The Big World Of Small Talk

Video Transcript

You know that really awkward lull before you’ve even started the conversation. That’s exactly what I want to help you avoid. Always know exactly what to say in any situation. This is the fine art of small talk.

Hello, my name is Jonathan. By the end of this video, I want to help you navigate the big world of small talk. Now for the introverts watching this,

no, we can’t just skip small talk and get to the good stuff.

I too am an introvert. I. I am exhausted being around people. That’s why I like videos like this.

I’m all alone in this space. I don’t have to talk to anybody else. It is


However, I’ve learned that small talk has gotten me, uh, most things that I like about my life. Now one of my mentors, James, Randi today is actually his birthday when I’m recording this, not when I’m, uh, launching this.

But anyway,

uh, James, Randi was extraordinarily famous and I got to work with him for about 13 years. I got to be right next to him as people. Recognized him and came up to them, to him and asked for autographs and asked for photos, and I don’t want to be weird, but can I interrupt your lunch and get a picture?

He was always gracious. He was very, uh, welcoming. I. To people, and I got to see him navigate that potentially awkward interaction of small talk. And then on top of that, oh my goodness, you’re a celebrity, you’re famous, and I’m starstruck. And then watching him be so gracious with people and generous with his time and to.

Help them be comfortable with how uncomfortable they were in this situation was really, really educational for me, and that really is the core lesson. By the end of this, you’ll realize that. You are doing this to make other people feel comfortable. You’re helping them navigate what can be a difficult situation.

I don’t know what to talk about.

I don’t know what to do with my hands.

And the better you are at making small talk and navigating that world, the happier other people will be that you know how to do this. And boy, that has taken a lot of weight off my shoulders because

I’m not good at small talk.

The better you are, the easier time you’ll have meeting anybody around the world.

And that’s part of my background is I’ve worked at Disney. I’ve met thousands and tens of thousands of people working at Disney. I drove the Safari trucks, which is why I can still do the, the spiel as part of my sound check.

Kara Boone, your buddy, welcome aboard. Please slide all the way into your roof.

Any small.

Yeah, I can do that for 20 whole minutes. I might do a video of that some other time.

But I also worked at Universal Studios.

I worked at the Magic Shop. In Universal Studios. So I did a 12 minute show, sometimes 15 to 20 times a day, about six days a week for two and a half, almost three years for people all over the world.

And it was this close, the audience was standing right there. And I would do magic and I would interact with people. So I’ve gotten to meet tens of thousands of people from just those two jobs alone for the past 15 years. I’ve toured all over the world. I’ve met people before, during and after my presentations, my shows, my speaking engagements.

Uh, I’ve, I’ve met a lot of people, so the art of small talk is largely responsible for my ability to make people feel comfortable up on stage of navigating potentially difficult conversations. All the lessons that we’re about to go through will help you out.

Now what small talk is not is just talking about pop culture. Oh, did you see the movie It, it can be stuff like that. Oh, did you see the game last night? Are you gonna go watch the movie? But it doesn’t have to be that. So if you’re worried that, well, I don’t, I don’t keep up with popular culture, therefore I can’t be good at small talk.

We won’t have to do that at all.

Now to me, small talk is a handshake protocol that gives you access to this node in your network of people. Now that should sound familiar to you, computer science, networking and coder folks. And uh, I’ve got a lot of those friends. And a lot of those friends say, ah, small talk is, is useless.

I hate it. I’m bad at it. But if you want to talk about work or something interesting, then let’s talk about it for four hours.

And yeah, that’s easy for other people to accommodate your willingness to talk about what you do for hours on end.

And that again, is the secret sauce of good small talk. Make it about them.

And that’s a lesson I’ve learned because for more than a decade, I’ve traveled the world as a professional mind reader. How many of those have you met? About zero, I would say. And I, I get it. There aren’t that many of me in the world. And if we happen to sit next to each other on the plane, this is your one chance to ask all the questions that you’ve got that, where did you learn how to do this?

Do you really have the gift? Are you reading my mind right now? Read my mind. Tell me what I’m thinking. Can you predict the lottery numbers? Right? Like, I, I get it, but. If I say, oh, I’m a professional mind reader, I know

without having to be psychic,

I know exactly what the next two hours could be if I let it happen.

Now, here’s the deal. I’ve studied a lot of business, a lot of marketing. I I have helped a lot of people make a lot of money. Off their thoughts. So I might be able to help this person be more successful, solve really complicated challenges and and problems through the power of applied psychology and communication skills.

Now, if all I do is talk for two hours about me and. Touring and traveling and solo entrepreneurship and influence and persuasion. It might be interesting, but it doesn’t really help them understand how I might be able to help them solve some of their issues. What really does help me, I. Is to understand them so that I can recognize opportunities for me to help them, or if I can’t help them, I know some of the world’s best at what they do and all sorts of cool stuff.

So if I can’t help them, I know somebody who can. And the only way for me to figure that out is to be curious about them and to ask them about things that they’re interested in and make that a very light, easy conversation. That is what small talk is all about.

From the world of tarot card readers, we know that most people are concerned with health, wealth, and happiness. Now we want to keep this light so health is out of the picture and wealth can be a little touchy to go too directly towards. So we’ll leave that one to the end, which leaves happiness.

So basically you’re going to focus on the things that make people happy. First could be friends and family. What are their relationships? Like, and, uh, do you, do you have a brother, a sister? Because you kind of remind me of my brother who’s, uh, like you, right? Whatever. So it’s super easy to do that, but.

Even backing up, you just can either comment on what you are currently going through. For example, if you’re sitting on the plane, you go, oh, you’re going to Phoenix too, huh? Are you visiting friends, family? What? What are you traveling for? Very simple, very relevant to the situation. Something super obvious, and that’s an easy way to start the conversation and break the ice.

So friends, family, great place to start with.

So the second thing is to ask them about hobbies and interests. What are you working on? What’s something that you spend your time doing? What uh, what lights you up? What are some projects that you are working on so you can dig into their hobbies. It might be sports, it might be watching movies. Which case, you may not be up on the latest movies and pop culture, but you could ask them about what it is about movies that, uh, has you so excited.

What, what’s interesting? Why did you get interested in movies? So you can always ask about the why behind whatever it is that you’re talking about. And that will open up all sorts of territory for interesting conversations. As long as you’re curious about why their answer is the way that it is, you’ll never run out of things to ask about.

The third thing that you can ask about are their aspirations. What’s something that you’re excited about? What’s something on the horizon that you’re working on? What’s a big ambition? If you could wave a magic wand and a year later, what would life look like? Those kinds of. Aspirational questions and that’s where money could enter the picture.

It’s like, oh, I want to be a millionaire within the next year. Alright, what are you doing to work on that? What? What’s your plan to get you there? Right? It’s like, I’m gonna ask my dad for the money. You’re like, okay, good, good talk. I.

Does he have more for me too?


So you can ask about the future and what they are working on and that should light people up too.

That’s why one of my favorite questions is, what’s something you’re excited about, right? That’s that future state. When that kind of, oh, what am I working on? What, what’s my goal? What’s my north star that I’m helping navigate all this chaos? So that, um, that’s very. Easy. Very easy game. And then the fourth one is career, job.

What keeps you busy? How do you, how do you pay your bills? That is super nosy, uh, outside the states. So, uh, most folks. They, they could go a decade without knowing what their friends do for a living because it, it doesn’t matter. It’s none of my business. I couldn’t care less. I’m interested in the person.

But you know, here over in the States, we’re, we’re all about our job as an identity. I am a solopreneur. I am, as a vour, I am.

This job

defines me. So a lot of folks are more than happy to talk about their job and then you can kind of figure out, ah, they must make a lot of money. Right. So that’s one way that you can ask them about money without being too direct about, so how much money do you make?

Or you could, it’s like, Hey, you know what? I want to be nosy. How much do you make? And if you do it in the right way, you’ve got that right rapport. Sure you can. You can talk about that. Or you could pull a Wolf of Wall Street and go, Hey, was that your car outside? What do you do for a living? How much do money do you make?

Alright, I’m gonna quit my job and work for you so that I can learn how to do that.

I mean, in a way that’s, uh, how I got to be a tour manager. Uh, I’ve made a video about that, which I guess I’ll link up, uh, up, up here. But basically I went on tour with, with a guy, didn’t make a lot of money, but I asked him every question.

Nothing was off the table. And that’s how I learned how to be a full-time performer. So, uh, that approach can work. And it all started from a conversation.

Now to kind of wrap all of this up, I do want to mention the power of having shtick and I have some set patterns, some set scripts for situations that I’m in all the time. Uh, one, it it because it’s kind of interesting because in the world of magic, You often say that an amateur is somebody who does different tricks for the same people, friends and family, and a professional does the same six tricks for different audiences every night.

So for me, since I travel so much, there are lots of folks that I meet once and am pretty sure I’m never gonna see ever again. The person at the Target checkout in Dubuque, Iowa.

I’m never coming back there.

So when they hand me the change and they say, um, alright, the total comes to 9 27, they’re like, oh 9 27.

That was a really good year. A lot going on back then, right? The Roman Empire was every right, just make something up. It doesn’t matter. So you could have shtick for different situations. And when I was first dating my wife, I explained. A lot of this will sound witty and that I’m coming up with this off the cuff.

However, these are scripted responses that I know work well for me, and this is how I navigate these certain situations. So at first it will be witty and charming, and then you will hear it for the thousandth time, at which point it will have worn out its charm. And then you’ll start playing a different game, which is, let’s mess with Jonathan’s shtick, at which point.

It will be very frustrating for me, and then

we won’t be together anymore.

So that’s what you’re getting. So that is one approach, not one that I advocate for everybody, but it is on the table. And I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t share that with you. One of my friends, Tomek actually, uh, when I mentioned that I was going to make a video about this topic, he, he said, dude, you have to talk about how to get out.

Of a conversation as well, because that can be a really sticky situation because some people either check out and they want out or somebody doesn’t know that they’ve overstayed their welcome. So how do we wrap this all up? That’s also very, very common at networking events where somebody goes, oh, I found somebody who’s gonna pay attention and I’m gonna spend the next four hours talking about networking protocols.

Right. You know who they’re, hi guys. So we’re, we’re not gonna cover all the situations here, but basically one of his ways of doing that is to say, ah, I’m missing you already. It. That’s, that’s really funny. And one of my best friends from college, um, we actually still work together. And when we’re on a big Zoom call, everybody at the company um, says, love you.

Bye. Because his I’m at Home Switch was still on at one of the meetings where he said that to the c e o where he was like, love you, bye. And then that has become a company-wide sign off. So that’s fun. So there’s all sorts of ways to stick the landing, and if you are at a networking event and you are caught in the middle of, uh, droning on kind of person who’s monopolizing your time, here’s a way of dealing with this, which is to say their name.

Hey, Jonathan. Jonathan and that will short circuit anything. They’re like, that’s my name. What? So they will attend to that. So you can say their name once to interrupt, say the name a second time to get their full attention. Now that they’re kind of in a pattern interrupt. You call their name a second time and now they’re focused.

They’re like, yes. Now I’m ready to hear what you have to say. You go, I would love to continue this conversation after this. It was really difficult for me to, to show up. I’m really introverted and I promised myself that I would meet at least 15 people. And with the time left that we’ve got, I don’t know if I can keep my promise to myself.

So thank you so much. Have a good night. I’ve got your business card and I’ll talk to you later. Yeah. Well if you don’t plan on talking to them later, don’t lie to them. Uh, say something that’s true, but it’s the name, name pattern interrupt. And then I’ve made a promise to myself to meet more people, which is true.

That’s why you showed up at this networking event in the first place. And then they’ll understand. You’re like, oh, okay. I get it. Yeah. Thank you so much. And then you are out. Then you just go on to the next conversation. Brooch that, uh, introduction And then you are off to the next adventure.

Now, I, I sometimes get paid to introduce myself and to break the ice and make small talk with people. Companies that have cocktail hours literally pay me money with a comma in it to introduce myself to new groups, so I know how uncomfortable that can be because I was uncomfortable before I became a literal professional at it.

But, I’ve had so much fun and just the weirdest, weirdest things like, uh, my, one of my friends and dear friends and mentors, uh, David Ra, hi, if you’re, if you’re watching this, um, he, he used to just lean into a group of people until he is just basically in the middle of the group. And after everybody’s going, what is going on?

You go, oh, sorry. Uh, Start handing out his business card, which is very gosh, and on it says professional eavesdropper. And he goes, I couldn’t help but overhear what you were talking about. And it is so weird and out there that people just can’t help but laugh. Or you could say, You just barge in and go, oh, hi guys.

My job is to interrupt you. How am I doing? And that works really well. Or one of my favorites. You just kind of walk up and say nothing. I would do this all the time at colleges because sometimes they want you to promote the show tonight by going to dinner in the cafeteria. So there would be a table of five or six people, and then I’d just sit down and say nothing, and then watch everybody look at everybody else and go.

With no verbal, just all in the eyes. Be like, do you know that guy? I don’t know this guy. I thought you knew that guy. And just sit there until it’s super awkward. And then somebody would be like, uh, hello. And I go, hi. And just make it as weird and uncomfortable as I possibly can. so then I say, so on a scale of one to fun, how’s your night going so far?

And then that’s so weird that the, it’s just. A crazy pattern interrupt and then just go, I’m just messing with you. You thought I knew them and Right. And then just talking about the situation and what we’re in. It works like gangbusters. People just want to, to get connected with cool people that like to have fun.

That’s it. Just keep it like keep it focused on them. Find your way of navigating that world. But trying to skip that process means I don’t know how to interact with human beings, and I don’t want to do the work to earn your trust, and I don’t want to do the work to meet you where you are. I would rather you accommodate my preferences and that is, uh, rude.

So, Get good at small talk, get good at meeting people, get good at introducing yourself that we could do a, a whole hours long course on this. Maybe I, maybe I would. If you found this interesting. Let me know if you’re still watching. Uh, I’m impressed if you liked it. Even more impressed if you didn’t like it.

It’s your own fault for watching a free video. So if you did enjoy it, I would really appreciate if you let me know what challenges you’ve had with small talk, with meeting people. Give it a, like that tells YouTube to show this to other folks who might appreciate it, who might find value in it, and uh, yeah.

That’s pretty much it. If you have any other questions, comments, or concerns, put that in the comments as well. And if you did enjoy this, I highly recommend that you check out this video on sense making and why having a simple, yet powerful process for. Organizing life is really, really helpful and I strongly suggest that you subscribe to the channel so that way you don’t miss future stuff like this.

And as I always say, if you can change your mind, you can change your life.

You ever find yourself on the precipice of a conversation, feeling that deep sense of dread? That anticipatory silence, pregnant with unease, just before you muster the will to strike up a conversation? That, dear readers, is the foreboding realm of small talk. And it’s an art I’ve come to not only respect but master.

Hello, folks. Jonathan here. If you’ve stumbled upon this piece or clicked through from the recent video, welcome! Today, I’m diving deep into an often-misunderstood form of conversation: small talk. As an introvert, I understand the tendency to dodge chit-chat. The beauty of videos, for me, lies in their one-sided nature. I get to express myself without real-time reactions. It’s just me and the lens. Peaceful, isn’t it?

But before you close this tab, believing this isn’t for you, let me share a revelation: small talk has paved the way for most of the good things in my life.

If you’ve seen my video, you might recall Randi. A mentor and beacon of charisma, whose birthday, coincidentally, was on the day I recorded that video. For over a decade, I stood beside this veritable legend. His fame attracted people like bees to honey. Requests for autographs, photos, and the occasional (awkward) lunch interruption for a selfie were daily occurrences. It was here, in this swirl of ceaseless attention, that I witnessed the magic of small talk.

Randi had a gift. He could weave through potentially uncomfortable encounters, transforming them into pleasant exchanges. It was mesmerizing to watch as he eased the apprehensions of star-struck fans. The man was a maestro of making others comfortable, even when they were visibly out of their depth. Observing him in action, I realized that the heart of small talk isn’t about filling the silence. It’s about fostering connection and comfort.

Now, here’s my confession: I’m not innately skilled at small talk. As an introvert, I’d rather retreat into my shell than initiate conversation. Yet, what I learned from Randi was invaluable. The primary goal of small talk isn’t to shine or impress but to bridge gaps, making others feel seen and heard.

You see, when you focus on the other person, on making them feel at ease, the weight of the interaction lifts. I learned to see small talk not as a challenge but as an opportunity. Each time you engage in a seemingly insignificant conversation, you’re opening doors, forging connections, and, most importantly, easing another’s discomfort.

Ever been stuck in an elevator, searching the walls and ceiling for something – anything – to comment on? Or at a party, drink in hand, wandering aimlessly, hoping someone will rescue you with a chat about the weather? I’ve been there. Multiple times. But these scenarios have taught me the significance of small talk. It’s a lifeboat in a sea of awkwardness. The key is to turn the focus outward, concentrating on making the other person comfortable, and everything falls into place.

For all my fellow introverts, I know it’s tempting to bypass small talk, hoping to dive deep into meatier conversations. But remember, small talk serves as a precursor to those profound connections. It’s the appetizer before a hearty main course. By perfecting your small talk skills, you set the stage for more meaningful interactions.

So, here’s my challenge to you. Next time you find yourself at the edge of a conversation, take a deep breath, and dive in. Ask about the day, comment on the weather, or simply share a smile. Small talk is the first step to broader horizons. And as someone who once shied away from it, trust me when I say: the world opens up in wondrous ways when you master the art of small talk.

To all my fellow introverts, dabblers in small talk, and those curious about the dance of conversation, I hope my journey offers a glimmer of inspiration. Embrace the art of small talk, and watch as doors swing open in the most unexpected ways.

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