How To Go From Small Talk To Deep Relationships

I love those beautiful nights under the stars, engulfed in conversations about life, purpose and love. When time stands still and the only thing that exists is the connection between you and the other person.

Those are the connections that I live for.

I think everyone has that deeply beautiful side to them, just waiting for someone to reach out and connect to it. Sometimes I just want to walk up to a person and ask them about their dreams, the things they are afraid of and the disappointments that have forged their character.

I want to know every detail about them, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I love that imperfectly perfect image that you discover as you chip away the walls that we build so high.

But you can’t connect to someone on that level right away. You need to start somewhere and build rapport, and there is only one way to do that.

Small Talk

Anyone that knows me well enough knows that I hate small talk. I don’t like all the fluff that surrounds it.

“Wow, the weather is really terrible today, right?”
“How about X sports team, they’ve really been doing badly, right?”

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t really care about that kind of thing, and two people talking about things that don’t interest them, excite them, or reveal any of their beauty makes for a pretty mundane experience.

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But, since small talk is never going to go away and is necessary for building a relationship, I’ve decided that I will make it my goal to have the best small talk experiences and transition to real conversations as quickly as possible.

Once you build rapport you can start to relate to a person and explore who they really are. That is where real relationships are forged. That is where you find the people that you can call crying at 2am, the people you can rely on during the good and the bad.

So this is my guide to getting through the small talk as quickly and gracefully as possible, allowing real conversations to flow and real relationships to be cultivated.

Names

I was going through the motions with a customer when he stopped me.

“What’s your name?”
“Oh, It’s Steven.”

And from that point on he used my name in every other sentence. The conversation was amazing and I felt like I had known him my whole life by the end of it. There was a certain warmth to the whole exchange that made it feel that much more real.

Everyone knows that when you meet someone the first thing you should do is introduce yourself, the part where most people fail to capitalize is that they are just going through the motions. Most people don’t even remember the names of those that they engage in small talk with.

When you introduce yourself make sure that you remember the persons name and use it throughout your conversation. People love hearing their name and it creates a sense of familiarity that is essential in transitioning from mundane small talk to anything bigger.

Another thing to keep in mind is that after the introduction people usually never hear your name again, so it’s easy for them to forget it. If you can, mention your own name more than once throughout the conversation so they have a chance to convert it to their long term memory.

You can do this two main ways:

  • Address yourself by name. For example, “So I thought to myself, ‘Steven, you have got to get better sleep.'”
  • Use your name in dialog. For example, “So my friend said to me, ‘Steven, you have got to get better sleep.'”

If you remember their name while helping them to remember yours, you will have a much better chance of leaving a lasting impression and deepening the connection.

Ask Questions

The second way to ensure that you build a real connection and avoid being stagnant in small talk is to ask questions.

We love our names, and we also love talking about ourselves. It’s understandable, we know ourselves better than any other subject so it comes naturally. When we ask someone about themselves it makes them feel important and interesting.

A real interest in other people is the best gift that you can give them. Too many people only care about themselves and it ruins a lot of potentially beautiful relationships.

Whether it’s deeply revealing questions or just your basic small talk questions, you should always keep in mind the 5 W’s. (And the one H)

Who, what, where, when, why, and how.

Whenever someone makes a statement you can build the conversation off of it by asking a question that gets them to reveal more details about their statement.

If someone mentions that they went to a certain university you now have the ‘where’ and ‘what’ but you can still ask them why they chose that university, how they got along there, or when they started.

When you keep those 6 questions in mind you can always slip one in to continue the conversation and reveal a little bit more about the person.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should avoid questions that have one or two word answers. If you get a short answer, ask a follow up question and continue exploring the details.

Offer Compliments

You might be noticing a trend by now. Having productive small talk that actually leads to a real relationship is all in making the conversation about the other person.

We say their name to create familiarity and make them feel important. We ask them questions to make the conversation flow better, since we are all experts in the subject of ourselves. And we should also offer them compliments.

There is nothing more powerful than a real compliment and there is something to be noticed in everyone.

My general guideline for compliments is that I try to avoid anything generic. It is always better to give a compliment that you actually believe. Also, I usually like to break my compliment into two statements, first I introduce the compliment and then I detail it.

“You are honestly such a positive person. It’s so nice to see someone with such a genuine smile on their face.”

A real compliment can go a long way in cultivating a connection with someone.

The saying goes, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But I have always preferred my own version, “If you have something nice to say, you have to say it.”

Mirror Them

People feel more comfortable when they are talking to someone who reflects their mannerisms, tone, talking speed, and general energy levels.

It helps to cultivate that feeling of familiarity and give the impression that you are both on the same page.

While you should follow your partners lead to make them feel comfortable, don’t copy everything they do down to the T.

If they are calm and relaxed, and you are chock full of energy, there won’t be any cohesion in your conversation.

Match their general vibe and the conversation will be smoother and overall more enjoyable.

Hopefully with these tips you will be well on your way to having small talk that actually leads to something instead of being a stagnant dead end.

I still dream of the day that I can walk up to someone and immediately have those amazing discussions about life, love, fear, ambition, and all the other things that make my heart beat a little faster.

But until then, let’s take our small talk from being a chore, to being a door to something beautiful. Because we all have that beauty inside of us, we just have to get comfortable enough to let it out.

Thank you for being a part of this beautiful conversation, I love you all.

Three Keys To Improving ANY Relationship

Improving relationships with friends and significant others is a common goal amongst people. People want to connect more with others, on a deeper level.

That has led me to consciously consider my interactions and change them. It begins with having a good intention.

We meet great people and we’re so overwhelmed with excitement. We build this amazing relationship with that person and everything is great.

But then, the excitement dwindles and we get caught in a routine and we start to develop little pet peeves. That initial spark is forgotten. That zest of why the person was great eventually fades.

To create, improve or rejuvenate a once great relationship, your intention must be to be great. You have to make the other person feel great. You have to make the other person feel appreciated and loved. It’s difficult and we all fail, but I think these three methods can strengthen and improve any relationship.

Key #1 –  Be Present

I went out with this girl for coffee. Midway through, her phone rang and she was on it for 15 minutes, as I stared in dismay. After her social call, she couldn’t let go of her phone, constantly texting or fiddling.

She was sharing her eye contact between her phone and I. She couldn’t give me her undivided attention for longer than three minutes. I find that incredibly problematic.

Most issues in relationships are caused by a lack of attention. You cannot show respect to someone, pick up on peoples’ non-verbal cues or feelings and completely understand the other person unless you’re completely present in their lives.

But, you can stand out. You can be the anomaly. Make a meaningful connection with your eyes and body, be present and envelope them with your unhindered presence.

Leave your phone on silent when you’re with loved ones. Or just leave it at home, and go for a walk with the person. Give them your undivided attention and they will understand how much they mean to you.

The cellphone ding makes people feel important, but what’s more important than the person across from you sharing a coffee right now?

Key #2 – Appreciate Them

Most people get wrapped up in the idea that appreciation involves extravagant gifts or these large spectacles like writing ‘thank you” in the sky. I thought I needed those to show people how much I cared for them.

But people don’t want your gifts. They just want to be appreciated, appreciated for all the little things they do, and feel and, most importantly, appreciated for who they are.

Appreciate who they are as a human being and, above all, be there for them. Be there when they need you, and be there even when they don’t.

Through all their ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ and trials and tribulations, they want to know that you’re there and that you truly care.

The people in your life want to feel your real appreciation. Thank you loses its’ meaning the more you say it. Instead, say ‘I appreciate you for…’

Key #3 – Make Complimenting a Daily Habit

There is a lot of power in words and they often get taken for granted. We think nice things about our friends and significant others, but rarely express them.

It seems like criticism gets more of the spotlight than compliments. In reality, compliments should be dominating the life-stage.

We’ve become people that forgot how to say nice things. When was the last time you complimented your friend or significant other? Personally, it has been three days and that’s a long time to hold nice comments in.

Make it a daily habit, or instead, a challenge, to compliment someone you care about. Solidify it into your daily routine and don’t feel completely fulfilled until you’ve made someone’s day through your words.

Say something meaningful and unique to make each compliment really matter. Make the person in your life feel like there is no one else deserving of those words in that very moment. True compliments arise from love and adoration.

This is the hardest step of the three because it requires both of the above steps. You need to be present to recognize the little quirks and you need to be able to appreciate that person for who they are.

These methods will change and impact your relationships in a very significant way. They are simple and just require a little presence, appreciation, and daily kind words.

Be bold, be free, and love on.

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3 WAYS TO CONNECT WITH PEOPLE MORE

A lot of people feel alone. They feel like they don’t have a connection to those around them.

I know how that feels. When I was younger I spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals, I didn’t get a whole lot of practice socializing with people my own age.

Spending most of my time with doctors, nurses and my mom made me feel alienated when it came time to engage with others at my school.

But there was an upside.

Doctors and nurses are some of the most caring people you will ever meet. They are intelligent, polite and empathetic. Every time I was in their care I felt appreciated and important. They were family to me.

I’ve wondered what made my connection with these people so deep and profound. I can still picture the faces and emotions associated with so many of the beautiful people I met at different hospitals.

Here are three conversational habits I internalized that helped me foster a deep connection with those around me.

Make eye contact and listen intently.

My doctor would walk into the room and greet my mother. He would then make his way over to me, bend down to my eye level, look me right in the eyes and give me a firm handshake.

The entire time we talked he would keep eye contact with me. I felt like he absorbed every single word I said. His focus never drifted from me, it made me feel like I mattered.

Too often we have conversations that we aren’t fully invested in. When someone is talking we take that as an opportunity to think about what we are going to say next instead of paying attention to what the other person is saying.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
-Stephen R. Covey

Worse yet, we might take the chance to check our phones, think about our day and zone out the other person completely.

Don’t waste the time talking to someone if you aren’t going to listen as well.

Cater the conversation to the other person.

The nurses and doctors would always ask about me.

“How are you feeling? How was your day? What are you thinking about?”

We all know that one person who will tell the same story to everyone they see in a given day and make every conversation about themselves. Maybe they bought a new phone and now they’ll show it to everyone. Maybe they didn’t get a lot of sleep and now that will be their topic of the day.

They somehow seem to direct every conversation to themselves.

Guess what. Not only is this terribly self important, but it’s also boring. Do you really want to have the same conversation about your new phone ten times in one day?

When you start wondering how other people are and what is going through their mind, you get a lot more out of your conversations. More variety, more connection, more perspectives.

If you have something nice to say, say it!

My mom would always tell me “Steven, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

That is fine and dandy, I can agree with that.

But that isn’t my main concern. In this day and age compliments are rare. I hear friends tell me “Wow, that girl has nice eyes.” but they never actually tell the girl.

What if that compliment would have made her day?

She might be having a horrible morning. She might be feeling down in the dumps after a bad break up. One compliment can change a persons entire mood.

I live my life by the motto “If you have something nice to say, say it!” I want to point out every single piece of good that I see in the people around me.

When you give someone a compliment they like you more, and their connection with you deepens. A compliment may not change their life, but it might change their life for that moment. Isn’t that good enough?

So, I hope that these tips will help you foster a deeper connection with everyone around you. It is one of the most noble goals you can pursue.

I’ll never get to thank the people I met that have made such a deep impact on me, but I hope to leave the same impact on those around me.

As always, I’ll see you next Friday.

With love,
Steven Farquharson, 2HelpfulGuys