Never Make Small Talk Again

Tool #1: Before you leave the house, anticipate connection

This is a tiny step in your day, and yet it has huge benefits to get you into the proper headspace for bonding with new people as well as people you already know and love.

Before you leave the house, as you’re brushing your teeth or putting on your shoes, fondly remember recent social rituals you’ve witnessed around you. Then, look forward to more of those that you’ll be sharing with people throughout your day or evening.

Allow yourself to look forward to those little connection moments—even unspoken ones like acknowledging eye contact or a warm smile.

Tool #2: Notice rituals happening around you

As you go about your day-to-day life, notice little social rituals happening around you with heightened awareness and appreciation. Notice as you’re in line at the grocery store the sweet smile the customer in front of you shares with the cashier as they bond over how delicious the cherries are right now. As you head into work, notice your colleague opening the door for a woman who then looks up from her phone and smiles at him appreciatively.

These little moments of connection are happening around you all the time. When you notice and appreciate them more and more, you feel full and happy and connected with people. It’s the same phenomenon you experience when you look to buy a certain car and start seeing its make and model everywhere. When you’re looking for social rituals in your everyday, you’ll see them!

Tool #3: Use the environment to begin the dance gently

When you’re out and about, like at a cocktail party or heading out of a yoga class, feel free to begin the social ritual dance gently.

If you’d like to connect more with someone who seems pleasant and open, bring up the weather or something about the environment or venue you’re in: the beautiful decor or an intense vinyasa pose.

Making a comment about the environment on a large scale (weather) or small scale (the immediate surroundings) is a great, natural way to ease into the social ritual space with a new person. From there, be gently inquisitive about their experience. Social ritual doesn’t work if you’re not asking questions and seeking others’ thoughts and opinions. That’s the whole fun of it and precisely what distinguishes it from meaningless small talk!

So, make sure you remember they are dynamic and interesting individuals, and treat your interaction as a small treasure hunt to find out new things about them even if it’s only the simplest of things. Learning things about them doesn’t always have to be through words. You can notice a quality of theirs by the way they’re standing or by a piece of jewelry they’re wearing.

Tool #4: Be patient with others

When someone is talking your ear off without seemingly paying any attention to YOU, remember they’re trying to participate in the social ritual the best way they know how.

Perhaps it’s also a social ritual to be patient and understanding when others might be a bit awkward and flustered in the moment. By slowing down and relaxing yourself, you’ll be gently inviting them to do the same with you.

Tool #5: Enjoy the process

When you view the experience of a light-hearted conversation with your new frame of social ritual, you are free to genuinely enjoy whatever conversation you find yourself in.

This connection frame suits you. You are an introvert, after all. Deep connections are your specialty, friend. Assuming that connection exists upon seeing someone new, even before saying hello, makes for a rich modus operandi and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Before you know it, the stress and pressure of making small talk on the spot melts into a curious and open-minded exploration of how to simply and genuinely connect human to human.

Never Make Small Talk Again

Being Present

Some excerpts:

Susan: What’s your advice to somebody who is in a place right now where they are feeling fearful? How do they go from that place to a place where they are present with their whole selves?

Amy: This may seem small, but it’s really important: realize that everyone has felt this way and half the world is feeling this way right now. You’re not alone.

Second is to affirm your core values. List five things that are really core to who you are; rank them; choose the top one and write about why it matters to you; and write about a time when you were really able to express that and how it felt. That’s called self-affirmation. It’s what you care about. Self-affirmation has been shown in hundreds of studies to reduce people’s social anxiety dramatically. When you do that stressful thing, you know that whatever the outcome you’re still you. You feel more grounded, you feel less judged, and you become better at whatever the challenge is.

And third — the body is so linked to the mind. If you start to understand how that’s working, you can have your body tell you how you’re feeling. You’re not being chased by a predator — you’re just a little stressed out. Opening up and acting as if you’re not feeling threatened — you’re feeling safe — tells the mind you’re okay.


Susan: What are one or two of the most powerful shifts we can make?

Amy: We spend more time slouched and slumped, wrapping ourselves up and hiding ourselves, than we do open and expansive and taking up space and using proud postures. Your mind is hearing from your body that you are under attack. Don’t let your body tell you that. Just sit up straight. Set up your workspace so you have to reach a little bit. Put pictures of your family and people that you love high up on your wall so you have to look up. Get up and walk. If you’re a fetal sleeper, when you wake up, stretch your arms out before you put your feet on the ground.

The other idea is that before you walk into challenging situations, expand as much as you want. If you’re alone, you’re not offending anyone. So why not be as expansive as you can possibly be? When you walk into that situation, you have optimized your brain to not see it as a threat, but to see it as an opportunity. You walk in with a sense of confidence and security, instead of that sense of fear. * 

Susan: How do you stay present in moments of conflict and address issues in the moment?

Amy: Conflict is definitely a challenge — to go into it knowing you might not win. When you walk into situations that have a lot of conflict in them, maybe the first thing to do is to be present enough to allow the other person to speak first. To ask them how they’re feeling. Can they explain what’s going on from their perspective? You’re not giving power away — you’re actually allowing them to feel seen and understood.

When you respond in a moment of anger, you are not going to respond well. If you let them get through it, you’re going to get more information. Maybe then you pause and say “I need to step away from this for a minute.”

5 Ways to Make Small Talk More Meaningful

*The key to making small talk more useful
and less draining is to steer the conversation toward topics that are actually
interesting (the sooner the better)
—something that will fill our battery, not
drain it. So what do introverts like talking about? Ideas, ideas, ideas.

Here are more tips to
survive small talk and turn it into something meaningful:

1.       If you feel anxious about making small talk, remind
yourself that your nervousness is coming from you and your beliefs, not the
 Ask yourself: what’s
the worse that can happen? If the small talk fails and the other person doesn’t
like me, so what? Also, just because small talk was awkward in the past doesn’t
mean it will be that way again.

2.       Take the spotlight off yourself by asking questions. We introverts tend to
be private and reserved, so we feel uncomfortable disclosing a lot of personal
information right away—at least not until we trust the other person or make a
meaningful connection. Take the pressure off yourself, and get the other person
talking by asking questions about his or her life.

3.        Embellish your responses. Of
course, if you relentlessly bombard the other person with questions, it will
feel like an interrogation. Eventually, you’ll have to answer some questions
yourself. To avoid cutting the conversation short, share more than just
one-word, closed answers. Add some intriguing tidbits to your responses so you
provide “hooks” for the other person to continue the exchange. For example,
when someone asks how you are, instead of replying, “Fine,” say, “Good, thanks.
I jogged on my favorite trail this morning, and I’m feeling great!” Or, “Good,
although with the holidays just around the corner, I’m feeling a little
stressed about all the shopping and food prep I have to do.”

4.       Deepen the conversation with open-ended questions. You’ll actually get to know your
conversation partner, and you might stumble across something meaningful in the
process. Open-ended questions invite the other person to say more than just a few
words. Try things like:

“Are you working on anything exciting lately?”

“What has been the highlight of your week?”

“When you were a kid, what was your dream job? Is any
part of that still true?”

“What are your thoughts on [insert recent issue in the
news lately]?”

5.       Go easy on yourself. Introverts tend to be
introspective souls who think deeply about things. However, this incredible
gift can become a curse when we use it to brood about our mistakes. If a
conversation didn’t go according to plan or ended on an awkward note, be kind
to yourself. Everyone messes up sometimes. Spend a few moments reflecting and
focusing on your takeaway lesson for next time. As author and motivational
speaker Denis Waitley writes, “Failure should be our teacher, not our
undertaker.” You should expect that to accomplish something worthwhile, you’d
have to deal with the occasional blunder.

5 Ways to Make Small Talk More Meaningful

Class Participation Penalizes Introverts

Some quotes:

two students. They both receive an 80 as their final course grade. Ideally,
that number should reveal what each student did or did not
understand about the content and demonstrate her ability to perform particular
skills. But what happens when the teacher includes “class participation” as 25%
of the grade? Student A might have received a 90 on the final comprehensive
exam or project, which assesses content and skills. Or maybe Student A received
a 65 but, due to constant participation in class, benefited from a boost to her

When a
grade combines evidence of learning with class participation, its meaning is
distorted—not only for students, but also for teachers, parents, and institutes
of higher education. If grades should primarily communicate student
achievement, how is one grade that includes participation and achievement
to be clearly interpreted?

suggest that teachers stop counting class participation as part of a student’s
grade—a move that not only increases transparency about actual learning
but also acknowledges introverted students.

When class participation becomes mixed into one
grade with academic achievement, overall academic grades no longer communicate
what we believe they should communicate: evidence of learning.
participation becomes a motivator for a portion of expressive, extroverted
students and a roadblock for less verbally communicative, but no less
knowledgeable or interested, learners.

learning targets is assessed separately from habits of scholarship (sometimes
called habits of work), which include qualities like responsibility, revision,
participation, or preparedness. These
habits are articulated so that “students know what behaviors are expected and what they
look and sound like in the classroom.”
 In this way, all learners have a clear vision of how
achievement is determined and an understanding of their roles in contributing
to their successes.

Including participation into a grade
that is intended to reflect evidence of learning results in a murky
understanding of students’ achievement. What part of the grade reflects actual
knowledge or skill, and what part is participation or effort?
The traditional approach
to including participation into one letter or number grade also reinforces
classroom participation that supports superficial conversation—talking for the
sake of “earning points.” It penalizes the quiet, introverted student, who
might be listening and creating space for thinking and reflection. When we
grade learning separately from participating, we offer teachers the opportunity
to create a classroom structure where listening is as valuable as speaking and
where the meaning of a grade becomes clear to students, teachers, and families.

“Think, Pair, Share.” This technique has become one of the
most important tools in my teaching toolkit as it promotes collaboration and
peer-to-peer learning among all students.
Susan describes it beautifully, so
here’s her explanation:

The teacher poses a question to the
class and asks students to first reflect on or write down their answer, and
then share it with a peer. Sometimes a shy student can find confidence through
the encouragement of a single peer before sharing his idea with the larger

Class Participation Penalizes Introverts