From small talk to meaningful conversation (my favorite trick)

Have you ever had the sense that you and another person could become really close friends, but somehow you just got “stuck” as friendly acquaintances?

It’s disheartening, isn’t it?

Here’s a trick for getting out of that Small-Talk Trap. To turn up the friendship dial from Acquaintance to Friend, watch for clues of things that you have in common with the person.

When you find common ground, you have an “in” for getting past small talk to “meaningful conversations” – the ones that deepen your friendship.

For example, if you’re a dog lover and you notice that your friendly acquaintance’s car has a “dog mom” bumper sticker, you can get past your routine “Hey how’s it going?” exchange to, “I saw your bumper stickers on the way in! I love dogs – what kind of dog do you have?”

Chatting about things you have in common does 4 things to turn up the dial on your friendship:

  1. You become more likable. People like people they’re like.
  2. Meaningful conversations, like chats about shared interests or views, deepen friendship.
  3. Conversations about commonalities last longer than small talk. Spending more time together deepens your friendship.
  4. It changes your relationship from acquaintances, who just smile and say hello, to casual friends, who chat with each other about their personal interests.

People give clues about their likes, views, and interests all the time, from slogans on their tote bags to tattoos on their arms.

Here are a few places you might spot signs of your acquaintances’ interests and viewpoints:

  1. A t-shirt or hat supporting a special cause
  2. A t-shirt or hat with the name of a special place
  3. An essential oils bracelet
  4. A travel mug with a slogan
  5. Jewelry with crystals, religious symbols, or zodiac signs
  6. Tattoos
  7. Tote bags with slogans
  8. Bumper stickers
  9. Books they’re carrying or reading
  10. Accessories with band names
  11. Sports’ team accessories or apparel
  12. Comments or references they make about political views, sports news, books, work, etc
  13. Mention of places they go: vegan eateries, sports bars, fitness centers, garden centers, craft stores

The next time you find yourself stuck in the Small-Talk Trap with a friendly acquaintance, put on your detective hat and be on the lookout for common ground. When you detect similarities, bring them up in your next conversation.