What strategies do you have to deal with awkward small talk?

This question is one I can relate to and is inspired by a video I stumbled upon.

  • How do you deal with awkward small talk?
  • Do you have go to topics or questions that work?
  • How do you help members feel more comfortable?
  • Or something else?

For reference Twitter and LinkedIn versions of this question.

A collection of responses

:wave: Add a comment below with a response or edit this post directly to add yours in.

I like to deflect to something else.

Is there something you’d be excited to share?
Regardless of if that person is going to be the perfect person to share it with, I usually find my energy shift when I’m talking about something I’m excited about. Then it opens the door for the conversation to shift.

— Nikki Thibodeau

Small talk gets awkward when you are thinking about what to say vs being present in the moment

Focus more intensely on the other person and let your curiosity loose. Notice the details and ask about those.

If you’re zooming, ask about something in their background.

— Justin Williams

So true. Small talk is about simple questions and listening. Mirroring is the key to small talk. “Man, I’m tired today”, “Your tired today?”, “Yes I just could not sleep for the life of me”, “When is the last time you had a goood nights sleep?”,”blah,blah,blah”. Works like magic!

The master: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c10wgAZaPI4

People make the assumption that small talk is about finding common ground or shared identity and it’s not at all. It’s about being perceived as likable, & people like people who let them talk. They’ll think you’re great & know nothing about you; but you’ll know them very well.

— Blaize

Recently I’ve been using a joking tone with “So, how do you think we could make the world a better place by say next Thursday?” How they respond is a huge indicator as to whether the conversation effort is worth it at all, gets to core values & is fascinating.

— Shawna Tregunna

Have you heard of the awkward turtle?

I use it when I am in an awkward social setting. If you do the hand gesture it’s likely the other person isn’t familiar with it mostly leading to a humourous reaction!

— Sneha Saigal

I lean in… “So what’s your favorite fear stopping you from growing?”

— Dan Greenwald

I like to take whatever the other person seems to get the most excited/annoyed about and ask at least 3 different open-ended follow-up questions. It typically gets actually interesting pretty quickly. This is more or less the strategy I also use when I interview people!

— Anna Holopainen

I try to be more genuinely curious about the other person. Gets past the surface layer/small talk.

— Kevin Whelan

Ask deeply personal questions. Either they get uncomfortable and leave or you get something interesting to talk about. Win-Win.

• Are your parents alive? Which are you closer to?
• Are you happy with how your life is going?
• When’s the last time you pooped your pants?

— Anthony Castrio

go even more awkward and let the other person deal with it of course

— albi stardust

I tell people flat out: I’m not good at small talk. It makes for a great ice breaker!

— Gavin Hammar

One of my favourite questions with my patients is: what are you excited about right now?

Gets them talking about something fun coming up.

Then I follow up to get more details.

— Chandler Scott

Asking “so, what brings you here?” - a soft way to get an extrinsic or intrinsic motivation, from where we might find a common point of connection, or not.

Or this.

— Laís de Oliveira

If awkward in the sense of tiring: find a way to talk about what you or that person really love. Ask a question and tell a story. If awkward as in uncomfortable or unpleasant: exit. Say you need to go to the bathroom and actually go to take a few minutes to emotionally reset.

— SylwiaVargas

h/t Kyle Wild


Brutal honesty through humor.

“Well, this is a boring topic. Let’s try something different, shall we? Tell me about a recent trip you took!”

Make small talk your own.


Never leaving the house is pretty effective

— Spartacus

Small talk gets awkward when you are thinking about what to say vs being present in the moment

Focus more intensely on the other person and let your curiosity loose. Notice the details and ask about those.

If you’re zooming, ask about something in their background.

Being a good conversationalist is not about saying interesting things.

It’s about bringing out the charm and cleverness of others.

“He who goes away pleased with himself and his own wit is also greatly pleased with you.” - good quote but I lost the source

— Justin Williams

Hmm, take a step aside from the conversation by changing subjects

— SaidAitmbarek


Friends + Family

Just ask questions around these themes

— Daryl Urbanski

I love finding the thing people are most excited about. “If we were to talk again next week, what would it be about”?

— Daniel Brenneman

Think of small talk as a dance with that partner. You’re both leaning in and asking questions to find some commonality. Once you find that commonality, you’re golden!

— Ismaen_

Maybe I am just dumb but I like small talk. If it’s a remote call, I’m interested in their local weather. If it’s in-person, I like talking about the cold.

Sometimes it’s nice to be in a shared headspace of, “We’re just 2 people establishing rapport and that’s perfectly fine.”

— Amanda Natividad