6 Ways To Hack Small Talk + Have Better Conversations

Don’t talk about politics.

Don’t talk about religion.

Don’t talk about relationships.

As a matter of fact, don’t talk about anything that you care about or anything that’s actually important.

Those are the old rules of networking and small talk that I refuse to subscribe to.

Since we never teach people how to have sensitive and potentially controversial conversations, we just say don’t do them at all.

That’s BS.

When the “networking rule-makers” took away our ability to talk about anything that actually matters, they put a chokehold on the authenticity of the world which leads us to where we are today – shallow people, protecting themselves and ignoring the needs of others.

I don’t know if there’s science to back this up, so this is completely a hypothesis but I’ve witnessed it in myself and in others.

It’s easy to dismiss other people and desensitize yourself when you have no genuine connection to anyone else. I don’t just mean your friends and family, I mean everyone that you come into contact with.

As humans, we NEED to connect with people – we are social beings.

[bctt tweet=”As humans, we NEED to connect with people – we are social beings.” username=”millennialeb”]

I don’t mean just online, but in person, in real conversations…. But because those old rules of networking have permeated into every part of our lives, we don’t connect with other people and we see them as strangers so we separate ourselves from them.

Connecting with people forces you to be compassionate… There’s no way around it.

Think about a time you had an amazing conversation with someone.

There’s no denying that when you have an incredible conversation – a genuine, authentic and true conversation – your soul fills up. That’s not an accident.

Now imagine having conversations every single day that fill your soul….

How would that change your perspective on the world?

How would you feel differently?

I run a networking group of young professionals where I have about 3 lunches a week with our members. I’ve had conversations with them about everything from aliens to communism, yoga to biology and everything in between.

I have learned more from those conversations than I would have ever imagined and while I didn’t always agree with their opinions, we both walked away smiling because of how powerful the conversation was and how we were able to differ in opinions without turning it into a complete debate or argument.

Here’s a simplified version of what I’ve learned from having that many lunches:


RULE 1. Be Interested, Not Interesting.

[bctt tweet=”Be Interested, Not Interesting.” username=”millennialeb”]

By nature, I’m an expressive, outgoing person. I love to talk to people, am easily excited and I love to share stories and experiences.

Don’t be like me.

In a conversation, my personality can be a huge turn off.

So often, we listen for the purpose of answering, rather than listening for the purpose of understanding.

Think about that.

When you change your mindset to focus on understanding rather than responding, the whole dynamic of your conversations change.

[bctt tweet=”When you change your mindset to focus on understanding rather than responding, the whole dynamic of your conversations change.” username=”millennialeb”]

When you listen for the sake of responding, you’re not thinking about connecting with the person you’re talking to. You’re being selfish and are worried about what you’re going to say and how they will perceive you.

If both of you are more worried about what the other person thinks than connecting with each other, how in the world can you have a real conversation?

[bctt tweet=”If both people are more worried about what the other person thinks than connecting with each other, how can you have a real conversation?” username=”millennialeb”]

When you listen to understand rather than listening to respond, you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say and will lead the conversation with questions so that you can learn more than you share.

The one who speaks the most dominates the conversation, but the one who asks the most questions controls the conversation.

Ask great questions and you’ll see how easy it is to genuinely connect with people.

… and truthfully, when you have credibility, you don’t need to talk that much.

Credibility allows you to listen more and identify the specific ways that you can help other people…

When you really think about it, if you want to make more money, all you need to do is help more people get what they want.


RULE 2. Stay Out Of Judgment and In Curiosity.

If I asked you how many letters were in the English alphabet, you would probably say 26.

… and you would be wrong.


That’s 18 letters.

So often we are bring our assumptions into our conversations by assuming we understand what the other person is saying… and the root of MOST of the problems in your life comes from your assumptions and the stories

that you tell yourself.

[bctt tweet=”The root of MOST of the problems in your life comes from your assumptions and the stories that you tell yourself.” username=”millennialeb”]

You know that person you’re afraid to talk to because of what they might say or do?

… or how about that question you don’t want to ask because they will probably do something?

When you assume, you’re making the decision for the other person… and let me ask you, do you like having decisions made for you?

I didn’t think so.

Leave your assumptions out of your conversations… and leave the judgment out too.

That means when someone says something you disagree with, go deeper and learn why they feel the way they do, rather than jumping on them about all of the reasons why they’re wrong.

The more you can focus on understanding, the more genuinely you will communicate with other people and they will feel it.

[bctt tweet=”The more you can focus on understanding, the more genuinely you will communicate with other people and they will feel it.” username=”millennialeb”]


RULE 3. Forget About Business Cards.

I was at an event recently where there was an older gentleman who literally hopped from table to table and here was his exact script (I promise I’m not exaggerating)…

“Hi, my name is ____. Here’s my card, do you have one?”

That was his entire intro. Why in the world would you want to build a relationship with someone like that?

Here’s something you may not have heard before…

If you can do it without dying or having separation anxiety, don’t even hand out business cards.

I have them but I rarely pass them out… or at least I never hand them out first.

Focus on collecting them.

As soon as you give up your information, they have no incentive to give you theirs.

Most people throw the business cards they collect in a drawer to never be looked at again. Because you’re all about building relationships, that’s not you…

… and if you give up your card without getting theirs, you don’t have a way to follow-up with them.

Here’s the caveat to collecting business cards…

Unless you can write down at least 3 things about someone on their card and have a reason to follow-up, you haven’t earned the right to even ask to exchange information yet.

When you talk to new people, focus on learning about them and find opportunities to connect (which you’ll learn more about below in rule 5).

When you focus on connecting this way, I promise following-up will be so much easier and both of you will look forward to the next conversation.

Once you’ve connected with someone new, you should have a follow-up plan for after you meet… and it just so happens I wrote a wholeeee post about it right here:


Rule 4. Come From Contribution FIRST

Being that I lead a networking group, I literally cannot tell you how many times people have either said, Facebook messaged me or emailed me something along the lines of, “I just [insert whatever new thing they just started] and I’d like to network with you so that we can grow our businesses together.”


Talk. About. Desperate.

If this has been you, let me tell you how this comes across…

“I have nothing to offer you (especially since I just started whatever I’m now doing) and I’m desperate for business so I want access to your network that you worked so hard to build.”


I repeat… DO. NOT. DO. THIS.

First of all, you need to build a relationship first and secondly, you need to give four times to every ask.


RULE 5. Get FROG-y Style

FROG is an acronym for a simple system of asking great questions to build rapport.


Think about it – if you can learn all of that about someone, you have a huge connection with them. The only way to get this information is by asking great questions (aka see Rule #1).

I don’t usually do the FROG questions in order and I usually start with occupation because I generally meet new people in a professional setting. Here’s a few questions to start you off:



  • What do you do for a living?
  • What got you into that?
  • You sound really passionate about that, where does that passion come from?



  • (After they finish telling you about what they do) Is this what you want to do forever or is this a stepping stone for you?
  • Do you plan on staying in the area for awhile?



  • Anything fun planned for this weekend, the upcoming holiday, etc.?
  • What do you like to do for fun?



  • Are you from here?
  • What brought you here?
  • Have you always lived in the area?

By the way, I have a cheat sheet to help you remember all of these tips. Go ahead and download it here.

Rule 6. Go Three Deep

All of these questions will lead you into a great conversation where you’ll learn more than you ever expected and you just have to stay in curiosity.

The trick is to go “three deep”.

If I ask you where your passion comes from, no matter what you say, I’m going to keep asking questions about that passion because I’m genuinely interested in why people are passionate about what they’re passionate about.

Don’t just go down the list asking the questions in order – dig deeper.

That “digging deep” will open up new conversations that have nothing to do with the question you asked.

For example, there was one person I had lunch with where I asked him what he liked to do for fun. He said yoga. I could’ve left it at that, but I asked why he was so interested in it. He started talking about how it was the mindset of yoga that really got him interested in and we ended up having an hour long conversation about consciousness, chakras and spirituality.


Make Sure Your Questions Are Open-Ended

Sometimes we ask questions like “did you move here by yourself or with family?” rather than “what brought you here?”.

When you ask the first question, it seems like an interrogation and they’ll just choose one… so the conversation stops there.

When you ask open ended questions, it invites them to share more and allows the conversation to keep going. While you’re at it, fight the urge to answer for them if they take a second to answer.

When you ask a really insightful question, sometimes they have to think about an answer before giving it to you.

Conversation Reciprocity

If you’re worried that you’re going to ask a ton of questions and never get to tell your story, you can stop worrying right here and you can thank your friend ‘conversation reciprocity’ for that.

Psychologically, we don’t like to make ourselves more vulnerable than the person that we’re interacting with.

After they’ve shared their whole life story, they’re going to feel weird for talking so much (and yet relieved because someone ACTUALLY listened)… and they’re going to want to learn about you.

Most of the time, we’re participating in small talk for the purpose of being polite rather than trying to connect.

[bctt tweet=”Most of the time, we’re participating in small talk for the purpose of being polite rather than trying to connect.” username=”millennialeb”]

When you’ve actually listened, cared and engaged with the other person, you’ll find that they’re way more engaged when it’s your turn to share.

Your homework is to go talk to someone, anyone, whether it’s someone you know or a complete stranger.

Start a conversation with them and then tell me how you feel after in the comments below.

If you listened to understand, asked great questions and really got to know their FROG, I guarantee that you’ll feel way more connected to that person.

To make it easier to remember, I’ve created a cheat sheet with all of these questions laid out for you and some quick bullet point reminders so you don’t ever have to worry about forgetting all of this. Get it here:

Networking and small talk doesn't have to be shallow. With a little bit of skill and practice, you can build relationships with complete strangers quickly and to have deeper, meaningful connections. Click through to learn how with the simple FROG system and cheat sheet.

48 thoughts on “6 Ways To Hack Small Talk + Have Better Conversations”

  1. mandyripsam says:

    I have always struggled with lunch time gathers in places where we network with others. I love your tip of get know the other person be interested. I think not having the pressure of having to be interesting enough is excellent way to deal with the small talk issues that I know I struggle with. I hate small talk but it is a must sometimes.

    1. I agree! When you stop looking at it as trying to “fake” getting to know someone and genuinely being interested in getting to know them, you’ll find that the conversations will flow so much better and will come more naturally… Let the pressure off and let it happen naturally 🙂

  2. Fantastic article! So much so that now I’m just hanging out to go make some small talk and practice all these tips!! Thank you. 🙂

    1. Hahaha woohoo! I LOVE comments like this… The fact that you’re inspired to actually USE the tips in this article just made my entire day! xoxo.

  3. Jenna Rodgers says:

    I LOVE the message about the importance of relationships!! The only way we can grow together is to be vulnerable with each other, which you won’t be if you feel like you can’t trust someone. Your content is very well organized and easy to read, but there is an add right in the middle of the mobile version. I was able to read around it, but that could be an obstacle for another reader.. 😉

    1. Thank you so much love! I don’t have an ads on my site, so I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to… Can you clarify? Would like to get that fixed if there is an issue.

  4. Sara Montague Miller says:

    This is so good! As an introvert, I am pretty bad at networking and small talk, but these are good ideas and tips. Thanks!

    1. Awesome! So glad you enjoyed it… I would argue that introverts are actually BETTER at building relationships because you guys are great listeners. When you’re INTERESTED in other people, they’re more likely to open up to you… Don’t let that introvertedness (is that even a word?) stop you!

  5. Brittany Williams says:

    Small talk has become more difficult in the age of technology for sure so this is a great guide especially for millennials like myself! Great post and I also have the same personality style as you but listening to understand is so rewarding!

    1. Haha yup! Our personality style would rather chat it up with people than take the time to have an exchange of conversation… I always joke that I’m more comfortable speaking in front of an audience than one on one for this exact reason. Glad. you found it helpful!

  6. Lacey Anne Douthat says:

    Couldn’t agree more! Bring life back to the conversation!

  7. Wonderful tips. I find myself drawn to many of them but mostly “Be Interested, not interesting.”

    1. That’s awesome! So glad you found this useful 🙂

  8. Lisa says:

    These are all great tips! I can totally see all of these being great to talk about. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Grammy Dawney says:

    Brilliant! Just brilliant. This article actually sucked me in and I LEARNED something! Wonderful information.

    1. Sooo happy to hear that! <3

  10. Sharee Davenport says:

    Amen to this, let’s get rid of those surface level conversations once and for all. This part: “When the “networking rule-makers” took away our ability to talk about anything that actually matters, they put a chokehold on the authenticity of the world which leads us to where we are today – shallow people, protecting themselves and ignoring the needs of others.” is so so true and one of the big reasons why I’m such a firm believer in community over competition.

    1. Could. Not. Agree. More. Thank you so much for your insight!

  11. Kallie says:

    these were such good suggestions! Small talk can be so intimidating

    1. Woohoo, thank you so much! It definitely can, just take the focus off of you and put it on the other person 🙂

  12. Brittany Slaughter says:

    These are such awesome tips for people who hate small talk!

    1. Glad it was helpful 🙂

  13. Winnie Nham says:

    I hateeeee small talk with a passion, so loved seeing it broken down into actionable items like this

    1. You’ll never need to have small talk again! 😉

  14. Lindsay Zilke says:

    This is awesome! I work with a lot of younger people, and I swear most of them don’t know how to hold a conversation unless it’s on social media, using a phone.

    1. Interesting… I’ve found this to be true for most people now, not JUST young people.

  15. Susan Hinds says:

    Preach! These are amazing tips. Sometimes we just need little reminders!

    1. So glad you found these useful 🙂

  16. Kerlyn Van Gelder says:

    This is such great information to have better conversations! It’s so true to be interested in what other people are saying instead trying to be the interesting one. We need to have more meaningful conversations!

    1. Absolutely! Couldn’t agree more 🙂

  17. Ruzin Mirza says:

    This is amazing and so much good information. Thank you for this article.

    1. Woohoo! Thanks for reading 🙂

  18. Aryn Baker says:

    These are such great tips for small talk and networking!

    1. So glad you found it useful 🙂

  19. Natalie Williams says:

    This is a fantastic article. I’m moving to a new city and will be attending many networking events. So glad I read your article!

    1. So glad to hear! How did your move go?

  20. Tiara Wilson says:

    This is such a beautifully written article. I do not like to talk about politics, religion or relationships when talking with others. It tends to turn the conversation in a negative way.

    1. I find that as long as you’re willing to listen and acknowledge that you can walk away from the conversation with differing opinions, they don’t have to turn negative.

  21. Melissa Batzer says:

    Oh my gosh. Such great tips for conversation! I will definitely be implementing more of these intentionally.

    1. Woohoo! So glad you found this useful 🙂

  22. What a great guide to really build those strong relationships. I use to give business cards like crazy, but i’ve learned to establish the communication before even reaching for one.

    1. Absolutely! How has that changed your conversations?

  23. Kaitlin says:

    I’ve never heard of FROG before…..I LOVE IT!!!! I’m for sure going to start asking FROG-y questions at my next networking event!! Definitely pinning this! 🙂
    – Kaitlin

    1. So happy you enjoyed this! Getting FROG-y style makes for incredible conversations 🙂

  24. Patricia Magdalena Permadi says:

    Thank you for sharing! I always struggle with making small talks and don’t enjoy the meaningless ones, too. This helps so much!

  25. [email protected]'sWorld says:

    Awesome tips, I have been to many networking events and you can tell when someone is a newly right away. Asking questions is key, get to know people. People buy from people they like. I like your #5, helpful questions.

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