Social Confidence for Nerdy Guys

You can download the pdf/printable version here

I don’t know if you’ve already seen this, but I wanted to share it here as well! A while ago I published this small talk cheat sheet on Reddit. I was overwhelmed by all the positive reactions. That is why I decided to improve it a bit with all the feedback I received and post it here as well. Hopefully you can benefit.

It’s a checklist that condenses the basics of small talk. Don’t try to master all of this at once. Learn step by step, and get better a few subjects at a time.

It is a general small talk checklist. So the basics are right everywhere, but take into account for some cultural variation. Nonetheless, this has already helped so many people, including some people I coach, hopefully you find it useful too.

Small talk cheat sheet

Basic Principles

  • Social skills and small talk are a skill you become better at by practice
  • Small talk is a technique to get to know each other and get on the same level
  • If you get on the same page, you can open up and connect more to create a relation
  • Don’t engage people for approval, validation or acceptance – but for a social experience
  • A big part of communication is nonverbal – voice, posture, expressions

Qualities

  • Be honest to yourself and others
  • Be an energetic, optimistic, enthusiastic you
  • Be curious and show empathy
  • Don’t take it all too serious

Right mindsets

  • I can develop in a better me by taking action
  • I’m the actor not the victim in my life
  • I’m truly interested in other people
  • Everybody likes me until proven otherwise
  • I am a likable and interesting person

How to approach people

  • Look if people are open to conversation
    • Open body language
    • Not busy or in another conversation
  • Make eye contact and smile warmly
  • Don’t obsess about what to say
  • Approach and just simply open with;
    • “Hi, how are you?”
  • Assume the other person is more anxious
    • You can make them feel more at ease

How to start a conversation

  • Comment on the context (Situations, news, setting, people)
    • “This coffee place has a nice nostalgic interior, don’t you agree?”
  • Give a real compliment
    • “I really like those sneakers, where did you get them?”
  • Ask an opinion
    • “So what do you think about velvet slacks?”
  • Ask about general information
    • “Can you tell me what time it is?”
  • Talk about shared experiences:
    • “That was an amazing game, that last goal! Wow, what did you like?”
  • Talk about the social context:
    • “So who invited you to the party?”
  • Mention common interests
    • “Are you going to watch the game tonight?”

How to keep a conversation going

  • Balance talking and listening to a 2:3 ratio
  • Show genuine interest,
    • Ask open-ended questions
    • Truly willing to listen and learn
      • “What was/is your highlight this week?”
      • “What are you living towards?”
    • Ask for the emotional layer
      • “Why…”
      • “How come you chose…”
  • Avoid closed questions (limited answers; yes/no/…)
  • Ask for opinions;
    • What do you think about ….
  • Find common ground;
    • Agreement on an issue
    • Same interest [hobby / career / etc]
    • Knowing the same person
    • Enjoying a similar background
  • Elaborate on common interest but keep the focus on them
  • Show how you can relate to their experiences/interests
    • “Interesting, I was as well in Paris last year, loved the croissants.”
    • “Myself I’m more into Dragonball, but One Piece is cool too!”
  • Approach subjects from a unique angle
    • Add emotion and quirk
      • “What about cars? Wouldn’t they be much cooler with 6 wheels?”
  • Have your own opinion
    • But be open and respectful of others’ opinion as well
      • “I actually really like pineapple on my pizza”
  • Segue from the current subject by zooming in/out or move lateral
    • Dig into the details, see the bigger picture or mention related subjects
  • Use “what-if” scenarios to get people thinking and talking
    • “What if mobile phones were forbidden”
  • Talks about your experiences/stories and ask how they can relate
    • What did you do this week
      • “I was just playing Starcraft with some friends, are you a gamer?”
    • _Wha_t are your plans
      • “Next weekend I’ll be home alone, love it! You have any plans?”
    • What keeps you busy and why
      • “I’m trying to learn Chinese, preparing for our new overlords. Do you speak any second languages?”

What to talk about

  • Be prepared

    • Be informed, what is on people’s mind now? Latest meme, hype, news?
      • “Did you guys see that pizza rat video?”
      • “Have you met the new girl in HR?”
    • Prepare a few anecdotes you can use in conversation
      • “This one time on bandcamp,…”
      • “So I was going to the police office,…”
    • Prepare and share some interesting facts
      • “Did you know this place was built in 1908?”
      • “So India just had it’s first moon mission.”
  • Safe subjects to ask about; FORD

    • Family
    • Occupation
    • Recreation
    • Dreams (aspirations)
  • Other great general subjects

    • Pets
    • Music / movies / books
    • Travel
    • Food / drinks
  • If people seem vague about a certain subject after a few questions

    • Let it go and move to the next
    • Some subjects are normal to you and can be sensitive to others
  • Don’t just talk about yourself

How to talk and use your voice and body

  • Look people in the eyes
  • Stand up straight and relaxed
  • Open body language, hands by your side
  • Articulate clearly and speak loud enough

How to actively listen

  • Listen with intent and true interest
  • Use verbal acknowledgment that you listen
    • “Interesting”
    • “Sounds cool”
    • “Yes, go on”
    • “Seriously?”
    • “Tell me more”
  • Use nonverbal acknowledgment that you listen
    • Nodding
    • “mmmmm” / “uhuh”
  • Ask follow-up questions to keep people talking?
    • “How did that make you feel?”
    • “And then what?”
    • “What were you thinking when that happened?”
  • Ask about what has been told, go with the flow
  • Paraphrase what people said to show you listened

When and how to end a conversation

  • If someone doesn’t want to talk, don’t force the conversation.
    • You’ll get short closed answers
    • Someone doesn’t look at you
    • They start/keep doing something else
  • If conversations seem to be going nowhere
  • Or if there seems to be no real interest feel free to leave
    • “(Excuse me) I have to go …”
    • “It was nice talking to you, but I have to …”
    • “Alright, see you around”
  • If a conversation doesn’t flow or just ends
    • Just let it go
    • Don’t take this personally
    • There are numerous reasons beyond your influence why it doesn’t work

How to overcome anxiety barrier

  • 3 second rule – approach before you can think
  • Take deep calming breaths to calm down and approach
  • Boost confidence before social activity
    • Do what makes you feel good: work out / puzzles / cold shower etc.
  • Share how you feel / clear the air
    • “I’m a bit anxious about…”
    • “I usually don’t step up to people, but you looked pretty interesting”
  • Practice, practice, practice

Stop!:

  • Overanalyzing yourself and the situation
  • Filtering your responses, say what you think/feel
  • Focusing on yourself – instead focus (on the comfort of) the other

How to make others and yourself comfortable

  • Become comfortable by making others comfortable
  • Ask how people are doing
  • Be curious and show interest
    • Show you are not judging
    • Show empathy
  • Make easy eye contact and smile
  • Ask and use their name
  • Remember and bring up personal details
    • “How is your wife/cat/boat doing?”
  • Paraphrase what people said to show you listened
  • Show trust and some vulnerability
    • Say what you think and feel
  • Remember: The more interesting/personal the conversation, the less effort it will take
  • Don’t take it all too seriously

Connecting to people

  • Open up yourself, step by step share about you(r life)
    • Share information you’d ask of others as well
  • Show you trust people
  • Shared experiences

Hope this is helpful. If this is useful print it out, pin it to you headboard or tattoo it on your forearm. As long as it helps :). Any suggestions, feedback or questions? Let me know at timon@techlecticism.com


🍕Liked this? Buy me a pizza:)
You've successfully subscribed to Techlecticism
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Great! You've successfully signed up.
Your link has expired
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.