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  • Steven Robinson
    Steven Robinson

    Small Talk with Strangers: How to Find Yourself in Conversation

    Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of many quite like small talk with strangers.Questions, queries and conversations swirl at never ending parties, social events, and even moments of everyday life to create an overwhelming atmosphere of trepidation for many. How can one rise beyond the cliched exchange of questionnaires and bored pleasantries? How can one learn to enjoy such conversations, no matter who is on the other side? The truth is, children have more secrets to share than we think.

    Children are wonderful sources of knowledge, especially when it comes to something as daunting as striking up a conversation with someone you’ve never met before. Children don’t worry about being well-liked, fitting the mould or saying the right thing; they simply connect with their interlocutor based on shared passions and commonalities, express what matters to them, and follow honest curiosity while doing so. As adults, if we take a moment to pay attention to the ways in which children take part in friendly conversations, whereby both parties are engaged and end with sincere smiles, we can apply their natural instinct in our own adult conversations.

    The proof is in the pudding; children make small talk look easy and effortless, no matter if it is with someone new or a best friend. Children don't come into a conversation with pre-scripted lines or force conversation, instead they go with the flow and enjoy it for what it is - a connection between two humans.

    The most important lesson we can take away from small talk with strangers is that it really doesn't need to be - as Nico, a six year old surfer put it “What's the point of always talking about the same stuff?”. This idea of adapting and going with what comes up is key to successful small talk, making each discussion all the more genuine. Going beyond “the weather” in a conversation can be a challenge to some, yet, focusing on the little moments of absolute understanding - the mutual joy of laughter that usually appears after realizing the shared little quirks, memories and world views - is where the beauty of connecting with someone lies. Most importantly, we should trust that the connection will come about if we just let it be instead of pre-scripting and planning our every word.

    These children inspire us to let go of our worries and understand that conversation is not just a tool to get what we want, but a bridge to meet others, explore the human condition, understand their individual perspectives and acknowledge the feelings of others. Perhaps most importantly, children show us that our conversations are not defined by the outcome, rather by the presence, warmth, and enthusiasm with which we bring them.

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