5 Sites and Guides to Improve Conversation Skills and Learn Small Talk

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Do you struggle with making small talk? These free apps and guides show you the art of conversation in personal and professional spheres so you never feel left out.

No one teaches you social skills in school. It's something you're expected to pick up through experience. But like all skills, some are naturally better at this while others need to learn it. The art of conversation, especially small talk, doesn't come easily to many. These online resources and apps will help you understand the basics of how to hold an engaging conversation, even if it's about something trivial.

1. The FORD Technique: Simple Method to Engage in Small Talk

One of the most popular methods to learn the skill of small talk is the FORD technique. FORD stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams. These are the four pillars around which you can build small talk.

You'll find several resources on the internet to learn more about how to use the FORD method in conversations. SocialPro has an in-depth article with sample questions and examples, as well as tips on what to say and avoid. It also dives into how to switch between the four pillars rather than going in order.

Greatness Every Day explains the basics of the FORD technique in their quick video if you prefer to watch rather than read. For a more in-depth look, try the 18-minute long FORD explainer from Learn English With Emma.

One tip from everyone regarding the FORD method is to practice it on yourself. You can't simply ask these questions without knowing how you'd answer them yourself, especially because in small talk, the other person is bound to spin the question back on you.

2. Small Talk (Android, iOS): Daily Topics of Interesting Conversation

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Often, the difficulty in small talk is simply knowing what to talk about. Here's an app that tries to solve the problem with a few interesting topics of conversation, updated daily. Every day, Small Talk gives you something new on six topics:

  • Inspiration: An inspirational quote by a famous person.
  • Knowledge: A short paragraph about interesting trivia.
  • Humour: A joke of the day.
  • On This Day: Interesting historical event that happened on this date.
  • Word of the Day: Complete with definition and pronunciation.
  • Tip of the Day: Life hacks and productivity upgrades.

Some of these even come with links to read more about the topic, which is great for learning new things in short fun ways. And if you find anything interesting, bookmark it to your saved folder. If you don't find anything worthwhile today, use the calendar to skip back to any day to get new info on the six topics.

Download: Small Talk for Android | iOS (Free)

3. Conversation Starters World (Web): Free Icebreaker Questions and Conversation Packs

Icebreakers and conversation starters are topics to initiate a dialogue, whether small talk or deep. You'll find a lot of apps that work like flashcards for these, but usually, there's a catch. After a small number of free cards, you have to buy packs for the more interesting conversations.

Instead of these freemium apps, head to Conversation Starters World for a huge collection of these icebreakers, all for free. They've helpfully listed them under topical sections like conversation starters, questions to get to know someone, first date questions, fun conversations, and so on. Each is like an article with all the questions listed one after the other, and a small blurb to give you an idea about why it sparks conversation.

If you like what you find on the site, there are two further sections worth checking out. The random question generator will pick one sentence from one of the other sections. And if that's not your cup of tea, try a few of the conversation games suggestions, provided the other person is willing to play to get to know you better.

4. Techlecticism (Web): The Best Small Talk Cheat Sheet on the Web

The subreddit r/socialskills is full of people helping each other to overcome awkward interactions. Community member Timon shared a "Small Talk Cheat Sheet" he created for a client, and it was widely appreciated. You can now access the sheet on his site, which has other cool social hacks if you struggle with conversations.

The Small Talk Cheat Sheet is broken up into sections like basic principles, right mindsets, how to approach people, what to talk about, how to use your voice and body, how to overcome anxiety, among other things. Each section has examples of what to say or not say, and things to watch out for if you're socially awkward.

The rest of the site Techlecticism also offers some good advice on "social confidence for nerdy guys," as Timon claims to be a fellow nerd himself. For example, check the cheat sheet on how to feel comfortable around other people, which is needed if you're going to be making small talk.

5. No Small Talk (Podcast): Learn How to Start Engaging Conversations

While small talk builds comfort and familiarity, its purpose isn't to build real connections. Also, small talk can be especially difficult for introverts. No Small Talk is a podcast to learn how to transition to deeper, more meaningful conversations.

Hosts Ebony Anuforo and Shereefat Balogun have made it their mission to teach introverts the tools to socialize confidently, without needing small talk. Most episodes are about 20 minutes, while interviews with social skill experts can run longer.

It helps that Anuforo and Balogun have a casual conversational style between the two of them, which simultaneously shows how to go deeper with someone. They often share conversation starters or frameworks to move beyond banal niceties and into something more interesting.

Several listeners have also written in reviews about how because both hosts are women and people of color, the podcast helps navigate the tricky waters of being a minority or an outsider in a conversation. If you need to make your voice heard, while furthering the talk, you'll find valuable advice here.

Learn When Not to Make Small Talk

Through these various apps and conversation coaches, you should be able to make small talk without any concern and even smoothly launch into deeper chats. But just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Almost all these experts shared one common tip: learn when not to make small talk. There's a difference between being an introvert and knowing when it's time to let the silence stay. It's a social cue that comes with practice, so even if you get it wrong a few times, don't beat yourself up over it. But this social awareness will serve you well to make you more confident and more engaging in conversations.

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