Overcoming The Fear of Small Talk

This is a guest post by Michael Miller, Author and Founder of Culture Adapt.

“Who the heck am I going to be friends with here?” I thought to myself as I looked down at my glass in the crowded bar.

I was fresh out of college and had just moved to southern Georgia, a place that is basically a different country to a Northern guy like myself. I didn’t know a single person in the state. I was a chemical engineer and somewhat of an introvert, so I had never really been good at meeting people outside of the social network I had formed in college.

Overcoming the Fear of Small Talk

On this particular night though, I had built up the courage to go to a bar full of complete strangers. I knew that if I didn’t approach some new people and make new friends in Georgia, that my life would be extremely boring. Despite knowing this, it was a new experience for me and I WAS SCARED!

Have you ever been somewhere where everyone seems to know each other and you’re an “outsider”?  That was me.  I felt COMPLETELY out-of-place and starting questioning myself.

  • “What if they’re make fun of me for being there alone?”
  • “What if they don’t want to talk to me?”
  •  “What if they laugh at me?”

I almost paralyzed myself with the “What if..” questions but finally snapped out of it and focused on the goal at hand.

I knew I had two options:

1  Get over my fears, talk to people I didn’t know and make new friends


2  Stay scared, don’t talk to anyone and live a boring waste of a life

I went with option 1.

I figured I was going to get rejected, and decided that if I was going to, I mine as well be rejected by the best looking girl in the bar.  So I saw her and before I could think, I walked straight up to her and said, “Hi there. I just moved here from Bahston. What else is there to do around here that’s fun?” She looked me square in the eyes and said….  “I LOVE your accent!!! Why did you move here? What are you doing?” She proceeded to introduce me to EVERYONE at the bar and all of a sudden I didn’t feel so alone.

“Is it really that easy?” I thought to myself. “Is everyone this nice?”

That moment was a turning point in my life. It was the moment that I realized that most people are open to talking to strangers and even if they aren’t, being rejected isn’t that bad. There are always more people to talk to.

Since that time, I have continued to build my confidence approaching strangers and making small talk. It has helped me grow personally and professionally as well as start a company, Culture Adapt, which helps international students overcome their fears.

I encourage you to continue to build that confidence so you can grow both personally and professionally. I have other tips on improving your small talk skills but I want to focus this post on overcoming fears, as that is most important skill you need to build.

Students meeting each other

Three Tips To Overcoming Your Biggest Fears

1.  Make it impossible not to follow-through

  • This is a trick I’ve used many times that works really well. An example of this would be having a friend drop you off at a far away event alone, and not returning until it’s over.
  • It forces you to take action. If you don’t have a means of escape, you will find it easier to act. You can also use tip #3 in these situations.
  • You can get really creative with this tip so think about how you can put yourself in situations where you have to follow through.

2.  Get others to hold you accountable

  • Everyone has fears. Team up.
  • Find a friend that wants to overcome their fears as much as you. When you’re at an event, hold each other accountable for the number of people you talk to. Meet periodically throughout the event and discuss your progress.
  • If someone is behind, help them enter a conversation and start talking.

3.  Act when the adrenaline is high

  • “Limiting thoughts”. Anything that is going through your head that will stop you from taking action.
  • Limiting thoughts stop people back from doing amazing things.
  • Don’t think. Take action when you’re scared and the adrenaline is high. Use it to your advantage.
  • As soon as you start getting nervous, THAT IS WHEN YOU ACT.

Personal Challenge

Remember that you’re all amazing people with interesting backgrounds and stories. If you’re not talking to new people, you’re doing them a disservice by not allowing them to get to know you.

I’m challenging everyone that reads this to speak to three strangers in the next 24 hours.

This could be someone at the coffee shop, someone in class you don’t know, a professor… or that person you have a crush on. It doesn’t matter. Just take action and leave a comment with your results. You’re going to do great!

2 Responses to Overcoming The Fear of Small Talk

  1. Pingback: Overcoming the fear of approaching new people | Life and Challenges

  2. Mike says:

    Okay so I came on here from reddit this post just made my day. I am a very shy person and it’s like the I’m repelled to the opposite sex. I have no idea why. I’m too self-conscious and worry too much about little things. I’ll try and use the pointers given in this article.

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