28 thoughts on “How Brandon Learned to Small Talk and Why It Transformed All His Relationships

  • January 19, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    You have done it again Dr Webb. Written about something that i really struggle with. Like Brandon, i have no idea what to say to people, so avoid smalltalk and appear boring, miserable, aloof, uninteresting. I am in wonder at people who can just talk and talk from one subject to another and then tell me “I met this really interesting person” and recall and recount what they chatted about. I seem to not remember the content of “chats”. Looking forward to learning more about this, thanks.

    • January 19, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      Dear Debbie, it is largely emotions that anchor things in our memories. That’s why we are so much more likely to recall conversations that involve some kind of emotional connection. I’m glad you’re interested in learning more!

      • January 24, 2020 at 7:18 pm

        This same thought occurred to me the other day .. I have trouble remembering things , names , faces .. but emotional events , no problem .. this is really interesting

  • January 19, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you, this is brilliant. As an empath, I used to get so bored when people remained superficial at parties and wd dread the empty feelings and the exhaustion I’d feel after a night of full social interaction. Now I’m happy to wait and see with whom I’ll strike up a conversation and then ease straight into the deep zone. I feel better having talked to less people, but with those that I do, I feel we connected and at best I learned something about them and their life due to the questions I ask and what I share about my life. I just came home from a skiing trip and had so many opportunities in the gondolas or at a music bar to talk to strangers and had a great time! Never felt lonesome even though I purposely went alone so I could regenerate. Without knowing your definition of horizontal or vertical I knew I was changing something in my approach after reading your book a year ago.

    • January 19, 2020 at 3:33 pm

      That’s great, Stephanie. It sounds like you’ve found a way to manage small talk situations that works for you.

  • January 19, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Hi Dr. Janice! I too was much like Brandon. My retail training taught me to take note of the other person, pay them a compliment on something that they are wearing- perhaps a colour or piece of jewelry-ask something about themselves-how is your day going? to get a conversation started.

    • January 19, 2020 at 3:34 pm

      That’s a great way to start a conversation. Sometimes it’s harder, then, to keep it going though.

  • January 19, 2020 at 3:40 pm

    Wow, I love this approach — and could really benefit from practicing it.
    Where can I learn more about vertical questioning and how to implement it?

    • January 19, 2020 at 3:58 pm

      I’ll write another article, as I promised at the bottom of this blog. I think I am the only person who talks and writes about Vertical Questioning. So I’ll write about it more!

      • January 22, 2020 at 10:24 pm

        This was really helpful! I am pushing myself more and small talk with strangers is so painful. Hope to learn more from you. Thanks!

      • January 23, 2020 at 8:29 am

        That’s good to hear, V. Practice is very important!

  • January 19, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    I can’t thank you enough for this article! I am going to put these methods into practice and see if it helps. Thank you!

  • January 19, 2020 at 8:51 pm

    Very helpful – thank you!

  • January 20, 2020 at 12:57 am

    I struggle with this constantly. My sister recently sent me a meme saying that the collective noun for a group of strangers is a “no thanks”, which is exactly how I feel. I’m severely introverted, HSP, and CEN. I love work because you can always talk to people at work about work. Outside of work, I’d rather never speak to anyone I don’t know. And lately, I have found that conversations with people I know well are getting stuck in social settings. I’m really good at asking people endless questions about themselves (and most people are good at talking endlessly about themselves), but I don’t know how how to engage in a meaningful way. Looking forward to the next article on this topic.

    • January 20, 2020 at 8:37 am

      Thanks for sharing, Sarah. You can learn how to talk with people better! Try practicing vertical questioning with someone as an experiment and see what happens.

    • February 3, 2020 at 7:25 am

      I would love to see that meme! Do you have a link? I can fake liking small talk and interacting with strangers because I have to do it every day with my job, but it certainly isn’t a joy.

  • January 20, 2020 at 3:28 am

    Thank you so much for this post! Still struggling with and learning about feelings, but life is much better with each step forward. Thank you, again.

    • January 20, 2020 at 8:38 am

      Thanks for confirming the positive effects of learning about feelings. It’s hard for people to imagine it before they’ve started doing it!

  • January 20, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    Ah so thats the answer?
    Wondered why I found myself feeling as if I was changing into something of an ambivert when I got caught up in helping a hospice charity shop with their window display..
    I’m a pretty fair expressionist artist, which somehow got out during my visits to them as a customer while on an LCHF diet.
    Downsizing , downsizing to my mid 30-ness shape so no more wearing yurts.
    Nerve wracking first attempt at window dressing , but had in mind a red/black theme, which stung the eye and pulled in the punters, who yes actually kept ruining my handiwork by buying the goodies I displayed in the window.
    Well this caused a good deal of cheeky social interplay by me with the customers with added dollops of humour.
    There are step exercises and step exercises, but those in and out of a shop window for a good cause are better.
    Never got time on that day to be nervous in my old way.
    Totally bushed later..Yes.
    Apparently peeps n staff actually liked me, got asked back for the Christmas show..

  • January 20, 2020 at 3:48 pm

    #2 isn’t specific to HSPs and empaths: small talk being boring and not deep enough is a pretty common complaint among introverts in general. Introverts also *can* often recharge with close friends, esp. if they can talk about something deep. I’ve heard it said that extroverts tend to prefer breadth of relationships, while introverts tend to prefer depth.

    • January 20, 2020 at 5:02 pm

      I agree, Infran. Thanks for adding your observations.

  • January 21, 2020 at 2:06 am

    Wow, this was both fascinating and very helpful for me! I struggle with small talk; I naturally have a big smile, make great eye contact and am an excellent listener so much so that I find people I don’t know often feel comfortable and share very freely with me, but when the conversation turns to me to talk about myself or my interests I come up with short general statements and feel concerned that I come off short selling myself and my interests and work and then I stress about where to steer the conversation next. While I greatly enjoy visiting with everyone I find myself exhausted when I get home from “working” so hard to make good small talk conversation during the event. Thank you for pointing out helpful small talk strategies that I can utilize!!

    • January 21, 2020 at 8:05 am

      Dear BCA, not knowing how to talk about yourself can be a sign of not knowing yourself well enough. Were you listened to as a child? just something to think about.

  • January 22, 2020 at 6:58 am

    Thank you for this article. I, too, dread networking events because I don’t know what to say. I also found myself in the baby- shower situation last weekend. It was excruciating. I will be looking forward to your next article with more examples of situations. And, yes, your reply to the last commenter, I don’t know myself well enough. I certainly wasn’t listened to as a child.

    • January 22, 2020 at 8:30 am

      Dear Ericka, thanks for sharing your experience. Not being listened to as a child is the cause of many adult struggles that most people have no idea about. It’s a significant piece of Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN.

  • January 26, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    I’m looking forward to reading the next article about this topic. I too am all 3 (introvert, HSP, CEN) & dread parties!


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