Talking to new people can be super intimidating, but a successful first impression often comes down to being able to read both the person and the situation appropriately. Understanding the “Who” and the “Where” will allow you to smoothly strut your stuff with confidence, and who doesn’t want that?
Who Is It?
The status of the person you’re wanting to chat with can help you decide on what type of conversation is appropriate. There are many different kinds of people, but for the most part, they fall into two categories.
1. Authority Figure (boss, expert, someone you look up to/respect, etc):
Speaking to an authority figure means speaking less casually, with a respectful tone, but that doesn’t mean you have to be boring! In fact, these types of people are used to often stilted approaches, so being genuine and relaxed can set you apart in a great way. Don’t chat like you would to your bestie over brunch. How would you chat with your favorite college professor? Think friendly and open, but not too familiar.
2. Peer (acquaintance, coworker, etc):
When chatting with someone in your league, being relaxed, familiar, and friendly is perfect! This makes you approachable and non-threatening, and it encourages the other person to engage too, which means less work for you. While you still should respect personal boundaries, feel free to be much more casual. Pop references, slang, jokes, and relaxed body language are great tools.
Where Are You?
The setting you’re in greatly influences how you behave as well. When your behavior is appropriate to the social situation, it demonstrates that you’re observant and considerate of others, creating the perfect atmosphere for getting to know someone. This helps people trust you, allowing them to be more relaxed instead of worrying what you’ll do next (social walls going up).
If you’re ever in doubt about what’s appropriate, take some cues from those around you.
Formal event (conference, dinner/banquet, meeting, seminar, etc):
Formal settings are much more structured, lending themselves to a more conservative, professional approach. Your conversation should be respectful and not too familiar, but still engaging and friendly. Think how you’d chat with your boyfriend’s parents when meeting for the first time – you want them to like you, but you’re still the newb, so leave some space for them to get to know you.
Casual event (party, work hang out, coffee house, career fair, meet up, etc):
Just like chatting with a peer, casual events encourage a much more relaxed vibe. Laughing, joking, and “hang out” behavior fits right in. New relationships that start in settings like these tend to progress faster in terms of familiarity since there are less rigid social protocols to follow.
(P.S. Want to learn how to rock a coffee meeting? I got you covered.)
Both the “Who” and the “Where” are crucial indicators of how you should engage in small talk. Extremely helpful in avoiding social faux pas, they dictate the tone of your conversation, so don’t ignore them!
Don’t worry, there’s more! This is an excerpt from The Female Entrepreneur’s Ultimate Guide to Small Talk, an exclusive 36-page guide for helping you build genuine relationships, killer connections and a thriving career. Download the full guide FREE! Seriously, it’s on me. 😉