Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
12:00 AM 29th June 2024

The Art Of Small Talk Is Dying - 5 Tips For Mastering The Art Of Small Talk

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay
Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay
A powerful poem and accompanying video has been released by acclaimed poet, George the Poet, celebrating the power of buses as a central pillar of local communities around the UK.

Buses have played a pivotal role in shaping who I am today. When I was young I had a long commute between home and school, and it introduced me to many life-long friends that I am still close with to this day, while also for helping form the foundations of my career as a poet.

During the hours spent on the bus, I would watch the world changing around me. I’ll never forget how those observations would inspire new lyrics, and shape my understanding of different communities. This gave me an affinity for the bus that I still have today. Working with First Bus on this piece of work has been a great reminder of the importance of shared spaces for our local communities, and opportunities for connection that they offer.
George the Poet
A brief chit chat about the weather was once a British staple, but now 88 percent of Brits under the age of forty, now find small talk difficult and awkward.

According to the research, the nation’s fear of small talk is now so strong that four in ten (45 percent) have pretended not to see someone they know on the street to avoid it, while 40 percent have looked in the opposite direction.

A third (33 percent) have actively crossed the road to swerve someone, while over a quarter (27 percent) routinely pretended to be on a phone call if they see someone they know well enough to stop and talk.

Never knowing what to say (56 percent), feeling self-conscious (41 percent) and stumbling over the words (36 percent) are the main concerns about chit-chatting with strangers.

In fact, nine in ten (90 percent) say talking casually to others can be painful, especially over long periods of time.

Psychologist and expert in social sciences, Dr. Tara Quinn-Cirillo, warns of the implications of less human interaction in day-to-day life, “Humans are inherently social beings, so a lack of purposeful connection can negatively impact physical and mental health, with loneliness now classed as a public health issue by the World Health Organisation.

On average, Brits can make small talk for seven minutes, before panicking and the conversation completely drying up, with the weather (61 percent), still our our go-to topic, alongside the cost of living (31 percent), holiday plans (31 percent), football (24 percent) and what’s on TV (24 percent).

The study by UK bus operator First Bus, found talking to people we’ve just met (56 percent), strangers on public transport (34 percent), friends of friends at a party (27 percent) and neighbours (27 percent) all fill us with dread, so it’s no surprise that 80 percent of Britons would love to be better at making small talk.

This research reveals that anxiety about talking to others can be a huge barrier to connection and starting conversations, which can lead to people avoiding them altogether. We can all make a huge difference through a smile and a ‘hello’, so I encourage people to reconsider engaging with their community, starting with the basics of small talk.”

Starting a conversation can be challenging due to various factors, such as fear of rejection, social anxiety, lack of confidence, or past negative experiences. However, engaging in small talk offers significant personal benefits, including the development of social connections and the enhancement of overall well-being. Initiating this process with simple steps can help to build your confidence and form valuable relationships within your community.
Dr. Tara Quinn-Cirillo
Brits have always been known for their ability to do small talk, but it’s clear from the research that current society and technological advances are seemingly pulling us further away from regular human interaction, making it a dying skill.

Buses have long been a central pillar for communities across the UK and are a welcoming place to get that all important dose of serotonin from chatting to new people in your local area. The research has shown the incredible relationships that can blossom from these small interactions with strangers, and we hope encourages more people to swap a car journey a week for a trip on the bus.
Simon Pearson, Chief Commercial Officer at First Bus

Despite struggling to chat, a half (51 percent) believe that the more you make small talk, the easier it is to do, with a quarter (23 percent) admitting that having a natter with a stranger brightens their day.

One in three (29 percent) say that chit chat has even led a stranger to become a close friend or partner.

On average, Brits have made at least five friends through casual talk, having met them at work (36 percent), a party (31 percent) or on the bus (24 percent).

The research comes as First Bus launches its new campaign with acclaimed spoken word poet, George the Poet, who has created a powerful poem that highlights the incredible people behind Britain’s buses and their importance in building community spirit and creating a greener future. You can listen to the poem here.

Four in ten (41 percent) feel happy when a stranger talks to them, a stark contrast to the 39 percent who feel awkward and uncomfortable (28 percent).

If you’re looking for someone to natter to, the best places to go are the supermarket (34 percent), a pub (33 percent) or the office (31 percent) as these are where Brits are most responsive to small talk.

The research also reveals Britons can go as many as three DAYS without having a proper in-person conversation.

Not feeling the need to meet face-to-face due to texting and WhatsApp’s (44 percent), keeping in touch on social media (32 percent), living far from friends (26 percent) and family (24 percent) are leading to less meaningful conversations, while 23 percent do most of their shopping online, missing out on opportunities to engage with people while out grocery shopping.

First Bus has worked with leading psychologist and expert in social sciences, Dr.Tara Quinn-Cirillo, to create a series of top tips to help Brits conquer their fears of small talk and make conversation with strangers.

5 Tips For Mastering The Art Of Small Talk From Psychologist And Expert In Social Sciences, Dr. Tara Quinn-Cirillo:

You can start with simple pleasantries such as “Hi!” or “How’s your day going?” We can overthink starting conversations and it really can be a simple as a hello.

Try smaller, more closed questions or even observations for example: the weather, the route the bus is taking, even roadworks, things on the street, the view out the window, whatever it is that catches your attention.

Be aware of the ‘hooks’ preventing you starting a conversation e.g. fear, anxiety, past experiences, judgement, and try and address these. Our past experiences can impact our current functioning too. If we have experienced difficult conversations in the past, have a history of social anxiety or grew up with certain rules about talking in public, this can also impact us. Remember, these negative previous experiences do not mean all future interactions will go the same way.

Come back to your values. Do you value connection, autonomy, enjoyment for example. Could you achieve these feelings through starting a conversation or even better forging a new connection on a regular bus route. The emotional and physical health benefits from valued connection can be immense.

Build up to wider questions, as this can lead to a longer conversation. If you regularly see the same person on your commute to work, or the same bus driver every morning, why not ask how they are, or how their morning is going. Taking an interest in the people around you goes a long way in helping to build small connections and form casual relationships with the people you share everyday spaces with.