Better Small Talk

Better Small Talk - by Patrick King #

Date Read: 2023-04-02 #

Notes #

Practice short interactions

Practice being emotional. Practice passage below

After climbing down from the china wall the travelers found themselves in a disagreeable country, full of bogs and marshes and covered with tall, rank grass. It was difficult to walk without falling into muddy holes, for the grass was so thick that it hid them from sight.

However, by carefully picking their way, they got safely along until they reached solid ground. But here the country seemed wilder than ever, and after a long and tiresome walk through the underbrush they entered another forest, where the trees were bigger and older than any they had ever seen.

“This forest is perfectly delightful,” declared the Lion, looking around him with joy. “Never have I seen a more beautiful place.”

“It seems gloomy,” said the Scarecrow.

“Not a bit of it,” answered the Lion. “I should like to live here all my life. See how soft the dried leaves are under your feet and how rich and green the moss is that clings to these old trees. Surely no wild beast could wish a pleasanter home.”

“Perhaps there are wild beasts in the forest now,” said Dorothy.

“I suppose there are,” returned the Lion, “but I do not see any of them about.”

They walked through the forest until it became too dark to go any farther. Dorothy and Toto and the Lion lay down to sleep, while the Woodman and the Scarecrow kept watch over them as usual.

Conversation Resume #

Daily life:

  • What did you do over the weekend?
  • How is your week/day going?
  • How is your family/significant other?
  • How is work going?


  • What are your hobbies?
  • What’s your biggest passion or interest outside of work?
  • Where are you from?
  • How long have you lived at your current location and worked at your current job?
  • Where did you go to school and what subjects and activities were you involved in?
  • What do you do for work?


  • What are your five most unique experiences?
  • What are your five most personally significant accomplishments?
  • What are ten strengths—things you are above average at, no matter how big or small.
  • Name ten places you have traveled in the past five years.
  • Name the past five times you have gone out to a social event.
  • Name ten things you cannot live without—don’t take this question too literally. It is asking about your interests, not household staples.

Staying Current:

  • What are the top five current events of the week and month? Learn the basics and develop an opinion and stance on them.
  • What are four funny personal situations from the past week? Be able to summarize them as a brief story.
  • What are the four most interesting things you’ve read or heard about in the past week? Be able to summarize them as a brief story.

Conversational Stages #

  • small talk
  • fact disclosure
  • opinion disclosure
  • emotion disclosure

Set the Tone #

Less judgement, playful, relaxed.

Don’t drop the ball. Give more details beyond the literal answer

Make the First Move #

If you were lost, you would not hesitate to ask for directions.

  • ask for objective information, or a subjective opinion
  • comment on something in the environment, situation
  • comment on a commonality

Find Similarity - be prepared to ask 5 questions in a row. Mirroring. Or mutual dislike

Manufacture Connection #

  • Recognition/Compliment
  • Complaining
  • Correction - state something you know to be obviously incorrect
  • Naïveté - act like you’re on the cusp of understanding

The 1:1:1 Story

  • 1 action
  • 1 sentence
  • evokes 1 primary emotion

Asking for stories

  • broad but with specific directions or prompts
  • Ask about feelings and emotions
  • Give the other person a direction to expand their answer into, and give them multiple prompts, hints, and possibilities
  • If all else fails, directly ask “Tell me the story about…”
  • add to the primary emotion being conveyed

Stories should not be stagnant

Practice free association - come up with 6 related words quickly

HPM - History, Philosophy, and Metaphor

SBR - Specific, Broad, and Related

EDR - Emotion, Detail, and Restatements

Compliment #

  • superficial things
  • things they have made a conscious choice about

Ask better questions #

  • open ended questions
  • find out the assumptions
  • get all sides of the story

Build Thyself #

  • have multiple interests/hobbies
  • something you are working towards
  • say yes
  • develop and share opinions
  • avoid being judgemental