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Small talk is something I usually avoid, because it literally makes my ears ring and gives my a headache. However, it is important in some situations, and, at times, cannot be avoided. I know that when engaging in small talk, I am to discuss the immediate, tangible reality. However, I don't really know how to do that. If anyone has any advice, it would be much appreciated.
 

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i do it like this. i avoid all news sources, social media and just generally anything that would provide me with any information about what's going on in the world.

then even small talk is at least fresh to me. i'm still not interested, but it allows me to engage the information-seeker circuits and say 'i haven't heard about that'. which provides a useful workaround towards letting/inviting the other person to talk without having to actually pretend that i care.
 

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Make observations about what's around you. ("Wow, what a cool outfit." "This place sure is crowded.")

Ask the other person about themselves. People will talk about themselves for a long time. ("So, tell me about your job." "Been to anywhere interesting lately?")

Note: Don't do this for more than twenty minutes or you may be at risk for head explosion.

It helps if you view it as a useful tool. Once you're well versed in it, you can get on many, many people's good sides.
 

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Small talk is something I usually avoid, because it literally makes my ears ring and gives my a headache. However, it is important in some situations, and, at times, cannot be avoided. I know that when engaging in small talk, I am to discuss the immediate, tangible reality. However, I don't really know how to do that. If anyone has any advice, it would be much appreciated.
I think of small talk as something one does with strangers more than friends. It's a way of making an unfamiliar interaction into something pleasurable, rather than painful. With that in mind, there are a few strategies you could implement.

Make it about the other person. Not only does it take a lot of the work off yourself, but it lets them feel seen and heard. Phrasing is key here. "How's it going?" does nothing. Who wants to talk about "it?" Asking, "How's your day going?" can get pretty powerful stuff out of people. You're essentially asking to hear about what is immediately on their mind at the time, but in a way that seems casual and non-intrusive. You're offering your ear to hear about something that they either really want to talk about, or really, really don't. Even then, they'll often talk about how they don't want to talk about their day, and then proceed to talk about why they don't want to talk about their day. It rarely fails to get some kind of result.

It's easier to play offence than defence. This is especially important for INTJ's - we're much better at intentionally acting than reacting. It gives you a lot of control over key factors in the conversation: language, tone, pacing, subject matter, directness/indirectness, etc. These determine the course and duration of the conversation. Also, if your intention is to take the initiative, you'll be more inclined to look for things to talk about, rather than trying to react to whatever the other person wants to talk about.

Adapt your humor. This one I find harder to explain how to do, but it's important. I think it's a matter of understanding why something is funny to people. You don't have to find it that funny for yourself, but you'll be able to find the humor through the relationship you're building (even if that relationship is only meant to last 30 seconds).

Honestly, I think we INTJ's are capable of being very socially cunning individuals, if we care to try.
 

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It's a chance to catch up on what the other person is doing/feeling/etc and a chance to discuss what's going on with your own self. I don't understand what's so difficult about it?
 

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I think of small talk as something one does with strangers more than friends. It's a way of making an unfamiliar interaction into something pleasurable, rather than painful. With that in mind, there are a few strategies you could implement.

Make it about the other person. Not only does it take a lot of the work off yourself, but it lets them feel seen and heard. Phrasing is key here. "How's it going?" does nothing. Who wants to talk about "it?" Asking, "How's your day going?" can get pretty powerful stuff out of people. You're essentially asking to hear about what is immediately on their mind at the time, but in a way that seems casual and non-intrusive. You're offering your ear to hear about something that they either really want to talk about, or really, really don't. Even then, they'll often talk about how they don't want to talk about their day, and then proceed to talk about why they don't want to talk about their day. It rarely fails to get some kind of result.

It's easier to play offence than defence. This is especially important for INTJ's - we're much better at intentionally acting than reacting. It gives you a lot of control over key factors in the conversation: language, tone, pacing, subject matter, directness/indirectness, etc. These determine the course and duration of the conversation. Also, if your intention is to take the initiative, you'll be more inclined to look for things to talk about, rather then trying to react to whatever the other person wants to talk about.

Adapt your humor. This one I find harder to explain how to do, but it's important. I think it's a matter of understanding why something is funny to people. You don't have to find it that funny for yourself, but you'll be able to find the humor through the relationship you're building (even if that relationship is only meant to last 30 seconds).

Honestly, I think we INTJ's are capable of being very socially cunning individuals, if we care to try.

Too lazy to edit this post.
Thank you for the great points and I agree with your final statement. I have learned how to manipulate people through small talk and avoid any of the problem areas of conversation. I have had hour long small talk sessions but the point for me was to control the person not actually care/learn about them.
 

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Isn't small talk more of a formality than anything? I don't think that people actually seek out small talk and enjoy a good small talk and like to small talk with others.

Small talk
 

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I work in healthcare and have to make small talk with patients all day long...I do rehab (not the drugs kind) so I'm spending 30-60 minutes with each person while they work on their exercises, activities, etc. looooots of small talk. It is somewhat taxing but @dingo 's post is spot on. Asking key questions that have enough detail but not too detailed will usually crack the convo open where the other person will just talk a lot and you just listen. That's easier for me...just get them talking! Then I try to find something to comment on, usually another question "oh? I've heard of XYZ city but I haven't been there yet. What is it like?" "oh, you golf? I haven't golfed before, what's the key to it? Or where's the best place to golf?" just stuff like that. I usually try to find something I don't know about and can "learn", I noticed...I guess so I can be actually interested on some level :) its a little easier with old folks as they have a lot of experience to draw from and talk about, though I think you can find that with younger people too..just find that thing or two that gets them started talking. Anyway, yeah..like he said, offence is best!

I do find it takes some practice to get used to and figure out what questions work best, so the more small talk you participate in, the better it goes. I still have some awkward quiet pauses for a while when we hit a dead end in a convo..that happens, too. No big deal.
 
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Asking, "How's your day going?" can get pretty powerful stuff out of people.
heh. more on this piece of social cunning: if they get in first, you can offer them some little teaserish thing that *sounds* as if it's about you, but the real purpose of it is to lay out the welcome mat for them to take over and do the talking for you. i made one of my favourite friendships by answering 'how was your weekend' with 'meh, you know how it goes. seems like you spend most it just trying to get all your ducks in a row for the week.' it wasn't even true of my own life, is where the cunning comes in. i'd spent the whole weekend lying in bed reading and eating chocolate. but i've observed this about other people who do things like housework and tidying up, so it was a ploy to hand the 'conversation' back off to her. she turned out to be an even more stealth-bomber 'original' thinker than me, and i never would have known it if i hadn't offered something that brought her out from under cover.

i've found the main reason why small talk remains so shallow and trivial is because no-body listens to it, and no-one expects it to be listened to. so they're doing exactly the same thing we are: they're not investing. it's more about the subliminal exchange of semi-feral 'i'm friendly' signals than any content. but if you disrupt that auto-babble pattern, even a little bit, you start getting exactly the kind of individuated, authentic stuff even an intj might find a bit interesting.
 

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Small talk is exactly that an opportunity to engage in conversation. You don't start a complicated subject because you are trying to figure out the person to see if they want to talk, or not. Some people who don't want to talk sometimes just ignore you. I assume they are not interested, rude, or maybe can't understand. If the individual is receptive, it's a great way to begin a friendship, waste time, or even for the opportunity for a date. It's a way to know someone and be able to continue communicating. It's gives you a sense of connection, a feel good moment.
 

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This is a good thread. I believe a good strategy to small talk is to practice. As weird as this sounds, I'm serious. AND: You won't have any anxiety or fears about screwing up small talk practice if you pick people you just don't care to screw up with. Then the practice with those people turns into experience to use with people you actually care about.
 

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i also just realised i get really blocked on the initiation aspects of small talk for the simple mechanical reason that it goes against my deep grain to ask direct and personal questions of total strangers. what do you do, where do you live, where are you from, what are you doing this weekend, all that. i can stand in the same space with somebody else for 30 minutes without speaking a word, and be more at ease with that than i would be with grilling them. i just figure, if someone wanted me to know stuff like that they would tell it to me.

so i find it easier to get something initiated, when i want to do that, by making some neutral lateral kind of remark. about something else, not about either of us. that leaves it open for them to talk back and make it personal if they like. i don' mind following up on what someone else has already told me of their own volition. i just don't like making them say it to me, with questions.
 
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Small talk is something I usually avoid, because it literally makes my ears ring and gives my a headache. However, it is important in some situations, and, at times, cannot be avoided. I know that when engaging in small talk, I am to discuss the immediate, tangible reality. However, I don't really know how to do that. If anyone has any advice, it would be much appreciated.
Read Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Lots of great information for people like us. :) but he says for small talk, ask questions about them. don't talk about yourself. Even if they ask you a question about yourself, find a way to flip it into a question about them. After all, people don't care about us, they only care about themselves.
The example of this that he gives, is a person asks about this guys travels. (true story). She was saying about how she always wanted to go there. She kind of lets slip that she's traveled a bit. So rather than telling her about his travels, ask her, "oh. where have you gone?" And she began to ramble about her travels. He was sincerely interested (you have to be or this won't work). But at the end, she walked away praising him as a great conversationalist when he really didn't say much of anything.
 

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It makes me inordinately nervous. Sometimes it comes out all wrong, like a sentence anagram.

It seems so insincere. Sometimes it comes out fine, I'm calm, but it still feels really horrible.

Why don't you do the small talking? I'm good at listening. Lets just talk about something crazy, oh thank you! What a relief.
 
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