The book teaches you how to initiate small conversations with other people (even if they are not your friends), turn your generic interactions into interesting ones, look captivating, and thus build strong connections.
- King, Patrick (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 225 Pages – 04/13/2020 (Publication Date) – Independently published (Publisher)
Last update on 2023-10-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon
Patrick King is a master when it comes to unraveling the mysteries of social interaction. As the author of “Better Small Talk,” he has taken it upon himself to guide us through the labyrinth of conversation with finesse and charm.
King understands that small talk isn’t just a trivial exchange of words; it’s the art of building connections, creating rapport, and making lasting impressions.
In “Better Small Talk,” King doesn’t just give you a set of rules to follow. Instead, he invites you into the world of effective communication, where you learn to navigate social situations with ease. His approach is practical, and he provides actionable insights that you can apply in real-life scenarios.
What sets Patrick King apart is his ability to break down complex social dynamics into simple, understandable principles. He knows that not everyone is a born conversationalist, and that’s okay. With his guidance, even the most reserved individuals can learn to master the subtle dance of small talk.
Better Small Talk Summary (Detailed)
Remember the last time when you talked to a stranger.
How did that feel?
For most people, it always feels awkward.
The mere thought of starting a conversation with a stranger may be daunting if you’re not an extrovert.
But at some point in life, we must become good at this.
Otherwise, we will miss many opportunities and connections.
In this video, we’ll learn the best lessons from the book “Better Small Talk,” written by Patrick King, that will help us to talk to anyone and make deep connections.
Alrighty, so without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Lesson #1: Break the ice by making the first move.
Whenever we meet a stranger, there is an imaginary wall inside our minds that stops us from having a friendly conversation.
All people are uncertain and guided by the fear.
Humans are naturally afraid of things they don’t know anything about.
This is why having conversations with friends is easier compared to talking to strangers.
A stranger might be one of the most friendly guys on the planet, but just because they are a “stranger,” we avoid starting a conversation.
Note that this happens both ways.
The stranger is also usually in doubt and imagines things that might go wrong.
The conversations can’t start unless either one breaks the ice.
Why can’t that person be you?
Don’t let your overthinking and self-doubt stop you from starting conversations.
Once you realize that the stranger is just another human being, you can show some courage and say something as simple as a “Hi” to break the tension.
Yes, it’s going to be uncomfortable in the beginning. All good things come with challenges, don’t they?
Assume that the other person is your friend and set the tone. By doing that you avoid the vibes of discomfort.
Don’t expect too much from your conversations. Keep it simple.
Small talk is better than no talk.
You might be surprised, but after you start talking, you realize that it wasn’t really that difficult. It’s actually fun to talk to new people.
Don’t worry if you feel that fear. It’s natural to be afraid.
We all have a fear of being judged.
For instance, you might think, “What if they think I’m a weirdo?”
However, most of our worries are imaginary.
Most of the time, the bad scenario won’t even happen.
And no matter how good you are at starting conversations, you’ll be judged by other people regardless.
It’s not like only you will get judged. You will also be judging the other person by their first impressions.
Judging is normal when we are talking to strangers. It’s a survival mechanism in our mind.
Despite all those things, starting conversations ultimately makes us happier, as we are social animals who like to build genuine connections with other people.
And it’s often seen that people who have a quality social circle, I mean the people that actually vibe together and grow together, are happier in general.
Don’t worry if you are bad at starting conversations. In the upcoming lessons, we will learn all the tips and tricks to keep the conversations flowing smoothly.
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Lesson #2: Become captivating by using stories in your conversations.
Most people do generic conversations like:
“What’s your name?”
“What type of work do you do?”
“How are you?”
“Which school did you go to?”
“Do you like doing a certain thing?”
These are all fine and simple ways that almost all people use to start conversations. If you don’t know what to say, you can always rely on them.
But use these questions as your backup.
The problem with these sentences is that they lead to a dead-end. The other person can just answer in one word.
And when that happens, the pressure is on you to ask another question.
At some point, you have to create a room for broad topics.
If you get too specific, the tension increases.
A little bit of tension is good though.
Just make sure that the other person gets an opportunity to expand.
Another issue with these generic sentences is that the other person loses interest quickly. These are boring questions. People feel drained while answering such types of questions.
It sounds like an interview.
You have to keep the conversation flowing smoothly.
And how do you do that?
You do that by using stories!
Stories evoke emotions.
And people remember emotions more than details.
It doesn’t matter whether you are talking to a 10-year-old or a 50-year-old, we all are children when it comes to sharing and listening to stories.
You don’t have to be a genius to feel emotions. On the flip side, it takes tremendous effort to be rational all the time.
Naturally, people tend to remember how they felt at the moment more than facts.
Encourage the other person to tell stories by asking open-ended questions.
- “What were you doing this weekend?”
- “How do you feel about a certain situation?”
Note that these kinds of questions are open-ended.
They can’t normally be answered in one word.
They force the other person to give more details.
When the other person is answering, be genuinely interested in what they say.
They will give you ample opportunities to expand and ask more questions.
As stories are naturally interesting to discuss, they have always worked.
This isn’t some new ninja technique that you learned today.
Humans have always shared stories.
We just forget during conversations that stories can make our conversations more lively.
The more people feel different emotions, the more likely they will open up and feel connected.
But what if you encounter that dreaded awkward silence?
Let’s find out in the next lesson.
Lesson #3: Keep the conversation in motion using associations if you run out of words.
Awkward silences are inevitable at some point during conversations.
But most people get scared and feel pressure during that time.
Everybody dislikes them.
When they happen, our mind starts overthinking things like “What do I say next?”
And often it’s harder to think clearly when our mind is filled with such urgency.
Not all people are quick-thinkers.
The good news is that we can solve that problem by using the free-association technique.
For instance, if you are talking about the weather and the conversation comes to an end.
You can think of associated words for the word “weather.”
Some of them are rain, cloud, rainbow, temperature, pressure, overcast, shower, sunrise, dry, tornado, sunset, humidity, etc.
And then think of a story related to these words. You can think of a past incident that these words remind you of.
Or you can ask the other person questions related to these words.
For example: When was the last time you saw a rainbow?
Now this question is a one-word-answer type.
But the word “rainbow” might evoke certain emotions.
Remember not to overthink it.
Free-association Technique is about letting your mind run free and find out associated words.
You are not going to get some prize if you think of a certain word.
There is no right answer to keep the conversation going.
It could be any number or type of words.
Lesson #4: Use elicitation with people who give no room for conversation.
The author shares simple techniques to draw out responses from people who aren’t willing to talk normally and are giving one-word answers.
Remember, it’s not always our fault that conversations end.
Some people are just bad at talking. And no matter how exciting a topic you bring up, they will end it in no time with a silly response leaving no room to expand.
Personally, I’d not be interested in further carrying out a conversation with them.
But if you still want to talk to them or you are an FBI investigator where you have to elicit responses from a person in custody, you can use these 3 techniques:
Technique #1: Say something incorrect. They would naturally want to correct it.
Almost all people have a desire to be right and be seen as a rational human being.
If you act innocent in front of other people and say a few details incorrectly, they will feel the urge to correct you and respond.
For example, if you say something like “You are wearing a black shirt, you must hate the white color.”
These are clever sentences. Because just because a person is wearing black, it doesn’t mean they hate white.
This is simply illogical.
As the other person doesn’t really hate the white color, they might say something like “No, not really. I just wore black today because I wanted to.”
You can then expand and ask more questions or say something funny to change the mood.
Remember the goal was just to elicit a response and keep the conversation going.
There are no rules.
Also, note that some people don’t really care if you are right or wrong if they are not in the mood.
Technique #2: Observe them and notice something they might want to talk about.
For example, if they are wearing a watch, you can recognize that and ask if they like it, or you can notice the color and ask if that’s their favorite color.
It’s like shooting in the dark, if you trigger the right emotion, you can elicit them to say something.
People like to about things they value.
Technique #3: Find something that you might mutually dislike.
No person on earth doesn’t dislike anything. Try talking about something that they can complain about. Even if they are not in the mood, they would naturally want to talk about things they dislike.
For example, you can talk about how frustrating it is to stand in long lines at a store or how mentally draining unexpected traffic jams can be.
Lesson #5: Avoid dead-ends in conversations like a pro using the power of history, philosophy, and metaphors.
Often we get lazy during conversations and forget that we have gathered so much experience and memories in our lives, which can be used to lead the conversations.
Whenever it’s your turn to respond, try thinking of something from your past and lead from there.
For example, if you are discussing about cars.
You can say something like “I remember the feeling when I first saw Lamborghini, I instantly fell in love with it.”
Here you are using History, drawing from your experience, to carry on the conversation.
This is a memory, something that happened with you.
You can also become a bit philosophical. And share why you like that particular car more than others.
But only do this if the other person seems equally interested in this.
You can also use Metaphors.
For example, if you and the other person are discussing football, you can reply with sentences like “This reminds me of that match between Real Madrid and Barcelona…”
Again, there is no right sentence here.
The goal is to simply carry a conversation.
Don’t try hard to impress the other person.
Ultimately, these techniques are way better than using generic sentences.
Lesson #6: Become a psychologist or detective and ask deeper questions.
Don’t take this literally.
You don’t need to become a psychologist or detective.
Just think about how psychologists and detectives ask questions from the other person to dig deeper.
This comes naturally when you have a genuine desire to understand the other person.
For instance, if the other person seems interested in a movie, ask them “Why are they interested in that movie?” or “Who is the main character in that movie?”
You can use 5 Ws of questioning:
Ask anything that makes you curious.
For example, if they say don’t like mathematics.
Just ask them if they had any bad experiences with their maths teacher in childhood.
Or just ask “Why do they not like maths?” Or you can make it funny and ask “So what’s your favorite subject then?” or “You sound like a Biology lover!”
You can also become a detective.
Let’s say for example, if they are talking about a place they visited yesterday.
You can ask “How long did you stay there?”
Hope you got the point here.
The goal is to just enrich the discussion and gather more details.
Don’t overdo it. The other person might get annoyed.
You have to make sure that the conversation isn’t getting boring.
This is a challenge actually.
If you talk too much about a topic, most people feel bored.
You have to develop a sense and switch the topic if the conversation isn’t going in any direction.
This depends on the people involved in the discussion.
Some people love to dive deeper into topics of their interest. while some don’t. Those who don’t like deep conversations enjoy casual interactions that aren’t too serious.
So you have to judge the person first and act accordingly.
Lesson #7: Be open to learning new things and having new experiences as this naturally makes you an interesting person to talk with.
No book or trick can magically make you a good conversationalist.
People who are good at carrying conversations are usually the ones who have experienced life more.
The more experience you have as an individual, the more you can relate with other people.
Try to travel to different places if possible and understand different types of cultures.
Don’t say no to experiencing new things even if they are boring.
New experiences sometimes make us uncomfortable.
But one has to get out of their comfort zone to boost learning.
Talking about learning new stuff, try to consume a variety of content. Have a little bit of knowledge in all domains.
Most people just watch one type of content.
For example, many people just keep consuming sensational news.
Instead of doing that they should consume some content on other topics like philosophy, business, etc.
Try not to bore people by simply talking about topics that only you are interested in. You might be very passionate about studying science and technology, but not all people care.
Unless they ask you about your expertise, don’t try to overshare your knowledge with them. They won’t value it if you do and think you are trying to outsmart them.
Many of us tend to force discussions into a domain where we have enough knowledge. But you see, every person has a different set of knowledge.
So unless there is an overlap, you might come off as a boring person if the other person isn’t already invested in your domain of expertise.
Try to touch broad topics so that the other person gets the chance to share their thoughts.
People want to feel seen, heard and understood. So don’t stop them from sharing their perspectives.
You become more interesting when people feel understood.
Note the word “feel.” A lot of communication isn’t about being smart. It’s about showing empathy. You might be very proficient at speaking a particular language, but if you don’t connect with the feelings or emotions of the other person, you have lost the game.
Moreover, be genuinely curious about the thoughts of the other person. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting for your turn to speak and struggle to be in the moment.
Also, when you allow others to share their opinions, the pressure on you to come up with new ideas decreases.
Why make your life harder? Let the other person say whatever they want to say and listen effectively.
Follow up with more questions if they look excited about a certain topic, and ask them to expand.
And note that you don’t have to show fake interest or curiosity during conversation, only show interest when you have it.
You can always switch to a different topic and make good use of your time.
There is no point in wasting time by having a conversation if it’s not adding any sort of value to your life.
Also, keep in mind despite doing all these things right, you may find yourself struggling to carry out a conversation. But it’s not always your fault. Just as you are not perfect, other people also have their flaws.
Don’t take conversations too seriously. Let them flow naturally.
If they flow, they flow. And if they don’t, then it’s not always your fault.
Better Small Talk Review
I think this is a great book to master the art of conversation.
Just like many people, I have always struggled to talk to people.
Introverts will get tremendous help from this book.
However, the book won’t make you a champion.
You have to go out of your house and talk to as many people as possible to properly apply all these strategies.
Conversation is a skill. So it’s going to take a few years to become good at it.
The book has just 150 pages with 6 chapters, so it didn’t take me much time to finish.
Also, all the takeaways are provided by the author at the end of each chapter.
My rating: 8/10