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How To Make Small Talk With Anyone (An Essential Interpersonal Skill).

Let's start by talking about the importance of interpersonal skills.

We use interpersonal skills every day when we communicate and interact with other people. These skills include a wide range of abilities, but particularly listening and speaking skills. But also how we emotionally connect and respond to other people through empathy. Interpersonal skills are a key component to success and happiness in life. Here I will help those who struggle to communicate effectively with others and struggle with small talk. It is the first step in acquiring good interpersonal skills.

Start by covering a lot of ground.

You do not want to get into a deep conversation in the beginning. I will help you there at the end of this post. In the beginning, you want to find what you have in common, so you have to cover a lot of ground to find the key connection points. Think of your conversation as building a fire. When making a fire, you start with kindle, then move to twigs, then various sized sticks. Then you add the logs (this is the deep conversation).

Be enthusiastic

and show them you understand by reflecting back to them and mirroring what they have just said. I will speak more briefly to this below.

Most people enjoy sharing facts about themselves. So ask questions. But also share things about yourself, especially the similarities. It makes conversation easier when the other person can find commonality.

Offer a compliment

This is the perfect opportunity to offer a compliment. Most advice will tell you to start with a compliment, and that may or may not be the ideal opportunity to do so and can feel awkward. The complement does not have to be directed to the person but directed to something you like mentioned in the conversation. If ice cream is brought up..."I really like vanilla," or "I know the perfect place to get some good ice cream."

Similarly, when you find a topic or idea you agree on, let them know you agree by nodding and simply saying, "Yeah, me too!" Even where you disagree when appropriate. "Are you kidding, vanilla! no chocolate is where it is at!"

As the conversation moves on, share your opinions. This can be accomplished by using the REMINDS ME OF. This technique is shown below.

Ask what, why, when, and where questions to the things you find interesting. Complement or say something good about something they say in their statement.


Use this shifting the conversation to keep it flowing. The video shows that REMINDS ME OF helps you move the discussion by thinking of something the person has said to something their statement reminds you of. You will see this being utilized by Joe Rogan in the video and the example I provide here.


Restate the last one to three words the person says or a selected one to three words they have said with an inflection of voice or questioning manner. This lets them know you are listening and allows them to use their eye contact and body language (a nod and yep) so the conversation becomes reciprocal and not one-sided. This is demonstrated well in the video also.

Your conversation might go like,

You: Where are you initially from?

Them: California.

You: (compliment) I love the weather there. Or (mirror) California! (then offer the compliment) I loved the weather when I was there.

Or mirror with only one word, California! And let the slight break and silence be the incentive for the other person to continue. If they are short on words, use your compliment and REMINDS ME OF. "I love the weather there."

Them: Yeah, it’s nice

You: (REMINDS ME OF) It’s like NC Spring Mountain weather year-round.

Ask why they moved, using the what, why, when, and where questions.

REMINDS YOU OF can also be facts you are reminded of. For instance, when they mention California, it may remind you of a fun California fact, like, how old the redwood trees are (some of them reaching 2,000 years old), and you go into how you would like to visit the redwoods if given the chance. Or the fact that everyone is leaving the State for Texas. Now you can go into cool facts that remind you of anything Texas. “I almost missed my flight in Dallas!“

Keep in mind when mirroring, it can be as simple as repeating word for word one up to three words. You may also mirror by using your own words to the ideas that has just been expressed. So, for example, someone says, "it is hot outside," you can say, "It is miserable." You are mirroring the content, not necessarily the words. Switch it up. This may remind you of how it was working tobacco fields when you were younger or that you cannot wait for fall.

Once you move into deeper conversation and have moved beyond the covering a lot of ground phase, you might want to use the paraphrase technique and pair it with REMINDS ME OF. This is when you state the essence of what has just been said using fewer words but without changing the meaning of what was said. When utilizing this skill, you attempt to offer feedback on the person's view of things. You get to the essence or idea or the person’s statements and use that to bring you into a deeper conversation about something else of similar essences and meaning. This way, your discussion goes beyond mere things and platitudes but whole concepts and ideas. This is where conversations take off, and you become an active listener, attentive with eye contact, body language, and questions. From there, you take turns, and before you know it the conversation is off and running.

Odell Terrell

Odell Terrell is a mental health counselor in Greensboro, NC. He graduated with a MS in Counseling from Divine Mercy University in Arlington, VA, and places an emphasis on working with spiritual integration, adults and adolescents, trauma, family and children, and grief and loss. Odell received his undergraduate degree from the University of St. Leo's in St. Leo Florida, with a degree in Psychology. He has spent his last 15 years working in the field of emergency services. It is in working with people in emergency situations, both patients and first responders, that Odell has learned how to deal respectively with people in crises mode, helping instill a sense of hope and healing. Odell is happily married, for 17 years, and is the father of 9 children and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his family and child therapy practice.

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