Deano’s answer to: “How do you improve your small talk?”

Invitations.

Invite people to talk about themselves by providing them a safe forum to do so – be neither disinterested clockwatcher, nor obsessed interrogator.

Focus on “how can I be of service to this lovely human being“, and then radiate that. If you aren’t good at radiating, try thinking it, and then slowly exhaling the thought out your nose(*).

Other good invitations to use:

  • Invite them to share their opinion on a subject dear to you (or them)
  • Invite their assistance in some fairly trivial manner, like a parlor trick, or making sure you don’t have toilet paper stuck anywhere you can’t see.
  • Invite them to contact you in the future, because you’ve had such a lovely chat – willingness to exchange contact info raises the bar on how highly you esteem them, which is often understood and reciprocated at some level.
  • If things don’t go well, invite them to speak with a friend of yours, who was “just talking about” some topic of interest to your ‘dud’ conversation partner.

Overall, just try to remember this: small talk is about engaging without offense… Hold back too much, and you won’t ever engage.

(*Totally unscientific fact: Doing so releases subcommunicative pheremones that help convey your thoughts and wishes. Slow steady breathing also helps keep you calm and settled, which makes others feel more at ease. But, seriously, it’s the pheremones. I promise.)

This answer originally appeared on Quora: How do you improve your small talk?

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