For some people it comes naturally, for others it’s a real struggle: making small talk. Especially for introverts, this can be a daunting challenge, to step up to new people and start a conversation out of the blue. Yet it’s a very effective way of making a good first connection with teenagers.
A lot of people see small talk as meaningless both in purpose and in content, but I disagree. Small talk is actually very functional in many ways. It helps people get to know each other better, it helps build trust, and it’s a step in moving on to deeper conversations. And research confirms the importance of being able to make small talk.
I agree that small talk isn’t just about nothing or that it’s meaningless in content. It can be, but only if you allow that to happen. You can use even the most superficial of topics, such as the weather, to still have a meaningful and purposeful conversation.
Personally, I’ve used small talk with my teenagers many times to get to know them better or to put out antennae to “feel” if they are OK. Even when you’re talking about a seemingly boring topic such as school, you can still pick up hidden messages that something is wrong. If you are intentional about making good small talk, you’ll find that it’s actually an effective means to develop a relationship with students.
Want to know how to make effective small talk with teenagers? This is an excerpt from my book Beyond Small Talk: Connecting with Teenagers through Conversations that Matter. In this book, you will find loads of practical advice for listening well, building trust, initiating conversations about God, asking solid questions that get students talking, appreciating the power of silence, and knowing what to say—and not to say!