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Imagine almost any situation where two or more people are gathered—a wedding reception or a job interview. What do these situations have in common? Almost all of them involve people trying to talk with each other. But in these very moments where a conversation would enhance an encounter, we often fall short.

How to Turn Small Talk Into Smart Conversation

When small talk stalls out, it’s often due to a phenomenon we call “mirroring.” In our attempts to be polite, we often answer people’s questions directly, repeat their observations, or just blandly agree with whatever they say. Such an approach can kill your conversation in the beginning. When you “break the mirror”, you give your interlocutor a chance to move forward in your small talk.

People also tend to do a passable job at talking. We stagger through our romantic, professional and social worlds with the goal merely of not crashing, never considering that we might soar. We go home sweaty and puffy without realizing that small talks are keys to opening greater conversations. In this post, we would like to show you how you can change this. For example, you can ask open-ended questions. Aim for questions that invite people to tell stories, rather than give bland, one-word answers.

If you mirror the opinion and language of your interlocutor, you follow the common social norm, but you also paralyze the discussion and miss a moment of fun. Instead, we recommend you to practice the art of disruption and move the dialogue forward using one of the methods described in this article.

by Gail Teigeiro

An even better way to break the boring conversation mirror is to skip over the expected response and go somewhere next-level. Even if your answer won’t concern the topic of the initial question, it will push the conversation forward. Don’t be afraid to go ahead and be bold. Upend the dinner table conversation! Turn small talk into big ideas at the next summer wedding reception you’re forced to attend! You never know which ideas will be worth spreading next and maybe breaking the ice of a small talk will end in amazing conversation.