I had a cuppa and a catch up with a friend the other day.
We hadn’t seen each other for a month or two and it was really lovely to chat and get up to date on what’s been going on in each other’s lives. That evening I was talking to my husband about it, and how it had suddenly occurred to me that we had been friends for around 7 years now.
It just felt like such a long time ago that we met as exhausted first-time mums at the local NCT baby group. And it was so lovely to think how our friendship has developed and how openly and honestly we can talk to each other about things.
It makes me so glad that I pushed myself to go to baby group all those years ago. That I stepped out of my introvert comfort zone and started making small talk with the other mums there.
I know a lot of introverts really struggle with small talk. For me it’s more about social anxiety but I know for others it’s about wanting to go deeper than small talk and chit-chat allows. The thing is though, you have to go through that small talk phase to be able to build relationships and make friends.
So, here is my guide to making small talk for introverted parents.
Whether you’re a brand new parent heading to baby group or you have older children and want to get to know people at the school gates, these ideas will help.
Break the ice
Take a deep breath, this is the hard part for so many of us.
If you see someone you want to chat with then you’ll need to find a way to break the ice and get the conversation going.
Jennifer Latson, author of ‘the boy who loved too much‘ suggests a three-step approach to greeting people.
- Compliment them. It can be as simple as saying how much you love their baby’s name, or how happy their child is going into school.
- Ask about their well-being. You can go with a simple, ‘how are you today?’ or go a bit further and ask if they were struggling with the morning rush to get to school on time like you are!
- Choose a topic to chat about that is relevant to them. This is pretty easy if you have children the same age, you can just ask their thoughts on any issue you’re dealing with at the moment, or how great different parts of being a parent are.
Ask open-ended questions
This is a classic way of getting conversations flowing.
People quite like to talk about themselves, so showing interest and asking questions is a great way to start chatting. The trick though is to steer away from ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions which can stop a conversation in its tracks.
One way to do this is to ask ‘why’ questions instead of ‘what’ questions.
So at baby group you can ask someone their baby’s name, and then keep the conversation going by asking if there was a reason or special significance behind their choice.
Return their questions
If you find it hard to think of questions to ask, you can just wait for them to ask you one and then ask the same one back.
So when they ask you “Is this your first baby?”, you can reply “No, it’s my second, how about you?”
Make other parents feel like you care about them
Ask their name (not just their child’s name) and use it when you speak to them. When we’re used to being called ‘so and so’s mum’ that it feels quite special when someone makes the effort to call us by our actual name.
If you’re sitting with a few other mums at baby group or at the school gates then make sure to bring everyone into the conversation. If you notice that one parent in particular seems to be left out, make a point of directing some questions to her and making sure she’s ok.
Ask fact-based questions to start a conversation.
At baby group ask if they know what time it finishes, or if there are any other nice groups that they know of in the area. At the school gates you can ask about homework, or events that the PTA are planning. You could ask if they know which swim school is best to go with locally, or if they know of a good karate or ballet class.
Find a common enemy.
There’s something about complaining together that brings people together. And while being a parent is wonderful there are also lots of things that we can complain about, all of which make pretty good topics of conversation.
Lack of sleep, teething and weaning troubles are good things to complain about together when your baby is little.
As your child gets older then there are bound to be all sorts of school related issues that you can bond over. It can be as mundane as complaining about the fact that it always rains during the school run, it will still break the ice and get you chatting.
I know for a lot of introverts small talk is painful.
You want to go deeper than chat about the weather. But you have to go through the small talk stage to connect with people and move on to the next level, so hopefully these tips will help make the process a bit easier.