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A quick search about small talk and effective small talk reveals lists of questions, articles on the “necessary evil” of it and hacks to make it easier.
What if you tried to personalize it instead of trying to avoid it? Instead of arming yourself with a list random questions or looking for an easy way out, what if you prepared for the conversation and walked away from the interaction having accomplished something?
If you consider small talk a necessary evil of course you’re going to try and avoid it. If it’s always awkward you’re not going to initiate it and if you think it’s a waste of time you won’t bother putting yourself in position to have the conversation in the first place.
Small talk can be all of those things. Often because it’s not the conversation we prepare for.
We prepare for the big moments and the “real” conversation. We think small talk is something we endure or blow off altogether.
Last week I told you about my goal to not respond with “Busy” when someone asked, “How are you?” Update: I mostly succeeded. But I also caught myself giving 1-word answers that weren’t very helpful in sparking conversation. I was also guilty of delivering a half-hearted response and not being present enough in some of my interactions to ask the obvious follow up question or make a real connection.
So the goal will stay the same this week.
I talk for a living, but even I need to prepare for conversations and remember to stay in the moment. Every interaction, including small talk, is more gratifying when you do that. Here are a few sports conversation starters to help you prepare for those moments this week.
This week I’m making it my goal to not say “Busy” in response to a question like “How are you?” or “How are things?”
It’s accurate to say that I’m busy, but that’s not an interesting answer. My life is always busy (especially when sports season overlap this month) and everyone is busy too.
Telling people we’re busy isn’t a great conversation starter. I understand that sometimes we really are too busy to talk, but often I give that answer because I haven’t taken the time to come up with a better one. (Because I’m busy, of course.)
So here’s what I’m going to do: This week, I’m going to try to answer the question “How are you?” accurately and in a way that could prompt a conversation, or at the very least make for a more interesting exchange.
Here’s what I’ve workshopped so far:
This post was originally written as a guest blog for Alumna House, a company redefining women's game day apparel. The baseball box score and game were taken from early in the 2022 MLB season, but the overall strategy is the same all season long.
You’re a fan, but you only caught part of the game or maybe you didn’t watch it at all. I get it. Life is busy and even if you love watching baseball sometimes you just can’t fit it into your hectic schedule.
Just because you didn’t watch a game doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the game like a pro. Trust me, I am one. I’ve worked in sports broadcasting for 22 years and spent the last 15 years on the Seattle Mariners television broadcast team. I watch sports for a living, but even I don’t have time to watch every game in its entirety or see every highlight. Sometimes a quick glance at a box score is all I need to figure out what happened.
A baseball box score is packed with...
Saying hi is easy.
The sentence that comes next is the one that can trip you up. If it’s always “How are you?” you’ll probably find yourself following the exact same script for every single conversation and you might also notice you’re not getting very far in the conversation.
Avoid the conversation road block by have an actual question or conversation starter at the ready. These sports topics could work.
I understand the reaction. I know it can seem annoying. Fans (and I know you don’t want to call them that) who only become fans after a team gets good. Fans who don’t understand the pain of losing seasons, unmet expectations and disappointment or the angst that goes along with being a life-long fan. It’s tempting to write off bandwagon fans and believe they’re not “real fans.”
Wrong. There’s no right or wrong way to be a fan. You were new to sports once too. Everyone starts somewhere. And sometimes the winning team, the team that’s making the most headlines, the team that’s being talked about most, is the easiest place to start. You can’t blame a fan for buying into the hype created by winning team and engaged fanbase.
Here’s what you can do, help newcomers grow their fandom and move past being bandwagon fans into more interested, engaged fans.
NFL Training Camps get underway this week. It’s one of my favorite times of the year, not just because I love football, but because of the networking opportunities in football conversations.
This week is a great time to check in with football fans and ask questions like:
Here’s the important part – you actually need to listen to their response because they’re giving you an easy way to “circle back around” in a month when training camp ends and later in the season.
That’s when small talk becomes beneficial, when you make a connection and create follow up opportunities. There are a number of topics you can use this week:
“What’s your favorite season?”
Today I’m borrowing a little inspiration from a scene in Schitt’s Creek.
Of course, Moira Rose answered the question with “Awards Season.” My answer would have something to do with my favorite sports season.
I’ll admit it’s a more interesting conversation starter than I initially thought when I laughed out loud at the scene. There are two things here: If you’re not specific with your small talk question you will potentially get a random answer and sometimes you need to think outside the box to spark a conversation.
With that in mind, here are a few sports topics you can use in striking up small talk conversations this week.
There’s no one way to be a sports fan. There’s no time requirement you to have to meet to be considered a fan.
If sports seems less important to you because of world events or maybe life in general, it’s okay. It does not make you a bad fan. It could mean you’re less invested, but you always get to choose your level of sports interest and engagement. It’s okay if it changes. There will be ebbs and flows in your fandom. Cut yourself some slack in how you characterize yourself as a fan.
If you find yourself thinking you're a "bad" fan consider these questions:
Adjust the time spent consuming sports or sports news based on your answers.
Sports is supposed to be fun an “add-on” to everything else going on in your life. Sports can be a distraction or an escape from everything else....
Lazy summer days are for lounging and breaking out of your normal routine. Don’t stray so far from your conversations that you forget how to talk to people in person or start avoiding all small talk.
Make it a point to have small conversations throughout the week. You might be surprised at how much enjoyment it adds to your day and how easy it is when you’re prepared with sports conversations starters like these: