of dead air, so when you can’t think of anything to say to fill those awkward pauses, just pronounce a tried and true phrase. Like:
•”Well, there’s more than one way to skin your cat.”
•”You gotta go the whole nine months, am I right?”
•”Well, folks, that’s all murder she wrote.”
•”I wouldn’t trust you with a ten foot pole.”
•”No skin off my back/nose.. Teeth?”